The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade reverberated across the world Friday, with health groups and U.S. allies criticizing the ruling as a step backward that could have global implications.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the break from a half-century of rulings on one of the U.S.'s most contentious issues as “horrific” on Twitter.
“My heart goes out to the millions of American women who are now set to lose their legal right to an abortion,” he wrote. "No government, politician, or man should tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the decision “a big step backwards.”
“I’ve always believed in a woman’s right to choose, and I stick to that view and that is why the U.K. has the laws that it does,” he told a news conference in Kigali, Rwanda, where he was attending a summit of Commonwealth nations. “It clearly has massive impacts on people’s thinking around the world."
It’s unusual for foreign leaders to comment on U.S. Supreme Court decisions, so the immediate reactions from leaders around the world indicated just how seriously the move was being taken.
At the same Kigali summit, the head of the World Health Organization told Reuters that he was “very disappointed, because women’s rights must be protected.”
“I would have expected America to protect such rights,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
The move was also described a “catastrophic blow to the lives of millions of women, girls and pregnant people,” in a statement signed by more than 100 global health organizations including the North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, the World Association of Trainees in Obstetrics & Gynecology and the British Medical Association.
“As organizations dedicated to providing and supporting health care, we know that restrictive laws do not reduce the need for abortion care,” the statement said. “Rather, such laws increase inequities in access; nurture an environment of fear, stigmatization and criminalization; and put women, girls and pregnant people at risk.”
The United Nations also said in a statement that data showed “restricting access to abortion does not prevent people from seeking abortion, it simply makes it more deadly.”
“Decisions reversing progress gained have a wider impact on the rights and choices of women and adolescents everywhere,” it added.
The ruling would be felt globally, according to MSI Reproductive Choices, a nongovernment organization providing contraception and safe abortion services in 37 countries around the world.
“Decisions made in the U.S. have an impact far beyond their borders,” it said in a statement. “But while this vote may embolden the anti-choice movement around the world, it has also motivated the global community to reassert the right to choose.”
Elsewhere, French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that abortion was “a fundamental right for all women,” that “must be protected.” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo also tweeted that he was “very concerned” about the implications of the ruling.
The decision was welcomed in some quarters however.
The Vatican’s Academy for Life challenged the world to reflect on life issues.
The defense of human life could not be confined to individual rights because life is a matter of “broad social significance,” it said in a statement.
“The fact that a large country with a long democratic tradition has changed its position on this issue also challenges the whole world,” it added.