While US Supreme Court may overturn landmark abortion rights ruling, courts in other nations are moving to do the opposite.
As the United States Supreme Court appears on the verge of possibly overturning the landmark ruling that gave women the constitutional right to access abortions, courts in many other parts of the world have been moving in the opposite direction.In February, Colombia’s Constitutional Court legalised abortion until the 24th week of pregnancy, part of a broader trend seen in parts of heavily Catholic Latin America.
It is not yet clear what effect there will be outside the US from the leaked draft opinion suggesting the country’s top court could overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision.
But for women’s activists who for years have led grinding campaigns demanding open access to abortion, often looking to the US as a model, it is a discouraging sign and a reminder that hard-won gains can be impermanent.
“It is an awful precedent for the coming years for the region and the world,” said Colombian Catalina Martinez Coral, Latin America and Caribbean director for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which was among the groups that litigated the abortion case in Colombia’s high court.
❗Important reminder: Abortion is still available and legal in all 50 U.S. states❗
— Center for Reproductive Rights (@ReproRights) May 4, 2022
The February ruling there established a broad right for women to have abortions within the 24-week period, whereas previously they could do so only in specific cases, such as if a fetus presented malformations or a pregnancy resulted from rape. Abortion is still allowed after that period under those special circumstances.
The decision fell short of advocates’ hopes for complete decriminalisation, but Martinez Coral said it still left Colombia with the “most progressive legal framework in Latin America”.
Similarly, Mexico’s Supreme Court held last year that it was unconstitutional to punish abortion. As the country’s highest court, its ruling bars all jurisdictions from charging a woman with a crime for terminating a pregnancy.
Statutes outlawing abortion are still on the books in most of Mexico’s 32 states, however, and non-governmental organisations that have long pushed for decriminalisation are pressing state legislatures to reform them. Abortion was already readily available in Mexico City and some states.
To the south in Argentina, lawmakers in late 2020 passed a bill legalising abortion until the 14th week and after that for circumstances similar to those described in the Colombia ruling. It is also widely available in Cuba and Uruguay.