A leaky draft of a Supreme Court opinion suggested on Monday that a majority of justices could soon overthrow completely Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized access to abortion nationwide.
If the court does issue this notice, as expected in the weeks to come, it would cement the status of the United States as a world exception in terms of the right to abortion: since 1994, 59 countries have expanded the right to abortion by legalizing or decriminalizing it, The New York Times reported last yearciting figures from the Center for Reproductive Rights, a global nonprofit legal advocacy organization.
According to the center’s figures, only three countries – Poland, Nicaragua and El Salvador – have significantly reduced the right to abortion in the same period, while Honduras added its total ban on abortion last year. ‘abortion. to its constitution.
New limits on the right to abortion, according to Max Fisher of the New York Times reported, have occurred almost entirely in countries that experts consider to be “declining democracies” thanks to broader erosions of democratic rights and protections. It is currently the case of the United States.
“The current overwhelming international trajectory is towards the legalization of abortion,” said Nabeeha Kazi Hutchins, president and CEO of PAI, an international reproductive rights group, on Tuesday.
“The fact that the United States is backsliding on basic human rights at such an exciting time of global expansion is deeply concerning,” she said, adding that overthrowing Roe would “strengthen the anti-abortion movement in the world” and “would derail”. progress towards universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Powered by powerful feminist movementspublic health campaigns and strong legal challenges, the global push for reproductive rights has exploded, especially in some of the more conservative corners of the world.
In 2018, Irish voters approved a referendum for repeal a constitutional amendment which prohibits abortion. Two years later, the Argentine Congress vote to make it largest nation in Latin America legalize the practice. Ecuador’s highest court expanded reproductive rights in 2021, decriminalizing abortion in case of rape. In Mexico, where abortion has been legal in some states for more than a decade, the Supreme Court last year ruled unconstitutional state laws that still criminalized the practice. And earlier this year, the Colombian Constitutional Court abortion legalized up to 24 weeks in a move campaigners celebrated even though it didn’t go as far as they had hoped.
Each victory fueled another push, particularly in Latin America, which, like Ireland, has long been dominated by the traditional conservatism of the Catholic Church. The region is still home to some of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the world.
Last year, Chile’s Congress considered legislation to expand access to abortion. And although lawmakers ultimately rejected the bill, Chile’s pending constitutional convention voted this year to include and protect reproductive rights. in a draft new constitutionwhich would make it the first country in the Americas to specifically enshrine abortion rights in its guiding document.
In Brazil, meanwhile, left-leaning presidential candidate Lula da Silva, who served as president from 2003 to 2011, argued last month that abortion was a public health issue and a fundamental right that should be accessible to all.
The global reproductive rights movement has come in spurts and suffered its share of setbacks. Efforts to decriminalize abortion in certain circumstances have recently failed in El Salvador and The Dominican Republictwo countries that still purely and simply prohibit this practice.
More may be coming soon: once finalized, Chile’s new constitution will need to be approved by a majority of voters to come into effect, and approval rates for the new constitution have sudden fall These last months. In Brazil, da Silva holds a considerable lead in the polls ahead of October’s presidential election. But his endorsement of abortion rights caught even some of his supporters and allies off guard and raised fears that it could give a boost to far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, a fierce social conservative and opponent of abortion.
But the global trend toward expanded reproductive rights is clear, even in countries that still largely restrict the practice. Polls have shown a steady increase in support for legal abortion in limited circumstances across Latin America, to the point that large majorities in the largest countries in the region now support her in cases of rape, incest or maternal health. Opposition to broader legalization of abortion remains strong, but has been is constantly eroding in the two countries that have expanded access and those who don’t have.
Majority of Americans support legalized abortion and oppose overthrowing Roe, says Gallup polls and others. But even before the current Supreme Court case, the United States bucked global trends thanks to fervent opposition to abortion rights among Republicans and the party’s dominating sway over state and state legislatures. the courts, a dynamic that has been fostered by the structural patronage of the United States toward minority rule.
The GOP has used its inherent advantages in the Senate and state legislatures, as well as the rabid anti-abortion energy of its evangelical base, to dramatically restrict abortion rights in the states it controls and set the stage. for the full or partial overthrow of Roe in the highest court in the land.
The Supreme Court’s conservative majority signaled its intentions in the pending case last September, when it refused to block a new Texas law that effectively banned abortion in the state. The pleadings in the pending case, which revolves around a 2018 Mississippi law limiting abortion access to 15 weeks, further indicated that Roe’s disappearance was likely this summer.
Many states have passed aggressive laws awaiting judgmentsome of which do not allow abortion even in case of rape or incest. The pending case could multiply the effort, especially if Judge Samuel Alito’s draft opinion, which Politico obtained and published on Monday evening, becomes the majority decision: 22 states already have laws or constitutional amendments that would likely lead to immediate abortion bans if Roe’s were overturned, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research institution.
Four others – Florida, Indiana, Montana and Nebraska – could move to join them soon after the decision, which could also reinvigorate pressures for more restrictive laws, even in purple states like Virginiawhere Republicans recently regained the governor’s mansion and majority control of the state’s lower legislative chamber.
Conservative activists began to advocate for national legislation prohibiting abortion whether Republicans should take control of the House and Senate in November’s midterm elections, The Washington Post reported Monday. And while President Joe Biden or any other Democrat wouldn’t sign such a ban into law, a future Republican trifecta seems likely to at least try to ban abortion nationwide.
Conservatives in Latin America and elsewhere will likely see the Supreme Court ruling as a boon to their efforts to thwart reproductive rights movements: On Monday evening, an adviser to Brazil’s Bolsonaro tweeted celebrations of the leaked opinion and Roe’s apparent disappearance.
But it could further galvanize feminist and reproductive rights movements in Latin America and elsewhere, especially because the pending Supreme Court case and the broader rollback of abortion rights in the United States have already contributed to create a sense of urgency around the issue.
“This has been a red flag and a reminder for the feminist movement in Latin America,” said Mariana Ardila, a lawyer for Women’s Link Worldwide and one of the lead lawyers in the Colombian Supreme Court case that culminated in February. . said HuffPost last year. “If it can happen in the United States, it can happen elsewhere. So we better move forward instead of being passive about it.