Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Roe v Wade’s end would have global ramifications and fundamental rights would be up for debate, experts warn

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Latin America and Ireland have become more liberal in recent years – but other countries have imposed restrictions

Global access to abortion has made strides in recent years, with Latin America celebrating the most significant advance of any region around the world. Colombia’s top court decriminalized abortion in February after Mexico’s top court made a similar decision a few months earlier.

Both countries followed Argentina, which became the largest nation in the region to legalize abortion in 2020.

Latin America’s long anti-abortion tradition has much to do with the region’s ties to the Catholic Church, which bans the procedure in most cases. This was also the case in Ireland, where abortion only recently became legal.

In 2018, voters in Ireland voted to overturn the country’s abortion ban, widely regarded as one of the most restrictive in the world. Former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar hailed the “quiet revolution” that had taken place in Irish public opinion over the two decades leading up to the decision.

But elsewhere, abortion laws are becoming increasingly restrictive. Poland introduced a controversial near-total ban on abortion last January, meaning the procedure is only allowed in cases of rape or incest, or when the pregnancy threatens the mother’s life.

Poland’s Constitutional Court justified its decision by saying that “an unborn child is a human being” and therefore deserves protection under the country’s constitution, which guarantees the right to life. Poland’s conservative government, which has close ties to the Catholic Church, backed the verdict.

If the US Supreme Court approves a draft decision to overthrow Roe v Wade, America could soon follow suit. The overturning of Roe v Wade — the landmark court decision that has guaranteed abortion rights in the US for the past 50 years — would see abortion made illegal in 13 states overnight, with others free to follow suit.

Experts have noted that international legislation on abortion is becoming increasingly polarized. While long-propelled anti-abortion arguments about a fetus’ “right to life” still circulate strongly, some countries are grappling with renewed questions about women’s rights in the modern world.

For Fiona de Londras, Professor of Global Legal Studies at Birmingham Law School, the issue revolves around the politicization of female reproductive autonomy.

“Basically, it’s about the question of women’s right to make decisions about their reproductive lives,” she said I.

“Basically you have this ethical question about the nature of the fetus and personality. But ultimately, from a regulatory perspective, the dilemma is whether or not women can make their own reproductive decisions.

“We do not yet have a political and societal consensus on this matter that is strong enough to clarify the opinion of a very small minority against abortion.”

And while the draft proposal to overthrow Roe v Wade is very much an “American verdict on an American matter,” Professor de Londras says it could make waves around the world.

“I don’t see the verdict per se [global] legal implications, but of course this is the most significant victory the international anti-abortion movement has ever had,” she said.

“This will energize and inspire groups of people around the world who are deeply committed, highly energized and deeply motivated by what they believe is an important ethical imperative to stop all abortion under all circumstances.”

As others have pointed out, there is plenty to play for on the international battlefield. About 26 countries around the world ban abortion altogether, while another 39 allow the procedure only if it saves a woman’s life, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that advocates for abortion rights.

Another three dozen sit a little on the fence and only allow an abortion if it preserves a woman’s physical well-being while ignoring her mental well-being.

A landmark decision like Roe v Wade’s repeal could act as a kind of catalyst for other countries to follow suit, experts said.

“Countries that tend to make conservative decisions about abortion encourage each other,” said Dr. Chloe Romanis, Co-Director of Gender and Law at Durham Law School.

“If you look at the situation in Poland, other countries have also tried to restrict abortion – not quite to the same extent, but in different ways,” she said I.

Slovakia’s parliament narrowly rejected bills last year that would have tightened access to abortion in the country. If the law had been passed, the law would have meant women would have to give their reasons for an abortion, which is legal in the country for up to 12 weeks.

Even in England and Wales, where abortion law has remained largely untouched since the 1967 Abortion Act, there is a growing movement to repeal all proposed legislative changes.

I revealed last month that the government’s initial decision to scrap “post-abortion pills” in England, introduced during the pandemic, came after a targeted campaign by anti-abortion campaigners from Right to Life UK that ministers appear to have fallen for.

dr Romanis warned that a push to ban or significantly restrict abortion in the US would mean a major shift in global attitudes towards women’s rights.

“Repeal of Roe v Wade would represent a really big step away from the fundamental premise that is at the heart of the World Health Organization’s approach to abortion as a fundamental health right and from the general movement that we are seeing around the world towards abortion rights,” he said you .

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