U.S. abortion decision ‘horrific’ and ‘appalling,’ world leaders say

The Supreme Court’s decision Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade — and revoke the constitutional right to an abortion — has triggered widespread condemnation outside the United States.

World leaders and abortion rights advocates described the ruling as “horrific” and “appalling.”

“One of the darkest days for women’s rights in my lifetime,” Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon wrote on Twitter just minutes after the decision was released.

The vote was 6 to 3 to uphold a restrictive Mississippi law banning all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. It upended nearly 50 years of legal precedent that guaranteed the right to the procedure.

For leaders and activists in places with more-liberal abortion laws, Friday’s ruling led to anger and resignation about the future of the United States — as well as concern over how the decision might affect the issue in their own countries.

Over the past several decades, more than 50 countries have liberalized their abortion laws, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, a global advocacy group opposed to abortion restrictions.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the news was “horrific” and said he couldn’t “imagine the fear and anger” among women losing the right to abortion. “Women must be able to decide freely about their lives,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez wrote on Twitter.

At a news conference in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the decision as “a big step backwards.” The leader of Britain’s right-wing Conservative government added that he had always believed in “a women’s right to choose and I stick to that view.”

In France, President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter that abortion “is a fundamental right for all women.”

“It must be protected,” he said.

“I am very disappointed because women’s rights must be protected,” World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told Reuters. “And I would have expected America to protect such rights.”

The decision did receive some prominent support outside of the country, especially in Eastern Europe and Latin America. In Europe, some members of the far right voiced support for the move.

Beatrix von Storch, a senior member of Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, tweeted Friday that the decision was “good” and sent a signal of hope for unborn life. “It will radiate to the entire West,” von Storch wrote.

The Vatican issued a statement that acknowledged the “heated debate” around the issue and said that the U.S. decision would challenge “the whole world.” The head of the Catholic Church, which opposes abortion, called for “a non-ideological debate on the place that the protection of life has in a civil society.”

The U.S. move to restrict abortion rights is out of step with an overall trend toward liberalization of abortion rules. Argentina, Ireland and Mexico have pulled back strict abortion laws in recent years.

German lawmakers on Friday repealed a 1933 law that had restricted doctors from advertising abortion services. And Mexico’s Supreme Court decriminalized abortion in a major ruling last September.

“Rarely have I been as proud to be part of the Mexican Supreme Court as I am today,” Chief Justice Arturo Zaldivar tweeted on Friday, in a clear allusion to the U.S. court decision. “All rights for all people. Until equality and dignity become customary.”

Protests against the U.S. decision were planned in European capitals including London; Edinburgh, Scotland; and Paris. Some health experts said they were deeply concerned that the United States was leading a small group of nations bucking liberalized abortion laws.

One statement signed by more than 100 global health-care organizations called the Supreme Court’s decision a “catastrophic blow to the lives of millions of women, girls and pregnant people” and said the United States was “out of step with the global community’s commitment to advance human rights.”

Alvaro Bermejo, director general of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, said in a statement that the decision would be emboldening “other anti-abortion, anti-woman and anti-gender movements and impacting other reproductive freedoms.”

“We know for a fact that banning abortion does not mean fewer abortions and that when abortion bans are enacted, women and pregnant people die, as we have seen across the globe, most recently in Poland,” Bermejo said, referring to Poland’s move to further tighten its already strict abortion laws last year.

Poland is one of only two developed countries that has moved to further restrict abortion rights in the 21st century. The other is the United States.

“In 2018 the people of Ireland spoke loud and clear. Repealing one of the strictest abortion bans in the world. Giving Irish women their rights. We looked to America as an example of freedom,” Jennifer Cassidy, a former Irish diplomat and academic wrote on Twitter.

With Roe v. Wade overturned, the United States was becoming unrecognizable, Cassidy added.

Other voices from around the world concurred. “A day of great anguish for women, girls and all people in the United States,” Debora Diniz, a professor of the law faculty at the University of Brasília, wrote on Twitter.

Vickie Remoe, a writer from Sierra Leone, added that she was personally devastated by the decision, which she saw as “an attack on women period.”

“I am also worried about the far-reaching global implications this will have on access to safe abortions across the globe,” Remoe wrote in a tweet, “but especially in Africa.”

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