The myth that US abortion laws are more permissive than Europe’s


Stripping millions of American women of their constitutional right to decide whether they want to have a child has potentially serious consequences for the political party that made it. Hoping to mitigate possible repercussions, Republicans have argued that the Mississippi abortion ban at the center of the Supreme Court case that overturned Roe vs. Wade is a moderate law, consistent with global standards, and that it is abortion rights advocates who take an extreme position.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi made the claim in 2021 before the closing arguments in Dobbs vs. Jackson. “Mississippi will always have a law on the books in which 39 countries, 39 of 42 in Europe, have more restrictive abortion laws than what I think is one of the most conservative states in the United States,” said Reeves. say it Meet the press. This position was taken up by the majority on the right in Dobbs, which cast the United States as an outlier for its permissive abortion laws. Since the judgment, the conservative media and media personalities have insisted that European leaders “who criticized the United States for the decision have laws that are … comparable to Mississippi law”, where “many European states have stricter abortion laws than the United States”, and that the law in question was “not extreme compared to many European abortion laws.”

The first big problem with this argument is that it is wrong. Although many European countries have gestational limits that on paper resemble those in Mississippi law, and some have mandatory counseling and waiting periods, the exceptions that go into effect after this initial limit mean that women in Europe can still have abortions beyond the limit if they want it. This means that the difference between the European gestational limits and the roe deer and Casey frame was less than it seemed. In addition, bureaucratic obstacles to have an abortion in the first trimester in many states beforeDobbs were much larger than in most European countries as result of anti-abortion legislation designed to circumvent roe deer.

The second big problem is that a lot of post-roe deer the laws that go into effect are outright prohibitions with very few exceptions and with shorter timelines – much stricter than current law Dobbs or the European laws in question. This misrepresentation is based on a superficial discrepancy – that the roe deer seems more permissive than most European laws as long as one focuses only on gestational limits and ignores the many exceptions in these laws and the state of access to healthcare on the continent.

“We are seeing earlier gestational limits in Europe,” Katherine Mayall, director of strategic initiative at the Center for Reproductive Rights, told me, but “in practice, if someone reaches a gestational limit of 12 weeks he can still access abortion care, because the broad grounds after that limit option include things like a woman’s mental health or economic status.The three Democratic-appointed justices Dobbs said as much in their dissent, noting that despite the majority viewing the United States as an outlier, many European countries “have liberal exceptions to these timelines, including to avoid harm to physical or mental health. a woman’s”. Despite all the chatter about how tough European laws are, if Democratic lawmakers proposed to pass a federal law that would make America’s abortion laws look like those of France or the UKno Republican in Congress may agree.

A few countries outright ban abortion or maintain very restrictive laws, such as Poland and Monaco, but these are exceptions. This does not mean that abortion is still easy to get in Europe. In some countries, bureaucratic barriers may still be significant. In others where abortion is legal on paper, such as Italy, finding doctors willing to perform the procedure can be difficult, as many personally oppose it for moral or religious reasons. But this is also true in America, where women in states that ban abortion usually have to travel much further than Europe to access these services.

Then there is the fact that many countries in Europe have more generous welfare states in which abortion care, in addition to medical care and child care, is either subsidized or paid for and generally easy to obtain. ‘access. In contrast, Mississippi has extremely high rates maternal and infant mortality ratepart of the state government’s general indifference to the well-being of its residents and whether they have access to health care.

Some Democratic-controlled states, such as California and New York, have more liberal abortion laws than in Europe. But in Republican-controlled states, the picture is very different. Many of these states passed trigger laws that came into effect afterroe deeror have laws that were not repealed after 1973 and became enforceable again as soon as the Dobbs decision has been made. This includes Mississippi, where abortion is now completely prohibited, with some exceptions. In Ohio, a 10-year-old girl was recently forced to travel to Indiana for an abortion because Ohio’s ban has no exceptions for rape beyond six weeks, which is earlier than most women – let alone 10-year-old girls – know they are pregnant. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced this week his intention to sue the federal government for his advice that doctors can perform abortions to save the life of the mother. To put it bluntly, this is not how abortion laws work in most of Europe.

“Changes in the laws which are in fact [in effect] absolutely nothing like what the laws of most European countries look like,” Mayall said. “They mostly look like what we see in the laws of countries in the South, and in the countries we work in where we see people who are actively in prison for having abortions, or we see dozens of women dying from abortions at risk .”

The argument that Europe generally has more restrictive abortion laws is misleading at best. But by muddying the waters, GOP apparatchiks hope to cushion the political fallout from roe deerand rejects the observation that the new bans are both harsher than those that preceded roe deer and will require an incredibly invasive system of state surveillance, coercion and punishment to be enforced. say that after DobbsUS abortion laws will simply resemble those in Europe, is to cast a veil of normality over plans for a post-roe deer world that will severely limit fundamental freedoms of expression, movement and association. But whatever that future is, it won’t look like the Europe of today. It will be much worse.

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