Five Lessons from Feminists Around the World as the U.S. Faces the Reality of a Post-Roe America

Feminist rally at Puerta del Sol in Madrid, Spain, on June 11, 2021, under the slogans: “Ni una menos” (Not one less); ”If they touch one of us, they touch us all”; and ”Alive, we love each other.” (Oscar Gonzalez / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

It has recently become clear the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. While we now face the most serious threat to reproductive rights in the U.S. in over 50 years⁠—feminists across the globe, from Mexico to Benin to Colombia, have recent experience fighting against anti-abortion efforts and winning.

Here are five lessons from the frontlines of the global fight for bodily autonomy that can help U.S. feminists prepare and fight back in a post-Roe America.

Lesson 1: Ditch the stigma.

We need to change the narrative that abortion is bad or controversial once and for all. For example, in Argentina, feminist movement Ni Una Menos refused to separate the call for abortion rights from a broader gender justice umbrella, even as some within their movement worried abortion would make their movement too controversial. And Línea Aborto Chiapas, an organization founded in 2015 in Mexico, challenges the status quo politicization of abortion by acknowledging abortion as an ancestral women’s practice.

Lesson 2: Global solidarity makes a difference.

Those opposed to abortion rights are working globally and so must those working for abortion rights and reproductive justice. While the U.S. was increasing restrictions on abortion, Mexico decriminalized it. There’s a lot we can learn from across our borders and many ways we can help each other. That’s why convenings like the recent “Accompanying from the South to the North”—which was aimed at building a cross-border network to improve access to safe abortion in the U.S. for undocumented individuals—are so important. We need to work across communities, across states and across borders to share practices and strategies to keep abortion legal everywhere.

Lesson 3: Decriminalization now, decriminalization forever.

The likely undoing of Roe shows feminists must never let up as we drive toward an ultimate goal of full decriminalization.

Different legislative strategies may be appropriate in different contexts, but the likely undoing of Roe shows feminists must never let up as we drive toward an ultimate goal of full decriminalization. We know decriminalization is possible because it exists on our border and in other countries across the globe. Canada, for example, has never had an abortion law—the right to abortion is enshrined in its Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And while the U.S. was debating fetal heartbeat laws in some states, countries across the globe from Mexico to Thailand to Benin were taking steps toward decriminalization.

Lesson 4: While addressing legal barriers is essential, it isn’t sufficient.

We also need to focus on access issues. Feminists in Brazil were the first to discover the potential of misoprostol to safely end unwanted pregnancies and all over the world people are advocating for telemedicine abortion, access to abortion pills in pharmacies, at places of work, in schools and the ability to purchase pills online.

We must also ensure women have funding and safe transport to get to states where abortion is still legal, ensuring more doctors and mid-level providers can provide abortion care. We can’t lift legal barriers without addressing access issues.

Lesson 5: Money talks.

There are concrete ways we can support reproductive justice and one of them is cash. When governments don’t uphold people’s rights to comprehensive health care, feminists step in to help by funding abortion access directly. For example, the National Network of Abortion Funds works with its affiliates to provide direct financial assistance for abortion care patients. And my organization, Global Fund for Women, provides flexible, multi-year funding to abortion rights movement leaders around the world so they can decide what to prioritize.

This isn’t the first fight to retain our fundamental rights and it won’t be the last. As we prepare for a post-Roe America, we must look outside our borders for ways to keep all people who need abortions safe and healthy, to change the stigma around abortion, and to make abortion legal and accessible.

Sign and share Ms.’s relaunched “We Have Had Abortions” petition—whether you yourself have had an abortion, or simply stand in solidarity with those who have—to let the Supreme Court, Congress and the White House know: We will not give up the right to safe, legal, accessible abortion.

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Leila Hessini is the vice president of programs at Global Fund for Women. She has over 20 years of organizing and grant-making experience promoting an intersectional lens to advancing human rights, gender equality, and economic and reproductive justice in the United States and globally.