European leaders decry US restriction of abortion rights

European leaders are voicing dismay and outrage about the U.S. Supreme Court decision stripping the legal right for women to obtain an abortion. 

“Making abortions illegal isn’t pro-life. It’s anti-choice,” Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel tweeted. “It’s a social & economic injustice. And just so, so wrong. Reproductive rights are not just women’s rights. They are human rights. So let’s all stand up for them.” 

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson told POLITICO: “I’ve got to tell you, I think it’s a big step backwards.” 

Speaking at a news conference in Rwanda, where he was attending a Commonwealth meeting, Johnson said: “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.”

The U.S. court ruling overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade precedent, which had protected a woman’s right to obtain an abortion, is just the latest development that has left Europeans bewildered about the deep political polarization in the U.S. 

“There is still a long way to go for gender justice,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a tweet. “Women’s rights are threatened. We must defend them resolutely.”

Along with years of inaction in Washington in response to an epidemic of mass shootings, endemic racism, the exorbitant costs and limited access to medical care, and meager government-protected maternity benefits, the abortion decision has reinforced a sense in Europe that the U.S. is oddly out of sync with most modern, civilized democracies. 

Despite this sense that the U.S. is negligent when it comes to basic social protections for its citizens, the country remains a global political and cultural touchstone, and its domestic political perturbations still reverberate across the two oceans that often keep U.S. citizens relatively distant and disconnected from tribulations elsewhere. 

“Very concerned about implications of @USSupremeCourt decision on #RoeVWade and the signal it sends to the world,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo tweeted. “Banning abortion never leads to fewer abortions, only to more unsafe abortions. Belgium will continue to work with other countries to advance #SRHR everywhere,” he wrote, using the hashtag for “sexual and reproductive health rights.” 

French President Emmanuel Macron, who has rarely, if ever, hesitated to make clear when his views diverge with Washington, expressed his support for U.S. women and accused the court of diminishing their rights. 

“Abortion is a fundamental right for all women,” Macron said. “It must be protected. I wish to express my solidarity with the women whose liberties are being undermined by the Supreme Court of the United States.” 

Last month, Macron voiced his “shock and grief” over a school shooting in Texas in which 19 children and two teachers were murdered.

Macron’s political party said it will now put forward a proposal to enshrine protection for abortion rights in the French constitution. Previously, his party had opposed similar legislative proposals put forward by left-leaning political rivals.

An initial report by POLITICO last month that the U.S. Supreme Court was poised to overturn the landmark abortion rights ruling had sparked trepidation in many European political circles, serving as a reminder of the legacy of former U.S. President Donald Trump, who was generally disdained by European allies, and raising anxiety that Trump or someone like him could return to the White House. Many Europeans also worry about a potential paralyzing of transatlantic cooperation should Republicans win back control of the U.S. Congress in midterm elections later this year.

Europe, however, is not universally in favor of abortion rights. There is also a fierce and divisive debate over abortion in Poland, where the government adopted a near-total ban on abortion with limited exceptions in the cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother’s life.

And European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, who is from Malta, faced some criticism ahead of her election because of her personal stance opposing abortion rights.

This month, a pregnant U.S. citizen faced a life-threatening situation in Malta, where abortion is illegal, when she could not obtain emergency medical assistance after she began to miscarry because doctors would not terminate her pregnancy. The woman, Andrea Prudente, was eventually able to fly to Spain and receive treatment.

Esther Webber contributed reporting.

This article is part of POLITICO Pro

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