Global lens

How the world reported the US Supreme Court’s abortion rights ruling

Pro-choice groups fear global impact of overturning of Roe vs. Wade

The US Supreme Court’s decision to reverse the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling guaranteeing the constitutional right to abortion has sparked both jubilation and protest at home and abroad.

The controversial move ensures that abortion will become illegal or highly restricted in half of US states, some almost immediately.

World leaders from countries including France, Spain, Belgium and Sweden have spoken out against the ruling. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the loss of abortion rights as “horrific”, while Boris Johnson said it was a “big step backwards”.

But the court’s decision was applauded by anti-abortion activists including Dallas-based pastor Dr Robert Jeffress. In an opinion piece for Fox News, Jeffress celebrated “a resounding victory for millions of yet-to-be-born children who will now get to live out their God-ordained lives”.

Pregnancy as ‘punishment’

This “historic ruling is a reminder that elections have consequences”, wrote Jeffress. Donald Trump “kept his promise” to wavering conservative voters in his 2016 presidential campaign to appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court.

Other commentators argue that the abortion rights ruling has little to do with democracy, however. Recent polling by The Wall Street Journal suggested that more than two-thirds of Americans wanted to uphold Roe v. Wade, and that most favoured women having access to legal abortion for any reason.

“Those who argue that this decision won’t actually change things much – an instinct you’ll find on both sides of the political divide – are blind to the ways in which state-level anti-abortion crusades have already turned pregnancy into punishment, and the ways in which the situation is poised to become much worse,” said The New Yorker’s Jia Tolentino.

Global ‘wave of repercussions’

The US is “going against the global trend, shrinking rights while the rest of the world expands reproductive freedom”, wrote human rights lawyer Julie Kay in The Irish Times.

America joins Poland, El Salvador and Nicaragua as the only four nations in the world to have rolled back abortion rights over the past quarter-century.

By contrast, at least 59 countries have expanded abortion access over the last three decades, reported Foreign Policy, with recent additions to the list including Ireland, Mexico and Argentina.

But the Population Foundation of India (PFI), a non-profit organisation that works with the government on family planning policy, warned that the ruling “is likely to stigmatise reproductive health worldwide, affecting millions, if not billions of women”, reported The Hindu new site.

"The decision’s implication that reproductive rights are not a part of fundamental rights could lead to similar interpretations in different countries,” added PFI’s executive director Poonam Muttreja.

It is “a decision that will reverberate around the world”, agreed Adva Saldinger on Devex, a media platform for the global development community. “The ruling may fuel local anti-abortion movements, limit campaigns for abortion access, and complicate the politics around women’s rights, prompting abortion-rights advocates to brace for a wave of repercussions”, she wrote.

Saldinger pointed to Bangladesh and Indonesia as just two countries where pro-abortion groups fear a rollback of reproductive rights in the wake of the US ruling.

Amid growing concern across the globe, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that the Biden administration remained committed to reproductive rights globally.

“Under this administration, the State Department will remain fully committed to helping provide access to reproductive health services and advancing reproductive rights around the world,” Blinken said in a statement just hours after the Supreme Court ruling was announced on Friday.

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