Jun 24, 2022 - World

End of Roe v. Wade could endanger abortion access worldwide, rights groups warn

A protestor holds a sign during a rally in support of worldwide abortion rights in Paris,

A protester holds a sign during a rally in support of worldwide abortion rights in Paris on June 24. Photo: Tephane de Sakutin/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade could have wide-reaching consequences for reproductive rights worldwide, human rights groups and global leaders warned Friday.

The big picture: The U.S. has joined only three other countries — El Salvador, Nicaragua and Poland — that have rolled back abortion rights since 1994, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

  • At the same time, nearly 60 countries have liberalized their abortion laws — though some only incrementally — over the last 25 years.

State of play: The UN and human rights groups warned Friday's U.S. Supreme Court decision could endanger reproductive health access by emboldening anti-abortion rights groups around the globe.

  • "Decisions reversing progress gained have a wider impact on the rights and choices of women and adolescents everywhere," the UN World Population Fund said in a statement Friday. "UNFPA fears that more unsafe abortions will occur around."
  • Alvaro Bermejo, the director-general of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, said: "The fallout from this calculated decision will also reverberate worldwide, emboldening other anti-abortion, anti-woman and anti-gender movements and impacting other reproductive freedoms."
  • Amnesty International warned ahead of Friday's ruling that "any regression in the protection of the right to abortion would not only stand to damage the global perception of the United States; it would also set a terrible example that other governments and anti-rights groups could seize upon around the world in a bid to deny the rights of women, girls and other people who can become pregnant."

Those concerns were echoed by leaders in Europe.

  • Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo tweeted that he was “very concerned about implications of U.S. Supreme Court decision ... and the signal it sends to the world.” He added that Belgium will continue to work with other nations to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide.
  • Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, called Friday “one of the darkest days for women’s rights in my lifetime.”
  • “Obviously the immediate consequences will be suffered by women in the U.S.— but this will embolden antiabortion & antiwomen forces in other countries, too," she tweeted.
Abortion laws around the world
Data: Center for Reproductive Rights; Map: Axios Visuals

Activists in Latin America — a region with some of the most restrictive laws, but also where women's rights advocates have made significant progress in advancing abortion rights in recent years — called for a "global green wave," referring to the color that has come to symbolize reproductive rights in the region.

  • "The damage to the United States’ reputation as a public health leader globally will be immense," Giselle Carino, CEO of Fòs Feminista, a feminist alliance that encompasses more than 100 organizations mostly in the Americas.
"Supporting women and people who can get pregnant in the United States, including migrants... is part of a global struggle for equality and democracy, and we will not back down."
— Giselle Carino, CEO of Fòs Feminista
  • "The ruling of [the U.S.] Supreme Court that makes abortion illegal reminds us that there is always a risk of going backwards," tweeted Antonia Orellana, minister of women and gender equity in Chile. "In Latin America, we advance on the path of rights, and from Chile we will continue to strongly defend the full autonomy of women."

Meanwhile, international anti-abortion rights organizations, religious groups and some conservative politicians praised Friday's decision.

  • "The fact that a large country with a long democratic tradition has changed its position on this issue also challenges the whole world," the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life said in a statement.
  • “Today we got the big news, and it was everything that we had hoped for, at least in this round,” said Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International.
  • "Believe me, this will be the world trend," tweeted Damares Alves, who served as Brazil's minister of the family, the woman, and human rights until earlier this year. "The world wants to move forward! The world wants to leave this primitive and medieval practice behind."

What to watch: Protests against the U.S. Supreme Court decision are planned to take place in several European cities this weekend.

Go deeper: Here's what happens now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade

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