Illegal US Abortion Policy

Abortion Access in Conflict

The Global Justice Center is fighting to dismantle the United States’ anti-abortion foreign policies, which violate international law.

The Issue

In reaction to the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, the United States has restricted how its foreign aid money is spent when it comes to abortion services. It is well documented that policies restricting access to safe abortion services do not reduce abortion rates, but instead increase rates of unsafe abortions. The United States is violating international human rights laws by imposing restrictions, including the Helms Amendment and Global Gag Rule, that deny the women and girls access to this necessary health care.

Legal Analysis

Violations of Human Rights Law

US abortion restrictions implicate a variety of rights under international human rights law. These rights include: the right to life; the right to non-discrimination; the right to information; the right to health and medical care; the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; and the right to free speech and association. Human rights bodies and experts have made clear that abortion is necessary health care for women and girls, and that restrictions to and the denial of safe abortion services violate their fundamental rights. By imposing restrictions on its aid, the US is ensuring that women and girls around the world will be unable to access care that is guaranteed to them under international law, thus denying them their fundamental human rights.

Restrictions on Abortion Related Speech and Association

The freedoms of speech and association are central to the democratic process and among the most fundamental human rights. Protected by Articles 19 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), these rights cannot be obstructed by governments unless restrictions pass a strict three-part test. US restrictions are so far-reaching that they fail this test and impermissibly limit the activities of experts and advocates providing access to and information about abortion services. As a result, the US—a country that prides itself on its democratic ideals—is violating the free speech and association rights of health care providers and advocates around the world.


Following the 2016 US presidential election, we shifted our domestic strategy to reflect the new realities of the Trump administration and a Republican-controlled Congress. In the time since, the Trump administration’s anti-women, anti-abortion, anti-immigrant, and anti-international law policies and rhetoric have threated to set back hard-won progress at the international level. We have focused our efforts on highlighting the speech censorship implications of US abortion policies, and creating global condemnation and opposition to these illegal policies, including through the development of affirmative abortion policies from other donor countries.

Key Resources