US seeks to reassure abroad after abortion ruling
People gather in front of the Georgia State Capital in Atlanta in June to protest the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade. (Photo: AP)

THE United States is seeking to reassure other countries that the Supreme Court's ruling on abortion rights will not affect US funding of reproductive health programmes abroad.

Loyce Pace, the assistant secretary for global affairs at the US Department of Health and Human Services, said on a visit to Geneva late last month that Washington's international family planning donations would be unaffected.

A June 24 Supreme Court ruling overturned the Roe v Wade decision of 1973, which enshrined the right to abortion in the United States.

Several conservative states have already banned abortion since the Supreme Court ruling and about half of the 50 US states are expected to impose near or total bans in weeks or months to come.

"We are mindful of the questions that probably have arisen globally about the US's stance or efforts outside our borders," Pace told reporters at the US mission.

"We are still very much focused on work abroad, particularly across the spectrum of sexual reproductive health and rights.

"We're the largest bilateral donor of family planning programmes and services internationally — and that's not changing."

She said that other countries were voicing "a lot of surprise, shock" that the constitutional right had been taken away after nearly half a century.

Nonetheless, "we are continuing to focus on maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health; on family planning services, the voluntary family planning services in particular; to gender-based violence issues; and other really important needs that people have, including post-abortion care," said Pace.

Long-standing legislation prevents the use of US foreign assistance towards the provision of abortion services.

However, partners can counsel about such services and point people towards post-abortion care.

"We want women to survive and thrive and not die in childbirth," said Pace, "so those investments and those commitments remain the same in the wake of this decision."

Pace said the United States was looking to learn from other countries how they have addressed similar challenges regarding access to essential health-care and other services.

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