On Friday June 24, 2022, the US Supreme court overruled the 50-year-old precedent of Roe v. Wade, which provided the constitutional right to abortion. As a result, many states will immediately enact bans or restrictions on access to abortion or are expected to pass laws limiting access in the very near future.
Some of these bans will not include exceptions for instances of rape, incest, or the life of the pregnant person. This will result in significant burden on women and all persons who can get pregnant who reside in these states with bans or restrictions; it will also stretch the capacity of services offered in the states that maintain a commitment to providing accessible reproductive health care. Women and families with fewer economic resources and from underserved and marginalized groups will be particularly impacted by these laws.
Already, the US has significantly higher rates of pregnancy-related mortality and morbidity compared to other developed nations. There are significant racial inequities such that Black/African American women are three to four times more likely to experience pregnancy-related death than white women. We do not have data on the rates of pregnancy-related mortality for sexual and gender minorities, but we do know they are more likely to experience negative infant outcomes, including miscarriage and stillbirth. Restrictions on abortion access are expected to exacerbate these disparities and lead to higher rates of maternal and infant mortality. Additionally, access to pregnancy prevention including condoms and contraception and comprehensive sexual health education is limited in many places in the US.
Access to reproductive healthcare enables people to exercise their human right to sexual health and pleasure. Without access to reproductive health care, such as abortions, marginalized groups are not afforded equitable reproductive or sexual rights.
The US has often been considered a world leader in the advancement of human rights. The overruling of Roe v. Wade is a step backward and could have ramifications for the recognition of the rights of access to safe and effective reproductive health care and sexual health around the world. This could empower countries that already limit the rights of women and sexual and gender minorities to continue to do so.
Based on the Sexual rights declaration (2014) which states,
• The right to equality and non-discrimination (declaration point 1)
• The right to autonomy and bodily integrity (declaration point 3)
• The right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment (declaration point 4)
• The right to privacy (declaration point 6)
• The right to the highest attainable standard of health, including sexual health, with the possibility of pleasurable, satisfying, and safe sexual experiences (declaration point 7)
• The right to information (declaration point 9)
The World Association for Sexual Health reaffirms that people’s access to safe abortion services and the creation of a supportive legal environment for accessing safe abortion services is a matter of sexual and human rights. We recognize and acknowledge the inherent freedom, dignity, equity, and non-discrimination of all human beings and are committed to protection from harm.
WAS is an international organization that promotes and advocates for sexual health and sexual rights throughout the lifespan and across the world by advancing sexuality research, comprehensive sexuality education, and clinical care and services for everyone.June 25th, 2022
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Sexual pleasure is the physical and/or psychological satisfaction and enjoyment derived from shared or solitary erotic experiences, including thoughts, fantasies, dreams, emotions, and feelings.
Self-determination, consent, safety, privacy, confidence and the ability to communicate and negotiate sexual relations are key enabling factors for pleasure to contribute to sexual health and well-being. Sexual pleasure should be exercised within the context of sexual rights, particularly the rights to equality and non-discrimination, autonomy and bodily integrity, the right to the highest attainable standard of health and freedom of expression. The experiences of human sexual pleasure are diverse and sexual rights ensure that pleasure is a positive experience for all concerned and not obtained by violating other people’s human rights and well-being (1)
1. The possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences free of discrimination, coercion, and violence is a fundamental part of sexual health and well-being for all;
2. Access to sources of sexual pleasure is part of human experience and subjective well-being;
3. Sexual pleasure is a fundamental part of sexual rights as a matter of human rights;
4. Sexual pleasure includes the possibility of diverse sexual experiences;
5. Sexual pleasure shall be integrated into education, health promotion and service delivery, research and advocacy in all parts of the world;
6. The programmatic inclusion of sexual pleasure to meet individuals’ needs, aspirations, and realities ultimately contributes to global health and sustainable development and it should require comprehensive, immediate and sustainable action.
URGE all governments, international intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, health and education authorities, the media, private sector actors, and society at large, and particularly, all member organizations of the World Association for Sexual Health to:
A. Promote sexual pleasure in law and policy as a fundamental part of sexual health and well-being, grounded in the principles of sexual rights as human rights, including self-determination, non-discrimination, privacy, bodily integrity, and equality;
B. Ensure that comprehensive sexuality education addresses sexual pleasure in an inclusive, evidence-informed and rights-based manner tailored to people’s diverse capacities and needs across the life span, in order to allow experiences of informed, self-determined, respectful, and safe sexual pleasure;
C. Guarantee that sexual pleasure is integral to sexual health care services provision, and that sexual health services are accessible, affordable, acceptable, and free from stigma, discrimination, and prosecution;
D. Enhance the development of rights-based, evidence-informed knowledge of the benefits of sexual pleasure as part of well-being, including rights-based funding resources, research methodologies, and dissemination of knowledge to address the role of sexual pleasure in individual and public health;
E. Reaffirm the global, national, community, interpersonal, and individual commitments to recognition of the diversity in sexual pleasure experiences respecting human rights of all people and supported by consistent, evidence-informed policy and practices, interpersonal behavior, and collective action.
The World Association for Sexual Health (WAS) is a multidisciplinary, world-wide group of scientific societies, NGOs and professionals in the field of human sexuality which promotes sexual health throughout the lifespan and through the world by developing, promoting and supporting sexual health and sexual rights for all. WAS accomplishes this by advocacy actions, networking, facilitating the exchange of information, ideas and experiences and advancing scientifically based sexuality research, sexuality education and clinical sexology, with a trans-disciplinary approach. The Declaration of Sexual Pleasure was originally proclaimed at the 24th World Congress of Sexual Health in Mexico City in 2019 and a final version was ratified by the General Assembly at the 25th World Congress of Sexual Health in Cape Town, South Africa in 2021.
(1)Adapted from: Global Advisory Board for Sexual Health and Wellbeing. (2016). Working definition of sexual pleasure. Retrieved from https://www.gab-shw.org/our-work/working-definition-of-sexual-pleasure
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