British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it “clearly has a huge impact on people’s thinking around the world”, calling the court’s decision “a big step backwards”.
Other world leaders have also rejected the decision, with protests planned in cities across Europe over the weekend.
The move goes against a global trend towards freer access to abortion and puts the US in a very small club of countries that have moved in recent years to restrict access.
Here’s how the US compares to the rest of the world on abortion after the ruling.
Some US allies have greater access to abortion
It was generally in the company of other Western countries, as underdeveloped countries forbid or severely restrict access to abortions. Of the 36 countries that the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs defines as developed economies, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, all but two allow abortions on demand or on general health and socioeconomic grounds, Poland and Malta. (CRR), which campaigns for better access to abortion and oversees laws worldwide.
But if federal abortion protection comes to an end, parts of the US will join those ranks. Abortion rights will now be determined by US states unless Congress takes action.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, more than half of US states were certain or likely to ban abortion once Roe was overturned.
Since the Supreme Court ruling, bans have already come into effect in several US states.
Such laws run counter to a global tide that has led many countries, including those near the United States, to liberalize abortion laws in recent years.
“Never again will a woman or person who can bear a child face criminal charges,” Judge Luis Maria Aguilar said after the verdict. “Today, the threat of imprisonment and stigma that weighs on people who freely choose to terminate their pregnancy have been eradicated.”
Canada’s northern neighbor is one of the few countries that allows abortion at any time during pregnancy. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has criticized measures in US states to make abortions more difficult to access, and on Friday condemned the ruling as “appalling”.
Abortions are available in hospitals and private clinics in Canada; in most cases, the procedure is covered by the state government’s health insurance plans, meaning they’re essentially free. But the lack of a national abortion law in Canada has made access to services patchy across the country.
Most European Union countries — including those in the G7 — allow abortion with a gestation time limit, the most common being 12 weeks, according to charities including CRR. Exceptions after that period are usually allowed on certain grounds, such as if the pregnancy or birth poses a risk to the mother’s health.
Opposition to the procedure is generally less widespread in those countries than in the US.
And crucially, it is rare to find developed countries where abortions are not performed in extreme cases, such as when the woman has been the victim of rape or incest.
But many of the abortion bans coming into effect in the US do not include such exceptions.
Anti-abortion protests occasionally take place in countries, including the UK, where some councils have responded by making protesters less able to interact with people entering clinics.
Activists across the EU have also called for the easing of restrictions in their countries; in Germany, for example, abortion is allowed up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, but people wishing to undergo the procedure must attend a mandatory counseling session, followed by a mandatory three-day waiting period. Doctors there have also been prosecuted for sharing details about the abortion services they offer, as any “advertising” of abortions is prohibited.
Japan, alongside countries such as Finland and India, provides for abortion in cases of rape or danger to women’s health, but also on broader socio-economic grounds.
Of the democracies that compare to the US, Australia’s laws are one of the most similar. As in the US, access to abortion varies in every Australian state and territory – and until recently, some regions criminalized the procedure.
US joins some regions in making abortion more difficult to access
Nearly half of all abortions worldwide are unsafe and 97% of unsafe abortions take place in developing countries, the WHO says.
But the United States is not the only country where the right to abortion is under threat; in other more socially conservative parts of the world, populist and authoritarian governments have similarly taken steps to limit access to the procedure.
The Polish government has made abortion a concern since coming to power in 2015, appealing to social conservatives in the predominantly Catholic nation, but sparking mass protests in the country’s more liberal cities.
Slovakia tried to follow Poland’s lead, but the country’s parliament has rejected several bills in the past two years that propose restrictions on reproductive rights.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, abortion laws are generally strict. In Brazil, for example, the procedure is illegal except in certain circumstances, such as fetal abnormalities or if the abortion is the result of rape, HRW said. Women and girls who terminate their pregnancies under other circumstances could face up to three years behind bars, HRW says.
In Nicaragua and El Salvador, abortion is completely illegal under all circumstances and prison terms in the latter country can be up to 40 years. “Such laws amount, in effect, to torture, discrimination and denial of some of the most basic human rights to life and dignity,” human rights group Amnesty International said last year in connection with El Salvador. In recent years, some verdicts there have been reversed, with several women being released from prison after serving some of their long sentences.
But other countries in the region have moved to allow abortion. Argentina’s Senate voted to legalize abortion up to 14 weeks in December 2020, making the country the largest nation in Latin America at the time to legalize the practice.
And Ecuador has also recently taken steps to relax restrictions on abortion in rape cases.
DailyExpertNews’s Arnaud Siad and Kara Fox reported.