Global abortion-rights advocates worry their countries are next if Roe falls
The concerns focus not only on the long reach of US policy in health systems well beyond the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, but also on the precarious state of abortion policy in governments around the world.
“We know the impact of this decision will have a ripple effect,” said Bethany Van Kampen, senior legal and policy advisor at the nonprofit Ipas, who attended the meetings with colleagues from around the world. “The US has an excessive influence… Countries that want to liberalize their laws – they may think twice after this decision.”
While government officials declined to comment on a particular private meeting, they said they have regularly met abortion rights advocates — including those from other countries — since POLITICO first reported on a roe draft opinion of the court.
During the meetings, the lawyers urged support for the Abortion Is Healthcare Act Everywheresaid Van Kampen, adding that the talks include officials from the USAID Bureau for Global Health, HHS Office of Global Affairs and State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, as well as representatives. Jan Schakowsky (D-ill.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif).
The legislation would allow US foreign aid funds to be used for abortion, which is currently illegal under the Helms amendment — although there is no clear path for passage in Congress. The group asked government officials to explicitly communicate what types of abortion-related care and information would be allowed in US-funded programs and to encourage more widespread abortion services, Van Kampen said.
The US abortion rights movement has led to changes in laws in other countries, activists said, and if Supreme Court falls roethat momentum could turn.
“The US is becoming a kind of inspiration for the conservative movements – and the conservative forces in the US have a stronghold in Latin America and around the world,” said María Antonieta Alcalde Castro, Ipas director of Central America and Mexico. “That is very worrying for the entire region.”
Anti-abortion activists have raised new funding after the court’s draft opinion was reported, as well as the benefit of using winning strategies in the US elsewhere in the world, abortion proponents fear. Two global anti-abortion rights groups did not respond to requests for comment.
“That’s creating a political trend that’s being followed by resources and political forces, and we’re already feeling it,” said Alcalde Castro. “That kind of rhetoric that we saw in Texas, we see copy and paste in Mexico, copy and paste in Nicaragua. So there is clearly a trend there.”
And the concerns extend beyond Latin America.
“My colleagues in Europe are very concerned about what is going on in the US because, as you may know, efforts are being made to backtrack, particularly in Eastern European countries,” said Susan Yanow, spokesperson for the American branch of Women Help Women. , a global non-profit organization working to increase access to abortion medications and information. “And it’s a big concern that countries with less democratic governments — and I’m going to put the US in that column a little bit now — are going backwards, and the US is leading the way.”
Activists said they had seen politicians in their country use the risks of US backlash to advocate – often convincingly – for tightening abortion restrictions.
Still, others see the decision as a way to start a global conversation.
“Setting the agenda works in all directions,” said Giselle Carino, director and CEO of Fos Feminista, a global feminist and abortion rights group. “The US plays a leading role and undoubtedly sets an agenda. For example with Black Lives Matter last year, where the whole world was suddenly talking about racism, and that was just fantastic.”
Many leaders and activists still see the US as a major agenda-setter in the world, especially when it comes to global health.
The US — Anyway roe is seen by other governments – will continue to be a powerful major donor in global health care. While formal U.S. policies have long restricted access to abortions abroad, undoing roe could increase political pressure to change current US abortion policies in countries dependent on US aid.
In countries where U.S. aid represents a significant portion of the health care budget, the need for stable funding may outweigh policy proposals.
“Sometimes they don’t even have to say anything,” Pansi Katenga, Ipas’ director of global development, told reporters at a conference on the global impact of the court’s decision. “People are afraid to irritate [the] UNITED STATES”
The US influence on abortions abroad is also more direct. For decades, the so-called Mexico City Rule has ensured that non-governmental organizations that use U.S. funding promote or carry out abortion as a method of family planning.
In January 2021, the Biden administration withdrew the rule.
However, other policies remain in effect. The Helms Amendment prevents foreign aid funds from being used to perform or motivate abortions, although it does not prohibit information about all pregnancy options, in accordance with local law.
And while activists said they don’t expect the court’s decision to lead to immediate legislation in other countries, they believe a ruling that roe will make their jobs much more difficult — whether it be with an encouraged anti-abortion movement or pressure to follow current U.S. policies to preserve aid funding.
“We’re really at, you know, this crossroads that we’re going to see toppling over every day.” Roe v. WadeVan Kampen said. “This is a problem that can no longer be ignored.”