Dobbs v. Jackson Will Have an International Impact | Opinion

In the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, President Joe Biden was quick to make alarmist global comparisons. He stated that the United States will now be an "outlier among developed nations in the world." Fact check: the majority of countries protect unborn life with heavy restrictions on abortion access, and even the most progressive states of the developed world maintain far more restrictions than Roe v. Wade America. Actually, it was Roe, rather than its abolition, that created one of the world's most extreme abortion regimes.

The reality of abortion laws around the globe speaks for itself. Under Roe, the U.S. was one of only a handful of countries that allowed abortion "on demand" throughout all nine months of pregnancy. Delivering the majority opinion in Dobbs, Justice Samuel Alito raises this very point, highlighting Canada, China, the Netherlands, North Korea, Singapore, Iceland, Guinea-Bissau, and Vietnam as the only other countries to allow purely elective abortions after 20 weeks gestational age. These are the true outliers.

Since Dobbs allows each state to determine its own laws on abortion, much of the U.S. could end up more closely resembling majority international practice. Most countries do not allow abortion on demand, permitting the practice only on narrow grounds. Moreover, those that do allow it predominantly limit abortions conducted solely at the woman's request to 12 weeks gestational age. Remember that at issue in this case was Mississippi's right to protect unborn life after 15 weeks gestational age—a more permissive limit than that of most countries with abortion on demand.

Even countries with abortion laws considered to be highly progressive, such as France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Norway, and Switzerland, have a gestational limit of 14 weeks or earlier for abortion on demand. Nowhere does the data back up Biden's talking point, despite its frequent invocation by pro-abortion voices.

Oddly enough, the Dobbs dissent, written by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, claims that under Roe, "American abortion law has become more and more aligned with other nations," and then cites a litany of international examples of increased abortion access over the last 25 years. What this reference is missing is the obvious explanatory factor that the U.S. has used the full brunt of its international might to force countries around the world into conformity with its extremist abortion ethos.

Sadly, this influence campaign is often successful. Although most countries continue to protect unborn life, many changes have transpired due to direct, and largely financial, pressure from the U.S. and other forces. Roe has been the guidebook for international abortion exportation, with Western powers wielding their clout to make the rest of the world look like us.

Abortion protest in Athens
Protesters hold placards during a demonstration against the US Supreme Court decision of overturning abortion rights, outside of the US embassy in Athens, on June 28, 2022. - The US Supreme Court overturned on June 24, 2022 the landmark 1973 "Roe v Wade" decision that enshrined a woman's right to an abortion, saying that individual US states can now permit or restrict the procedure themselves. Angelos Tzortzinis / AFP/Getty Images

A recent Foreign Policy article details the impact that Roe has had across the world. As it notes, "when the Roe v. Wade decision was issued in the 1970s, it became an important legal landmark for women fighting to liberalize family planning laws around the world—including in Africa."

Most recently, the Kenyan High Court explicitly cited Roe as justification for removing protections for unborn life. Kenya has been pummeled by international pressures in this regard, and many countries have fallen prey to similar violations of their national sovereignty. Now, the rug has been pulled out from under these pressure tactics. The hope is that the post-Roe climate will mitigate American aggression, prompting other countries to consider anew the best laws for their own national contexts.

What the Supreme Court has done in Dobbs is return the abortion debate in the U.S. to the American people. This is, in essence, a resounding affirmation of the principle of self-determination. Inspired by it, countries that protect unborn life should stand firm in defense of their right to self-determine too, resisting external attempts to force changes in their laws safeguarding unborn life.

As the U.S. begins to recalibrate its abortion laws, it is clear that the fight for the right to life of the unborn has more momentum than ever before. At home, the U.S. is reversing course on abortion extremism. Its stance toward other countries should reflect that reversal. And yet, the U.S.—the primary exporter of abortion internationally—has earmarked almost $600 million for "sexual and reproductive health" programs under the Biden administration's 2023 budget alone. The hypocrisy is unconscionable.

We must remember that despite clamors to the contrary, there is no international "right" to abortion. International human rights law is predicated on a profound respect for all human life, at all stages. Although the course will be far from smooth, the U.S. is well within its prerogative to remake its laws on abortion, including by protecting unborn life at the earliest stages. This should encourage other countries to recommit to the defense of their national sovereignty on this issue, maintaining the focus on the human right to life of every person, born or unborn.

Elyssa Koren is director of legal communications for ADF International. Follow her on Twitter: @Elyssa_Koren

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.