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Macarena Sáez: "There is a risk that the ruling on abortion will have a domino effect of setbacks for other rights"


The director of the Women's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch analyzes the challenges and consequences that the repeal of the voluntary interruption of pregnancy in the United States may have

Macarena Sáez, executive director of the women's rights division at Human Rights Watch.HRW

The United States Supreme Court struck down the right to abortion on June 24.

The highest court in the country overturned the precedent of 'Roe v. Wade', a ruling that in 1973 made the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy constitutional.

After almost 50 years of having guaranteed access, the decision opens a new scenario full of unknowns about what the future will bring.

Now the States will be in charge of defining their own legislation on the subject.

Macarena Sáez, executive director of the Women's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, analyzes the possibilities of a domino effect on other rights already conquered, the challenges that lie ahead, and the consequences that this could have on American women and in the region.


What are the implications of the Supreme Court ruling?


The first is that it reverts to the States the right to regulate abortion without any constitutional control.

There is no specific guarantee for people with the capacity to gestate, nor is there any impediment to the States to put obstacles to the voluntary interruption of pregnancy.

A significant number of states have already banned abortion, with no exceptions.

The situation is going to become as draconian as the one in countries where there is a ban even when the life of the pregnant person is in danger.


What does this mean for American women?


The right to access abortion was already quite eroded in the United States.

What is going to happen now is that this situation, which already affected rural women or those who belong to discriminated populations such as Afro-descendants, Latinas or indigenous people, is going to amplify.

It will also have a profound impact on mobility decisions.

People with the ability to gestate are going to have to think better about where they are going to be or where they are going to live.

Another of the great consequences has to do with the effect that it may have on health personnel to be able to provide the medical service that best corresponds to a pregnant woman for fear of being accused of contributing to or providing the abortion.


Has it happened in any other country that a ruling like this removes a right that has been guaranteed for so many years?


In Chile there were exceptions to the criminalization of abortion that were in force from the sixties to the eighties, and one of the last gifts that Pinochet left the country was the change in legislation to prohibit it in all events, even when the life of the woman was in danger.

Sexual and reproductive rights are never fully guaranteed, they are always at risk.

That is one of the great lessons that this sentence gives us.

Even after 50 years, it is reversed in one pass by a group of judges who have made a decision that does not take women into account.


Prohibitionism never stopped abortion, it only harmed those who had fewer resources.

What health consequences can this decision have?

R. The United States is a country where access to public health is not guaranteed.

So the fight for abortion must be based not only on the right to decide, but also on legal and safe access.

When you penalize it, there is not only an unsafe abortion problem, but a medical problem.

We have documented in other countries that there are women penalized for spontaneous abortions because the health personnel denounce so as not to have problems.

There are also women who die or who have long-term health problems because health personnel refuse to do treatment that could compromise the fetus.

The health problems to come remain to be seen, but there is no reason to think that the United States will not have the same fate as Nicaragua or El Salvador.


We have seen in the last year and a half the legalization or decriminalization of abortion in countries like Argentina, Mexico and Colombia.

What political reading do you give to a ruling like this in the midst of a green wave on the continent?


It is a sign of the erosion of democracy, because the lack of access to the voluntary interruption of pregnancy is a violation of human rights.

Under the idea that it is not taking sides, the Superior Court has taken sides against the majority sense of the United States.

Statistics show that most people in the country do not believe that those who voluntarily terminate their pregnancy should go to jail.

So it is a Court making decisions against what the majority thinks.


What challenges does this pose for the region?


Younger generations are politically aware of women's rights.

That is a big difference.

I think there is going to be a great solidarity regarding what is happening in the United States.

Latin America is perhaps the great example of a very successful mobilization that can serve, not only to learn lessons, but to generate a solidarity movement among women throughout the region.

The setback is so brutal that I hope it is understood that it is not only a problem of women, it is a problem of democracy.

It is not possible to separate sexual and reproductive rights from citizenship.


After the ruling, a group of companies has announced that they will bear the costs of travel so that their employees can abort in other states.

Isn't that letting the role of the State be occupied by other players?


External players cannot fulfill the role that the State must fulfill.

From the point of view of solidarity, it is extremely welcome, but that is not the solution.

The solution is to have legislation that protects women's equality, it is because States begin to understand that women cannot be seen as instruments of procreation.


Can this sentence open the debate on other rights conquered, such as equal marriage or access to contraception?



The idea that this decision only impacts abortion is absolutely naive and misleading.

There is no limit to reviving other discussions.

In fact, the concurring opinion of one of the ministers, [Clarence] Thomas, points out that all the decisions that have been made with respect to the same type of substantive right that is not expressly established in the United States Constitution, such as the equality marriage.

Without a doubt, there is a broad risk that this will have a domino effect of setbacks in rights.

But we don't know yet.

Today the problem is that there are a lot of States that have already prohibited access to abortion and, from one day to the next, women stopped having the rights they already had.

Source: elparis

All life articles on 2022-07-01

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