The Supreme Court confirmed the authenticity of a draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade Tuesday, stressing that it was not the final decision.
An official Supreme Court opinion striking down Roe v. Wade in the United States would reverberate around the world. It would firmly counter a global trend towards freer access to abortion and place the US in a very small club of countries that have moved to restrict access in recent years.
Several states have already chipped away at the availability of the procedure; if swathes of the US are allowed to end it entirely, the country would become home to some of the strictest abortion laws in the Western world.
Currently, the US is one of 56 countries where abortion is legal at the request at a woman’s request, with no requirement for justification, according to the World Health Organization.
It is generally in the company of other Western nations, since few developed countries ban or heavily restrict access to abortions. Of the 36 countries the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs defines as developed economies, all but two — Poland and Malta — allow abortions on request or on broad health and socio-economic grounds, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), which campaigns for improved access to abortion and monitors laws worldwide.
But an end to federal protection of abortion would see parts of the US join that list. It would also push against a global tide that has seen many nations, including those on the United States’ doorstep, liberalize abortion laws in recent years.
Last year, Mexico‘s Supreme Court unanimously ruled that penalizing abortion is unconstitutional, in a decision impacting precedent for the legal status of abortion nationwide.
The US’ northern neighbor, Canada, is one of the few countries which allows abortion at any point during pregnancy. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has criticized moves in US states to make abortions more difficult to access.
Most European Union nations — including those in the G7 — allow abortion with gestation limits, the most common being 12 weeks, according to monitoring charities including CRR. Exceptions after that period are usually permitted on certain grounds, such as if the pregnancy or birth poses a risk to the mother’s health.
Japan, alongside countries like Finland and India, makes provisions for abortion in cases of rape or risk to the woman’s health, but also on wider socioeconomic grounds.
Among comparative democracies to the US, Australia‘s laws have been among the most similar. As in the US, access to abortion varies in each Australian state and territory — and until recently, some regions criminalized the procedure.
Read more about other countries’ policies on abortion here: