Advocacy statements

Racism, the right to health and abortion in the United States

  • Date / 2022
  • Location / United States
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 9: Follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action


International Humanist and Ethical Union

50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (13 June 2022 to 08 July 2022)

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Racism

Thank you Mr. President.

We welcome the Special Rapporteur’s analysis of the ways in which systemic racism remains a barrier to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, including the right to health.[1]

As noted in the report, “racialized health inequities” are a global phenomenon and a lasting legacy of European colonialism, evidenced by the global disparities in access to COVID-19 and other vaccines.[2]

Women who are maginalized on the grounds of their race, gender, and sexual orientation, are more likely to be discriminated against in terms of their access to reproductive healthcare.[3]

In the United States, Black women face poorer health outcomes, including rates of maternal mortality that are 3 to 4 times higher than that of white women. They are also more likely to face greater financial instability, as a result of historic racial oppression, resulting in additional barriers in terms of their access to abortion and quality contraceptive care.[4]

In light of this, the Supreme Court decision to revoke the constitutional right to abortion is profoundly disturbing. We express our deepest solidarity with all those whose rights to bodily autonomy have been stripped away or are now under threat as a result of the decision,[5] and note that those belonging to minority groups – already penalized as a result of health and economic disparities rooted in racism – will pay the highest price.

Overturning Roe v. Wade has not ended the attack on abortion. Rather, it will embolden extremist organizations and religious fundamentalists in their global anti-rights agenda.

We urge all States to take a strong stand against the cynical manipulation of the ‘right to life’ by such actors, and to push back against their weaponization of racial justice arguments to support their cause.[6]

Thank you.

[1] SDG 3 is aimed at ensuring “equitable and universal access to health for all”.

[2] A/HRC/50/60, paras. 10-12.

[3] SDG 5 includes targets aimed at ensuring “universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.”

[4] https://www.nationalpartnership.org/our-work/health/reports/black-womens-maternal-health.html

[5] According to a tracker created by The New York Times, following Dobbs v. Jackson the legal right to abortion is now banned or under threat in over 50% of states (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/us/abortion-laws-roe-v-wade.html)

[6] https://www.guttmacher.org/evidence-you-can-use/banning-abortions-cases-race-or-sex-selection-or-fetal-anomaly; https://opendocs.ids.ac.uk/opendocs/bitstream/handle/20.500.12413/15871/HDR%20933%20-%20Rollback%20of%20women%27s%20rights%20in%20international%20fora%20since%202016.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Suggested academic reference

'Racism, the right to health and abortion in the United States', Humanists International

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