If the United States repeals the stop on abortion, what consequences for the rest of the world?

published on Wednesday, May 11, 2022 at 10:26 am

Result of a global mobilization of feminist movements in the 1960s, the Roe v. Wade forced American states to legalize abortion.

Its possible repeal would be a “symbol” that “would strengthen the anti-abortion movements” in the world, the researchers note.

On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States decided, in its historic decision “Roe v. Wade”, that the right to respect for private life, guaranteed by the American Constitution, applied to abortion. It became legal in all states of the country.

But a draft Supreme Court ruling, revealed by the Politico news site last week, finds nothing in the Constitution protects the right to abortion.

If this project were adopted, each State would be free to prohibit or authorize abortions.

“To see a country as predominant as the United States withdraw this right would have a strong symbolic weight, would give an important dynamic to the anti-abortion movements throughout the world. The speech will be: if the United States no longer supports this right, why would we grant it?”, observes AFP Andréanne Bissonnette, researcher in residence at the University of Quebec in Montreal.

The right to abortion has recently extended to countries where the influence of the Catholic Church remains strong: Ireland in 2018, Argentina in 2020, Mexico in 2021 and Colombia this year.

– “Already de facto complicated” –

If the attitude towards abortion changes at the federal level in the United States, this “could give legitimacy to movements against abortion and their demands in certain countries”, agrees Véronique Pronovost, doctoral student in sociology at the University from Quebec to Montreal (UQAM).

“Bills proposing + to frame + the right to abortion by adding limitations to access to services (parental obligation for minors, prohibition of abortion in the 3rd trimester, etc.) could henceforth be considered acceptable , even desirable”, she advances to AFP.

“The greatest risk is that the + pro-choice + position (being able to obtain an abortion freely, free of charge and on request) will be marginalized and that it will henceforth be considered + extremist + in the same way as the pure and simple prohibition of the right to abortion,” notes the sociologist.

Historian Bibia Pavard, of the Panthéon-Assas University, recalls that “many American states already prevent the enjoyment of a total right to abortion: Texas prohibits abortions as soon as the heart of the fetus is heard, either six weeks, whereas elsewhere it is authorized as long as the fetus is not viable outside the uterus, i.e. 24 weeks”.

“Other states ask women to watch an ultrasound to see the fetus, put in place procedures that complicate access to abortion,” she explains. “It’s already de facto complicated in some states”.

– Renewal of “pro-life” –

The “pro-life” movement, which has been influential in the United States since Roe v. Wade, is “a model” for anti-abortion mobilization around the world, according to Bibia Pavard. As was the case for the “pro-choice” mobilizations in the 1960s, there is “an intense circulation of arguments, of people”, underlines the historian.

She notes “a revival of anti-abortion movements in France, such as the March for Life. New groups, Les Survivors for example, joined by a young generation, have transformed the way they communicate. They use social networks and divert feminist slogans like + My body, not your choice +”, taking the point of view of the embryo, she adds. For them, it would be “a sign of success because it would show that it is possible to reverse a law that seemed acquired”.

“My body my choice”, “If I want when I want”… Even before the Roe v. Wade, abortion had been legalized in 1967 in the United Kingdom, before being legalized in France by the Veil law in 1974. Several decades earlier, abortion had been legalized in the communist world, by the USSR in 1920 and Eastern countries after 1945.

In the United States, on the other hand, it was prohibited, after having been legal between 1776 and the 1820s, recalls Véronique Pronovost, of the University of Quebec. “From the 1820s, the states of the country gradually adopted laws criminalizing abortion so that by 1900, abortion was illegal throughout the territory.”


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