“When America Sneezes, the World Catches a Cold” What does overturning Roe v. Wade mean for women’s reproductive health in Africa?

Anne Baber Wallis


“Communities and countries and ultimately the world are only as strong as the health of their women.” - Michelle Obama, 2016 On 24 June 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decided on Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Center, overturning the historic Roe v. Wade decision that has, since 1973, confirmed and enshrined the constitutional right of a woman to seek an abortion1 . Restrictions to legal, safe abortions are known to have serious repercussions for maternal and infant health. Evidence shows that restricting access to abortion does not reduce the number of abortions; it only makes abortion less safe and more likely to lead to preventable complications, including maternal death. Conversely, expanding access to safe, legal abortion—a common medical procedure that carries very little risk when performed by a trained provider in an appropriate environment—is associated with improved maternal health outcomes. Further, illegal abortion results in negative societal outcomes, including chronic morbidity for the individual woman; economic burdens to women and their communities when they cannot work or finish school; and added stress to families, communities, and already over-stretched public health systems.

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