Response to Supreme Court decision undermining women's rights to all ob-gyn services

By George Rutherford, MD, and Dilys Walker, MD

Last week, reproductive rights in this country were dealt a catastrophic blow. The U.S. Supreme Court, as feared, undid 50 years of constitutional protection for abortion access in the United States.

This decision is devastating to the reproductive rights of American women.

The UCSF Institute for Global Health Sciences (IGHS) is focused on ensuring access to quality health care for everyone. Our research documents the disproportionate risks of pregnancy and childbirth faced by low-income people and people of color in the United States and by residents of lower-income countries across the globe. Unsafe abortion remains a leading cause of maternal death worldwide. While those who have rallied to block access to safe abortion call themselves pro-life, scientific consensus clearly shows that access to safe and legal contraception and abortion saves lives.

No lives would be saved, and some would almost certainly be lost, if the court were to move on from abortion to limit contraceptive access and to re-criminalize lesbian and gay sexuality. Many of us at IGHS saw first-hand during the AIDS crisis how moral judgments about sexual behaviors can lead to disregard for human life and make it far more difficult to combat illness at community and global levels.

We are committed to person-centered care as the best way to improve health on the individual or population level, and no provider can earn patients’ trust while telling them that their lives are secondary to a fetus’s or a voting bloc’s religious or political sensitivities. We are also committed to rigorous science, and we will continue to present the facts as we find them and to study policies and interventions that improve health for everyone.

In California, UCSF will advocate for state legislation and policies that protect the rights of patients seeking reproductive services and the providers who care for them. The University will also host a town hall on July 8 on the future of abortion access and how the recent court decision will affect UCSF’s work.

Nationally, Planned Parenthood is a leading proivder of contraception and safe and legal abortion services. The Guttmacher Institute provides extensive research on abortion in the U.S. and around the world.