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25 Jun, 2022 14:29

US is now international ‘outlier’ – Biden

Abortion rights in the country are not quite as restricted as the president implied, however
US is now international ‘outlier’ – Biden

US President Joe Biden claimed on Friday that a Supreme Court ruling restricting abortion access has made his country “an outlier among developed nations.”

However, while some states have pressed ahead with banning the procedure, others are writing laws in line with other wealthy nations, and Democratic-run states permit far more permissive policies than many European countries.

Biden addressed the nation after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v Wade, a 1973 ruling that guaranteed the absolute right to a first-trimester abortion and limited rights in the second. Writing the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito argued that Roe v Wade rested on an “egregiously wrong” and “exceptionally weak” interpretation of the Constitution, and that by striking down this ruling, the court would “return the issue of abortion” to state legislatures.

“With this decision, the conservative majority of the Supreme Court shows how extreme it is, how far removed they are from the majority of this country,” Biden said at the White House. “They have made the United States an outlier among developed nations in the world. But this decision must not be the final word.”

Despite Biden’s proclamation, abortion access in the US is now more in line with the international norm than before, at least for the moment.

Prior to the court’s ruling, the US was one of only seven countries worldwide to permit unrestricted abortion past 20 weeks of pregnancy, with the others Canada, China, the Netherlands, North Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam. Some Republican-controlled states have attempted to lower the cutoff to the point where a fetal heartbeat can be detected, typically between six and 15 weeks into a pregnancy.

Mississippi was one of these states, and the Supreme Court’s Frida ruling was made in a case evaluating the legality of its law banning abortion after 15 weeks.

Even with its 15-week cutoff point, Mississippi’s abortion law was more permissive than the policies of Austria, France, Spain, Ireland, Germany and Italy, all of which ban abortion after between 12 or 14 weeks. 

However, Mississippi will soon ban almost all abortions. The state is one of 13 with a “trigger law” on its books. These provide for a near-total abortion ban to come into effect in the event of Roe v Wade being overturned, and following certification by state officials, abortion is expected to be banned – except in cases of rape, incest, or threat to the mother’s life – in the coming two weeks.

Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming have all banned abortion in most cases since Friday’s ruling, or will do so in the coming days and weeks. Abortion law in these most restrictive states will then be in line with that of Poland.

In Arizona, Florida, and Georgia, Ohio and South Carolina, legislation will soon take effect banning elective abortions past a cutoff point between six and 15 weeks into pregnancy. Lawmakers in several other states, including Nebraska, Virginia and West Virginia, have promised to introduce similar European-style restrictions in the near future. 

Access to abortion will remain unchanged in a number of mostly Democratic-run states, and will be expanded in others. California Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday signed a bill shielding out-of-state women seeking abortions in California from prosecution, and another bill that would enshrine abortion access in the state’s constitution is currently working its way through the State Assembly.

Alaska, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Oregon, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico and Vermont all allow elective abortion at any stage of pregnancy. Internationally, only Canada, China, North Korea and Vietnam allow this practice.