The editors of the 200-year-old medical journal The Lancet are committed to protecting and improving human life through science. In their latest editorial, they note that the apparent intent of United States Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and his fellow conservatives to reverse reproductive rights for women in America runs counter to the mission of The Lancet and the medical profession to protect and improve life:
What is so shocking, inhuman, and irrational about this draft opinion is that the Court is basing its decision on an 18th century document ignorant of 21st century realities for women. History and tradition can be respected, but they must only be partial guides. The law should be able to adapt to new and previously unanticipated challenges and predicaments. Although Alito gives an exhaustive legal history of abortion, he utterly fails to consider the health of women today who seek abortion. Unintended pregnancy and abortion are universal phenomena. Worldwide, around 120 million unintended pregnancies occur annually. Of these, three-fifths end in abortion. And of these, some 55% are estimated to be safe—that is, completed using a medically recommended method and performed by a trained provider. This leaves 33 million women undergoing unsafe abortions, their lives put at risk because laws restrict access to safe abortion services.
…The fact is that if the US Supreme Court confirms its draft decision, women will die. The Justices who vote to strike down Roe will not succeed in ending abortion, they will only succeed in ending safe abortion. Alito and his supporters will have women’s blood on their hands [editorial, “Why Roe v. Wade Must Be Defended,” The Lancet, 2022.05.14].
The Lancet reminds us that the right to control when and whether one becomes pregnant and gives birth is central to women’s health and equality:
The 2018 Guttmacher–Lancet Commission on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights For All concluded that these rights, which included the right to safe abortion services and the treatment of complications from unsafe abortion, were central to any conception of a woman’s wellbeing and gender equality. The availability of an essential package of sexual and reproductive health interventions should be a fundamental right for all women—including, comprehensive sexuality education; access to modern contraceptives; safe abortion services; prevention and treatment of HIV and other sexually transmissible diseases; prevention and treatment for gender-based violence; counselling for sexual health; and services for infertility. What kind of society has the USA become when a small group of Justices is allowed to harm women, their families, and their communities that they have been appointed to protect? [editorial, 2022.05.14]
Banning abortion does not fit with any core American values. Banning abortion does not embrace freedom, individual choice and responsibility, reasonably limited government, or equality under the law. Banning abortion reverses two centuries of progress in recognizing that all the people who are created equal include more than just the white male elites who signed Jefferson’s declaration of that principle in Philadelphia. Banning abortion marks a relapse into our ingrained Puritanism, a weirdly selective impulse in a land where T&A sells everything but where we will punish women for daring to make their own decisions about their bodies.
And as The Lancet and history and American women who grew up before 1973 can tell us, banning abortion means more women will die.