GLOBAL – USA one of the few countries limiting legal grounds for abortion right now

by Lynn Morgan

Current History January 2023;122(840):22-28   (Open access)

The 2022 US Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health (and Roe v. Wade) overturned the constitutional right to abortion, raising questions about the international implications of the ruling. The decision reveals a growing rift in global reproductive governance between countries that rely on international human rights standards and those that do not. The global momentum is currently with the human rights contingent, but the Dobbs ruling reflects the logic of a global anti-abortion coalition that would like each country to decide its own life and family laws, without interference from multilateral agencies, based on its own constitution, history, and traditions.

From the text
Of all the countries that have changed their abortion laws in the twenty-first century, reproductive rights supporters note that the United States is among the very few — including Nicaragua (2006), Honduras and Poland (2021), and Hungary (2022) — to have limited the grounds for voluntary interruption of pregnancy. Those countries also happen to be sliding toward authoritarian rule, an observation that led a Washington Post columnist to caution that the rollback of reproductive rights is everywhere “consistent with declining democracy”.

The Center for American Progress went further, warning that the Dobbs decision places the United States alongside “notorious rights-abusing regimes”. The Guttmacher Institute declared that the ruling makes the United States an “outlier on the global stage”. The dissenting justices –Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan — agreed, noting, “The global trend…has been toward increased provision of legal and safe abortion care”.

From the perspective of a growing coalition of anti-abortion groups, however, the Dobbs decision looks like a step forward….

[Editor’s Note: This topic is inspiring more such articles, and not just focused on the USA. There is a lot of space for different perspectives, especially in relation to the role of international human rights law and OHCHR bodies. Do share others for future newsletters, whether a published article (with weblink + full text, if possible) or a blog (max words 1,500).]