For decades, the United States has experienced a rollback of abortion access. This culminated in the overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022. However, the international trend for the last 30 years has been towards the liberalization of abortion laws. What explains this dissonance? And how can the U.S. learn from international expertise beyond its borders? 

The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law and State Innovation Exchange (SIX) are excited to host Beyond Borders: How the U.S. can learn from the global abortion movement. This innovative, in-person  convening will take place on January 10-11, 2024 in Washington, DC. The event brings together state lawmakers and U.S. and international advocates who work on abortion access. These groups all have important roles to play in the fight for reproductive freedom.

The Hosts

The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law (O’Neill Institute) and State Innovation Exchange (SiX) are uniquely positioned to host this event. The O’Neill Institute brings together advocates and legal experts to find innovative solutions to the most pressing global health concerns. From hosting convenings on Beatriz vs. El Salvador, a case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on El Salvador’s abortion ban, to publishing research on human rights standards related to exceptions to abortion bans, patient-provider confidentiality, and other related topics. The O’Neill Institute holds deep relationships within the international community in the global abortion fight.

State Innovation Exchange (SIX) also builds power as part of its mission to help state lawmakers pass progressive law and policy. SIX’s Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council is a national network of 700+ state lawmakers who are fighting for abortion and contraceptive access, Black maternal health, and birth justice at their state capitals. Whether their state is surviving under an abortion ban or receiving an influx of out-of-state patients, state lawmakers look to SIX as their go-to resource for how they can protect abortion access. 

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The Stakeholders

With the loss of Roe and the federally protected, constitutional right to abortion, states are ground zero in the abortion fight. That’s why we seek to bring together this powerful mix of stakeholders to envision a path forward:

U.S. State Lawmakers

There are over 7,000 state legislators in the U.S considering over 100,000 bills each year. Anti-abortion extremists have passed dozens of abortion restrictions year after year since 1973 on the state level. To regain not only legal, but truly accessible abortion care in the states, we must center the power of state lawmakers. By pushing for proactive abortion laws on the state level, we will rebuild access across the country.

International Experts

Latin America has mobilized to push back on criminalization in countries like Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia. Since the fall of Roe, Kenya’s high court ruled abortion is a fundamental right and Benin passed one of the most expansive abortion laws in the continent. And while access in Asia varies, from Nepal and India’s supportive laws to restrictions in Myanmar and Pakistan, there are networks of advocates fighting to expand access, including to self managed abortion care. We will bring together experts from these communities to learn first hand from their experiences.

U.S. Advocates

The reproductive health, rights and justice movements are at a pivotal moment as we face the future of fractured abortion access in our country. We will bring together leaders from the state and national level, form clinics, legal and advocacy organizations, and abortion funds to learn from one another. 

Convening topics

  • Pregnancy criminalization
  • Abortion ban exceptions for rape, incest and medical emergencies
  • Later abortion care
  • Protecting patient privacy while navigating reporting obligations
  • Birth justice
  • How constitutions define pregnancy and addressing personhood language
  • Networks of support and decriminalizing Self Managed Abortion (SMA) 

This gathering weaves together legal expertise with legislative experience and community engagement. Rather than siloing these strategies, we seek to build a strategy for abortion access that includes all of these tools.

Outcomes from Beyond Borders

  • Attendees will leave with a deep understanding of the legal and advocacy strategies used in Central and South America, Africa, Europe and Asia to decriminalize abortion care. By rejecting U.S. exceptionalism, attendees will learn from the communities that have fought this very same fight for decades and won.
  • Shared understanding of how to build grassroots power to push for legislative change, with a focus on lifting up the voices of communities in states with the most severe abortion restrictions.
  • Breaking down silos to allow for regional relationships between  U.S.state lawmakers. This is critical as abortion access and maternal health become more regional, with patients traveling across state lines for care.
  • Strategic planning for the 2024 state legislative session and beyond. State lawmakers and advocates can share policy ideas and solutions, with those relationships continuing beyond the convening.