Is America a liberal abortion outlier, a claim included in a leaked Supreme Court document?

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The leaked document indicating that the Supreme Court is about to overturn Roe vs. Wade it included a claim often repeated by anti-abortion advocates: that abortion rules in the United States are among the most permissive in the world.

While that is technically the case, there is much more to the story in practice.

A Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy is before the court. At the time the state set that limit in 2018, only six countries other than the United States “allow[ted] non-therapeutic or elective abortion on demand after the 20th week of gestation,” Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote in his draft opinion, citing findings from the Mississippi state legislature.

In a footnote, Alito cites research by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, which opposes abortion rights, and a Washington Post article from 2017. He notes that two more countries have since joined that group, citing the Center for Reproductive Rights, which advocates for greater access to abortion. The list: Canada, China, Guinea-Bissau, Iceland, the Netherlands, North Korea, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

The Post article cited in the document, and other Post reports published more recently, found that few countries allow abortion beyond 15 weeks without restrictions, but that many, especially in Europe, allow abortions beyond that low limit. a wide range of exceptions, including mental health. Health and economic difficulties. In the United States, on the other hand, many people do not have access to abortion at any stage, due to the absence of clinics under restrictive state laws.

The world map remains murky when it comes to how countries regulate abortions beyond the first trimester of pregnancy. In general, the global trend is moving toward liberalizing abortion laws, rather than adding restrictions.

How Abortion Laws in the US Compare to Other Countries

Katherine Mayall, director of strategic initiatives at the Center for Reproductive Rights, citing the court document, said she had “very serious concerns about using the counting method” to assess how permissive countries abortion laws are.

In many places, “exemptions are so broad” that abortion is available far beyond apparent legal limits.

Abortions in England, Wales and Scotland, for example, are allowed up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. However, they were not included on the court-subpoenaed list because the law requires two doctors to first approve the abortion, which in practice is a formality, Mayall said.

“The decision to have an abortion is yours alone,” says the UK’s National Health Service on its website on abortion.

In Great Britain, pregnancies can be terminated until birth in cases where there is a serious risk to the woman’s life or the child will be severely disabled if born.

Across Europe, many countries have banned abortions after 12 or 15 weeks. But many also have exemptions for women who say carrying a pregnancy to term would harm them socioeconomically or harm their mental or physical health.

Often the more relevant question is whether a woman actually has access to an abortion, rather than whether the law allows it, as has been the case in the United States, Mayall said.

Stephen Billy, Anti-Abortion Institute executive director Charlotte Lozier, also citing the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion, disagreed.

“The fact that other countries have exceptions doesn’t change the fact that they have limitations on elective abortions that are in the law,” he said. That democratic “policy-making process” has been “impeded by Roe vs. Wade” and its legalization of abortion throughout the country, he said.

Leading US anti-abortion activists say their next frontier will be to push for a nationwide abortion ban. Most Americans Support Defense Roe vs. Wade by a majority of about two to one, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted last week. Fifty-seven percent also said they opposed banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Majority of Americans Say Supreme Court Should Back Roe, Post-ABC Poll Finds

In its updated guidance published in March, the World Health Organization recommends against using “gestational age limits,” which are the subject of political and ethical debate, when formulating abortion laws.

Focusing on cuts “obscures how some women are much more affected by abortion restrictions and access barriers than others,” argues Anu Kumar, president of IPAS, an international organization focused on safe abortion and access to contraception. .

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