Post-Roe v Wade: Call to mitigate the harms of unsafe abortion

Health care organisations from 90 countries urge governments to protect access to abortion.

London, UK, October 5, 2022 — This past Sunday marks 100 days since the overturning of Roe v Wade. Not only has the proliferation of state bans following the Supreme Court’s ruling dramatically shifted the abortion access landscape in the US, overturning Roe v Wade has had a negative impact on abortion access overseas. 

The decision to eliminate Roe v Wade was a catastrophic blow to the lives of millions of women, girls and pregnant people who face the prospect of being forced to continue unwanted pregnancies.

The decision is out of step with the global community’s commitment to advance human rights and fails to take into account the overwhelming global medical evidence that supports abortion as essential health care. 

FIGO has a very strong reproductive rights framework based on ethics and science. We can offer our expertise with global outcomes and advocacy, and we know that limiting access to abortion care takes the greatest toll on the lives of those living in poverty, those with marginalised racial, ethnic identities, and adolescents. Restrictive laws do not have an impact on the number of abortions, rather, they simply increase the number of unsafe abortions. When women and girls are denied timely access to safe and effective abortion services, they are more likely to resort to unsafe means.

– Dr Jeanne, Conry, President, FIGO

The negative impact of this historic and far-reaching decision will extend beyond the US border. It will affect millions of people around the world, not only on people wanting to end an unintended pregnancy but also health care providers who are dedicated to ensuring access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive services, including abortion.

As health care professionals, we deal with the tragic consequences on a daily basis when safe abortion care is not accessible to women and girls, and they are forced to resort to unsafe measures. Unsafe abortions are one of the leading causes of maternal deaths and injuries in Africa. This not only has drastic consequences for the lives of women and girls, but also for the families and communities they are part of. Restrictive abortion laws harm women and girls, as well as health care workers. They have done nothing but increase the number of unsafe abortions, fuel abortion stigma, and hinder respectful post-abortion care. We urge African and all governments to show leadership and continue to build enabling environments based on facts and scientific evidence.

– Dr Simon Peter Kayondo, Chair,  East, Central and Southern Africa Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Communications Committee

Abortion laws not based on scientific evidence harm health care workers. Restrictive laws do not reduce the need for abortion care, they only nurture an environment of fear, stigmatisation, criminalisation and put women, girls and pregnant people at risk. Countries with total bans or highly restrictive abortion law prevent and criminalise the provision of essential health care services and support to those that require abortion care.

Over 300 health care organisations from 90 countries have joined together to issue a statement urging governments to take immediate action to mitigate the harms of the decision to overturn Roe v Wade by:

  • Creating and protecting legal and regulatory environments that support health care professionals to provide access to safe and affordable abortion care.
  • Decriminalising abortion care and regulate it like any other health care provision.
  • Utilising the full benefit of the safety and efficacy of abortion medication, as well as the advancement of technology, to allow telemedicine and self-management access to abortion, as recommended by the WHO Abortion Care Guideline.
  • Investing in robust health systems that are human rights-centred for abortion care information, counselling and services.

Around the world, progress is being made to remove restrictions to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion. 

Lack of access to safe abortion care is one of the leading causes of preventable maternal death and disability. Each year 47,000 women in the world die as a result of unsafe abortion and an estimated five million are hospitalised for the treatment of serious complications such as bleeding or infection. We urge governments around the world to take steps to mitigate the harms of unsafe abortion.


Notes to editors 

Related FIGO statements

As the US Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade, global health care organisations call on all governments to defend access to safe and quality abortion care:

All of FIGO's statements on safe abortion:

About the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) 

FIGO is a professional membership organisation that brings together more than 130 obstetrical and gynaecological associations from all over the world. FIGO’s vision is that women of the world achieve the highest possible standards of physical, mental, reproductive and sexual health and wellbeing throughout their lives. Our work to achieve this vision is built on four pillars: education, research implementation, advocacy and capacity building. 

FIGO leads on global programme activities, with a particular focus on sub-Saharan Africa and  South East Asia. We advocate on a global stage, especially in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) pertaining to reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and wellbeing, and non-communicable diseases (SDG3). We also work to raise the status of women and enable their active participation in achieving their reproductive and sexual rights, including through addressing  female-genital mutilation (FGM) and gender-based violence (SDG5). 

We also provide education and training for our Member Societies and build capacities of those in  low-resource countries through strengthening leadership, translating and disseminating good practice  and promoting policy dialogues. 

FIGO is in official relations with the World Health Organization and a consultative status with the United Nations. 

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Rachel Randles
Communications and Engagement Manager