From Poland to Rwanda to America, reproductive rights are being decimated

Isobel Cockerell



The internet was sparkling with #8M hashtags and glowing tributes for International Women’s Day this week — but from Poland to Rwanda to the United States, reproductive rights are being decimated. 

The U.S. pharmacy chain Walgreens decided not to sell abortion medication in 21 states. It’s a blanket response to the various abortion restrictions that states are introducing after the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and to Republican attorneys who have threatened to sue pharmacies that distribute the pills. Rather than trying to navigate these choppy legal waters and sell meds according to the specifics of the law in each jurisdiction, Walgreens took the easy route by simply pulling the sale of mifepristone in every state where the company saw any risk of legal threats. California Governor Gavin Newsom responded by pulling a $54 million state contract with the drugstore giant. California will cut ties with “any company that cowers to the extremists and puts women’s lives at risk,” Newsom tweeted on Monday. “We’re done.”

Last week, a coalition of human rights groups urged U.N. experts to intervene in the restriction of abortions in the U.S. An open letter with 196 signatories, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch among them, asserted that “the US is in violation of its obligations under international human rights law.”

In Poland, which has been rewriting its abortion legislation since long before the overturning of Roe, the effects of the country’s abortion ban show what the future may hold for America. A Polish gynecologist’s patients have announced that they are filing a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights, after local authorities seized the doctor’s patient records as part of an investigation into reports that she aided an abortion.

And in Rwanda, where abortion is illegal except in cases of rape, forced marriage, incest or a danger to health, abortion rights are backsliding. The country’s Protestant Council directed all health facilities run by its members to stop carrying out all abortions, without exception. “For us, we have our belief, and our belief cannot be taken away by the law. We are not opposing the law, but our belief does not allow us to support abortion,” Laurent Mbanda, the head of the Anglican Church in Rwanda, told the Associated Press. The move will further curtail access to the procedure for the nation of 13 million people, most of whom are Christian.

LGBTQ students are scrapping plans to attend university in Florida. As the U.S. state continues to crack down on LGBTQ rights and push through new legislation to outlaw discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, gay and trans students are opting for the West Coast instead. Students are worried about having access to hormone therapy while at college or are afraid they would become targets of homophobic attacks as anti-LGBTQ rhetoric reaches a fever pitch amid the flurry of proposals by state lawmakers that would put their safety and health at risk. 

Meanwhile, there seems to be a new wave of homophobia passing over East Africa. Kenya’s new president William Ruto has fueled this by saying he will not allow “homosexual acts or same-sex marriage” during his term. In Uganda, an opposition member has put forward a bill seeking life in prison for homosexuality. Health experts in the region fear this rhetoric could scare people away from getting tested for HIV. 

And in Poland, the education minister is blaming a rise in attempted suicide on young people being “brainwashed by LGBT neoliberal and neomarxist ideologies.” The conservative Przemyslaw Czarnek says Poland is experiencing a “powerful crisis of the family” and that the solution is to preserve what he calls family values and help children to distinguish between good and evil. Experts, on the other hand, say the real issue is an underfunded mental health support system and the long shadow of the pandemic on young people’s lives. 


  • Advocacy groups are pushing TikTok to take a harder look at its content moderation policies after a study found that the app regularly pushes suicide, self-harm and eating disorder content on its young users. “You have chosen to deny the problem, deflect responsibility, and delay taking any meaningful action,” the two dozen signatories — including the American Psychological Association and the U.S. Eating Disorders Coalition — wrote to the tech giant. For context, take a look at this December report by the Center for Countering Digital Hate.
  • An investigation by the LA Times found that a book by University of Southern California oncologist Dr. David Agus is riddled with plagiarized material. Reporters found that at least 95 passages were copied — sometimes word for word — from places like Wikipedia, blog posts and online articles.