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New Year, New Opportunity to Build A World Where SheDecides

1st February 2024

As we kick off the new year, we take a moment to look back on all that happened in 2023 and drive forward our work in 2024 with renewed commitment and focus.

2023 In Review: highs and lows for the right to decide

2023 was marked by both big wins and big setbacks for sexual and reproductive health and rights. On one hand we saw the advancement of abortion policies and laws in countries such as Benin, Mexico, Colombia and regression being successfully fought back in some US States, most notably in Ohio. In France, President Macron pledged to include the right to abortion in the French national constitution, and Japan approved the use of the abortion pill for the first time in its history.

By contrast, we saw a rise in far-right politics across the globe and evidence of increasingly organized anti-rights groups infiltrating key decision-making spaces such as the UN. Human rights activists, including those defending the right to abortion, faced ongoing threats and attacks and continue to do so. In the US abortion bans have come into action in 14 States since the fall of Roe V Wade. We know that 2024 will bring similar challenges.

A Changing Political Landscape

This threat to democracy and human rights comes at a time of political uncertainty – this year there will be 75 national elections taking place around the world, with gender equality and bodily autonomy on the ballot in many.

The upcoming US elections, which will take place towards the end of the year, could have huge global ramifications for reproductive rights. The looming possibility of yet another rollout of The Global Gag Rule – a policy that prevents foreign organizations receiving U.S. global health funding from providing information, or services for legal abortion - could put the lives of millions of women and girls at risk.

In Argentina, the recently elected far-right President Javier Milei has pledged to repeal the country’s 2020 landmark legalization of abortion – a victory which inspired and galvanized the abortion rights community across the world.

Meanwhile, ongoing conflict and humanitarian crises continue to deny people already living in vulnerable situations, their human rights including accessing critical sexual and reproductive healthcare. But along with the challenges come the many opportunities to build a world where bodily autonomy and choice are the norm.

We know that the global trend for abortion rights is one of progress and liberalization. And we look forward to building on the wins from last year, with hope of seeing the expansion of abortion rights in Poland, France and Slovakia to name a few.

ICPD+30: Focus on Youth SRHR

2024 marks the 30th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development – a landmark moment where Member States agreed on placing people’s dignity, health, rights and gender equality at the center of a sustainable development for all, including recognizing and ensuring reproductive rights as human rights.

ICPD+30 will provide our community with the opportunity to come together, celebrate the advances in SRHR and spotlight where progress still needs to be made. In particular we will focus on young people’s bodily autonomy, unpacking the issue of barriers that prevent young people from accessing their sexual reproductive health and rights.

As SheDecides, we will convene around the UN Regional Dialogue taking place in Benin, focused on “New Generation’s Vision for ICPD”, providing a space for young SRHR experts to connect and collaborate with decision makers, showcase successful initiatives related to youth SRHR and spotlight where young people have been involved in shaping policies. 2024 also brings the Summit of the Future, a key moment to ensure sexual reproductive health and rights remain on the global political agenda. We will work with our partners to show why upholding SRHR is critical in achieving the goals outlined in Agenda 2030 and the aspirations set out in the Summit of the Future.

Spotlighting Abortion Rights in West Africa

International Safe Abortion Day, which takes place annually on September 28, remains a key milestone for SheDecides. This year we are excited to partner with SheDecides Champion Rutgers on their “She Makes Her Safe Choice” programme to profile the importance of ensuring abortion access in West Africa. A region with historically low rates of access to abortion, we will support Rutgers to scale up their advocacy and awareness of the importance of safe abortion globally.

Together we are stronger

Together we are stronger. And now more than ever the pro-choice movement will need to collaborate and work with each other to successfully push back on the pushbacks that 2024 may bring. At SheDecides, working with our Champions and committed partners to counter the rising tide of opposition is key to our work in 2024. We look forward to further developing our connections with allies in the human rights and democracy space to build broader understanding and support for sexual reproductive health and rights and increase our impact.

We start the new year with renewed energy but with the same unwavering determination to continue our fight for the right to decide. Our work, individual and collective, is critical - women's lives are on the line. We look forward to partnering with dedicated allies and experts to push forward our shared agenda. Because we know that we will only achieve gender equality when every woman and girl- in all their diversity - has the right to decide about her body, life and future. Without question.