Friday, July 1, 2022
On June 24, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned previous Supreme Court decisions which established a woman’s right to abortion, namely Roe vs. Wade and Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, for the last fifty years.
This historic decision reverberated across the world and sparked major protests in cities like Madrid, Dublin, London, Paris, Sydney, Toronto, from both pro-life groups and pro-abortion advocates. The European Parliament had decided to address the topic in a debate in its previous plenary, too, although abortion is not one of its competences. Several world heads of state (Macron, Trudeau, Johnson), as well as UN and WHO leaders made comments about the Court’s ruling.
While we acknowledge that it is a US internal matter over which we have no say or influence, we cannot deny the reactions it stirred in Europe and all over the world. We are also worried about the language or tone taken around this issue, especially online, which often is misleading. For that reason, we would like to offer some context to this ruling and also dispel some myths regarding our own pro-life stance.
In 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decided in a case which was going to become a landmark when it came to protecting abortion, namely Roe vs. Wade. In that case, it was argued that a woman’s right to abortion is part of the right to privacy which stems from the 1st, 4th, 5th 9th and especially the 14th amendments to the US Constitution. It was said that personal and medical decisions are between a woman and her doctor, and the government cannot interfere. At the same time, that decision went further and outlined the phases of a pregnancy (trimesters) and said that women have sole power of decision during first trimester, the government can regulate (but not prohibit) during second trimester, and the government can prohibit abortion during the third trimester to protect a fetus who could survive outside the womb, except when a woman’s health was in danger.
In a subsequent case in 1992- Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey- the Supreme Court upheld the “central hold” of Roe and established that restrictions on abortion are unconstitutional if they place an “undue burden” on a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus is viable. It revised Roe in replacing the trimester formula with viability and it acknowledged that a fetus may be viable earlier than Roe had decided. In Hellerstedt (2016) and Russo (2020), the Court invoked the Casey decision of “undue burden” to strike down Texas and Louisiana restrictions requiring abortion clinics to meet standards of surgical centers and abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
It is also worth mentioning that a rarely used abortion procedure known as D&E (dilation and evacuation) has been banned in US at federal level (Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, 2003) and upheld by the Court’s Gonzales v. Carhart decision in 2007. Therefore, those who claimed it was taking place or that it was rampant across US were simply misleading their audience.
A few days ago, SCOTUS published its decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, where an abortion clinic challenged the Mississippi Gestational Age Act which forbade abortions after 15 weeks and claimed it was unconstitutional. The Court rejected that claim and thus overturned Roe v. Wade and the subsequent decisions based on it. The majority opinion made several key points:
- The US Constitution does not explicitly or implicitly confer a right to abortion and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the States.
- The right to obtain an abortion is not rooted in the Nation’s history and tradition and is not an essential component of “ordered liberty”. The Justices wrote that prior to late 20th century there was no support in American law for a constitutional right to obtain an abortion, and the terms “liberty” and “due process” found in the 14th Amendment cannot be applied to abortion, since historically it had been considered a crime.
- The right to obtain an abortion is not part of a broader entrenched right supported by legal precedents. “What sharply distinguishes the abortion right from the rights recognized in the cases on which Roe and Casey rely is something that both those decisions acknowledged: Abortion is different because it destroys what Roe termed “potential life” and what the [Mississippi] law challenged in this case calls an “unborn human being.”” wrote the Justices in the majority opinion.
- Roe v. Wade is a precedent which can be overruled because it was decided on weak or erroneous historical, medical and legal grounds.
Thirteen American States already had so-called “trigger laws” on the books, which were meant to go into effect the moment Roe v Wade was overturned, and which would make terminating a pregnancy illegal. Some of these laws are currently challenged in courts. Currently, seven states have a ban on abortion. Almost half of the American States are thought to have in the near future total or near-total bans on abortions.
Where does ECPM stand?
We are a European political party which promotes via our members, the right to life and life-affirming policies, from conception to natural death. We support the right to life of both the mother as well as of the unborn child. We base our beliefs on Biblical teachings which say we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” inside our mother’s womb, and on Christian-democrat tradition which values life, family and children. We are unapologetically pro-life and we see that as our right and freedom in the democratic society we live in.
Our members work tirelessly in their respective countries on legislative initiatives which support (single) mothers and needy families, provide financial help and which ensure pregnant women in crisis have adequate and complete information about ALL options at their disposal. We recognize that the available help is not perfect or even sufficient sometimes, and we are working on it. We advocate for supportive and social measures which would render abortion unnecessary and undesirable.
We find ourselves in agreement with the US Justices that abortion is not a constitutional or human right, in America or anywhere else. It is not enshrined in any international law charter or convention, therefore when abortion advocates are using the phrase “the right to abortion”, it is factually and legally inaccurate. Its unrestricted practice is also not rooted in historical or traditional precedent.
Lastly, the social context is essential in this discussion. In Europe we enjoy a rather robust social safety net, various protections and forms of support needy families and pregnant women can use. In United States, there is currently no federal maternity leave, no universal healthcare coverage and very little protection and financial help for children from poor families. We believe solid and comprehensive social support policies are necessary in order to foster and protect life, for women and families to flourish. However, that is for the American citizens to decide for themselves and although on this other side of the Atlantic we can discuss and opine over this historic shift, we remain aware that we have no say in the matter other than continue to pray with our American brothers and sisters.
 The US Constitution, 14th Amendment, Section 1: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/full-text