Pro-life activists. Photo: The Holder

What Effect Will Dobbs Have in the International Debate on Abortion?

What will the impact be outside the U.S. if Roe falls? According to international abortion activists, it would embolden pro-life voices worldwide.

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Rebecca Oas

(ZENIT News – Center for Family and Human Rights / Washington, 01.07.2022).- Not only are Americans concerned about  the Supreme Court’s imminent decision that can override the Federal abortion regime established in the 1973 Roe vs Wade decision. Foreigners are also observing and waiting. 

Even before the arguments were heard in Dobbs vs Jackson Women’s Health Organization in December 2021, international defenders of abortion intervened, including a group of mandate stakeholders of the United Nations High Commissioner’s Office for Human Rights (UNHRC).They filed an amicus brief urging the Court not to annul Roe vs Wade and to maintain the status quo of the United States abortion law, which is among the most extreme in the world. 

What would be the impact outside the US if Roe fell? According to international abortion activists, it would embolden pro-life voices worldwide and increase the pressure on other governments to restrict abortion even more or to abstain from liberalizing their existing laws. Abortion groups abroad often mention the “domino effect” of the forthcoming Dobbs decision and warn that it could “undermine the liberalization campaigns” in regions such as Africa, where fierce debates are taking place in many national legislatures. 

Defenders of abortion often argue that abortion is an international human right, despite the fact that this has never been agreed in any global negotiation, and much less so in a binding document. That a national government, especially one as influential as that of the United States, changes its laws to make more restrictions possible illustrates the falsehood of this affirmation. 

The reversion of Roe would also undermine the favoured narrative that the liberalization of the abortion laws, more recently in Ireland, Argentina and Mexico, represents an inexorable wave of “progress,” which cannot be halted or reversed.

For people outside the United States,  the revocation of Roe would have little practical effect other than the message it sends that abortion isn’t a right and that pro-life policy victories are within reach. The decision won’t affect the US foreign aid policy, including the Helms Amendment that extends the date, approved the same year as the Roe decision, which prohibits the direct funding of abortions abroad. Neither would it affect the executive policy promulgated by Republican Presidents, which restricts the funding of foreign organizations that promote or facilitate abortions, known as the Mexico City Policy. More recently, this policy was rescinded in the first days of Biden’s Presidency.

Following a leaked draft of a Supreme Court decision that annulled Roe, international defenders of abortion hastened to meet with members of Congress and leaders of American agencies involved in foreign policy. One of their main priorities was the elimination of the Helms Amendment and the permanent revocation of the Mexico City Policy. Specifically, they urged the members of Congress to approve the “Abortion Law as medical care everywhere” that would abrogate the Helms Law and the Global Law of Health, Empowerment and Rights (Global HER),” which would impede the re-establishment of the Mexico City Policy. At present none of the draft laws has a clear path to become a law. 

Meanwhile, Republicans are anxious to take the pro-life impulse to the United States foreign aid, through the codification of the Mexico City Policy into law, permanently blocking the funding of foreign groups in favour of abortion. 

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