Global Impact of the Dobbs Decision

On January 22, 2024, Fós Feminista released a new report titled “The Global Impact of the Dobbs Decision on Abortion Laws, Policies, Legislation, Narratives, and Movements: Findings from Colombia, India, Kenya, and Nigeria” which contends that the Dobbs Decision has already had severe repercussions on sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice (SRHRJ) movements across the globe.

The Dobbs Decision was a June 24, 2022 U.S. Supreme Court (USSC) decision that overturned Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 USSC ruling which enumerated a constitutional right to abortion in the U.S.

The Fós Feminista report relies on 66 interviews conducted between March and April 2023 with actors such as government officials and healthcare providers, as well as a literature review and media monitoring to evaluate this impact. It specifically analyses the influence of the Dobbs Decision on anti-rights networks and organizations in Colombia, India, Kenya, and Nigeria. It found that “the impact of anti-rights actors and networks varied across the four countries but was growing even in countries with relatively progressive SRHRJ trends”. This highlights an increasingly alarming trend against sexual and reproductive rights around the world, one that several Channel grantee partners have worked hard to reverse.

The context of abortion within each of the countries varies, especially in regard to levels of criminalization. In Colombia, as of 2022, the Constitutional Court decriminalized abortion up until the 24th week of pregnancy for any reason. This case was brought to the Constitutional Court by Causa Justa, a coalition of abortion rights groups. Channel grantee partner Women’s Link Worldwide (WLW) is a member of this coalition and has spent years working and advocating for sexual and reproductive justice and rights within Colombia. In fact, in 2006, WLW led and won a lawsuit advocating for the Constitutional Court to declare that criminalization of abortion was unconstitutional, ending the total ban on abortion. Despite this success, abortion rights in Colombia lack support and implementation “given its high political costs in a polarized environment and deeply rooted conservative and religious society,” according to the report.

In Kenya, the context of abortion is complicated. In 2012, the Kenyan Constitution published standards and guidelines for abortion and post abortion care. However, due to backlash from the Catholic Church, the Ministry of Health withdrew these guidelines. In 2015, the Center for Reproductive Rights, in collaboration with Ipas Africa Alliance, challenged this withdrawal by filling and bringing a case against it to the court. In 2019, the JMM case ruled that the actions of the Ministry of Health were unconditional and upheld the right to abortion which led to the reinstatement of the guidelines. Additionally, Ipas, a Channel grantee partner from 2007-2019, supported the Kisumu Medical Education Trust (KMET) and the Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health (TICAH), community-based partners within Kenya that support reproductive rights. Despite this, implementation of abortion rights within the country proves difficult due to opposition.

In India, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act was implemented in 2021 which allowed abortion up until 20 weeks, except for cases of rape, incest, and fetal abnormalities where the allowance can be extended up until 24 weeks. While progressive, this means that Indian citizens are forced to have the government and the State Medical Board involved in their abortion rights and often suffer from misinformation. In Nigeria, abortion is highly criminalized with it classified as a felony and only accepted if the mother’s life is threatened.

The report examines the influence of anti-rights groups within these countries on SRHRJ and the role that the Dobbs Decision played on this influence. Additionally, it takes an in-depth look at how the Dobbs decision has already impacted laws and policies and abortion narratives within each of the featured countries. Common factors associated with these impacts are religion and the perception that the United States is the standard for abortion policy, particularly as the Dobbs ruling “weakened SRHRJ activist and movements and strengthened anti-abortion groups” resulting in long-term consequences and implications for SRHRJ actors.

The report concludes with recommendations for the governments of  Colombia, India, Kenya, Nigeria, and the United States, global donors, and civil society organizations. These recommendations include decriminalizing abortion, combating misinformation, expanding cases for accessing safe abortion, ensuring health service providers are safe, and increase global funding for SRHRJ among others.