Biden’s G7 allies dismayed by US abortion rights reversal

Western leaders will meet in Germany this weekend for crucial summit

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Western leaders voiced dismay over the reversal of US abortion rights before a crucial G7 summit in the Bavarian Alps this weekend.

The US Supreme Court's decision to overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade decision has struck a chord beyond American borders.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was quick to comment following the ruling on Friday.

“I’ve got to tell you, I think it’s a big step backwards,” he said at a news conference during a visit to Rwanda.

It is unusual for any British leader to speak critically of the US, given how highly the UK prizes its special relationship, particularly to comment on domestic matters.

Mr Johnson is the first Catholic prime minister of the UK following his return to the faith last year.

He said the US ruling “has massive impacts on people’s thinking around the world”.

Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau, who was also in Kigali for the Commonwealth summit, defined it a “devastating setback.”

Mr Biden, a practising Catholic, agreed a few hours later by saying the US now finds itself “an outlier”.

Emmanuel Macron, France's president, centre, and wife Brigitte Macron arrive at Munich Airport to attend the G7 summit. Bloomberg.

The US essentially would now stand among its G7 cohort as a nation with some of the most stringent restrictions on the reproductive rights of women. Abortion was legalised in mostly-Catholic Italy in 1978.

The next to comment was the recently re-elected French President Emmanuel Macron, representing a nation where the separation of church and state has been sacrosanct for centuries.

His tweet, translated into English, was unequivocal: “Abortion is a fundamental right for all women. We must protect it.”

Members of Mr Macron’s party, who last week lost their majority in the National Assembly, said on Saturday they would move to enshrine the right to abortion in France’s constitution.

The ruling came on the same day the lower house of Germany’s Parliament moved to abolish a law that banned doctors from providing information about abortions.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the G7 host, tweeted on Saturday about the US ruling. It will no doubt be something that he and other leaders at the summit will be asked about in the coming days.

Abortion rights demonstrators chant outside the US Supreme Court in Washington. Bloomberg.

The US downplayed the impact, if any, that it will have on the G7 talks, and said Mr Biden would not be sidetracked by the issue.

“The president is not worried about that at all,” National Security Council co-ordinator John Kirby said.

It comes as thousands of demonstrators in major cities across the US from New York to Los Angeles held largely peaceful protests in reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision.

Crowds gathered for a second day on Saturday in Washington where they chanted “Stand up, fight back,” “My body, my choice” and “Give our rights back” along the street in front of the US Supreme Court.

Roe v Wade protected the constitutional right to abortion. Overturning the ruling leaves it to individual states to decide whether abortions are allowed, and in what circumstances. A leak last month of a draft opinion to strike down Roe sparked nationwide protests from abortion rights supporters.

The Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research group, said 26 states are “certain or likely” to ban or limit abortion in the absence of Roe, while 16 states have laws that protect the right to abortion.

Updated: June 27, 2022, 11:18 AM
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