PRESS RELEASE — African Women Rights Advocates (AWRA) considers women’s health and reproductive rights — including the right to birth or not to birth children — an important element of the right to gender equality.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which protected women’s rights to have abortions, will have far-reaching consequences on women and young girls.
We are heartbroken and outraged that in 2022 women are being deprived of their most basic human right to bodily autonomy. Not only does this decision harm the reproductive rights of women, it also infringes upon the First Amendment rights of Muslim women, Jewish women, and women of other faiths in the United States. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that Congress can make no law respecting a particular establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise.
Currently, Islam is the third largest religion in the United States, after Christianity and Judaism, with an estimated 3.45 million Muslims living in the U.S., about 1.1 percent of the total U.S. population. Islam is liberal when it comes to abortion, which is dependent on the threat of harm to mothers, as well as the status of the pregnancy before or after ensoulment – which is believed in Islam to be on the 120th day of gestation – as well as other factors.
“No faith gives a fetus precedence over a woman’s life. As a Muslim woman, I am appalled at this ruling, which I find morally, ethically and emotionally inhumane,” said Naimah Hassan, AWRA co-founder and Chairwoman.
In addition to infringing upon religious freedoms, the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade violates international human rights law. Decisions about a person’s body are personal, and this includes women making decisions about abortions and reproductive rights.
“With no abortion exceptions for rape, incest, or to save a woman’s life as allowed under Islamic jurisprudence, for example, the US has approved a legislation that violates the First Amendment,” said Reem Abdellatif, Muslim-American co-founder and Director of AWRA. “Abolishing abortion does not protect the sanctity of life, rather it is a method to control and police women’s bodies under patriarchal norms,” she added.
As African women leaders and activists in the continent and the diaspora, we have witnessed how abortion bans have impacted women in countries like Egypt or Senegal, where women could be imprisoned for emergency abortions or die because they are unable to terminate a life-threatening pregnancy.
We believe that women should be in complete control of their bodies, reproductive rights, sexuality, thoughts, and self-expression. We will continue to advocate for the rights of women and girls in African countries, as well as the diaspora.