In the aftermath of the United States Supreme Court’s reversal of nearly 50 years of constitutional protection for abortion, lawmakers in France, where abortion has been legal since 1975, proposed legislation to enshrine the right in the French constitution.
“What happens elsewhere cannot happen in France,” tweeted in French a co-sponsor of the bill, Marie-Pierre Rixain.
Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizationthe decision of June 24 which annulled Roe vs. Wade, was an “electroshock” with repercussions being felt around the world, according to lawyers interviewed by Law.com International.
Even though Dobbs and deer Applied only to American law on American soil, the rulings led almost immediately to a global call to strengthen legal protections for reproductive rights, as well as heightened fears about the ripple effects on civil rights, human rights to privacy, women’s health and even local law.
Dobbs “has understandably troubled a lot of people on this side of the pond when it comes to women’s rights and choices,” said Lincoln Tsang, a Partner and Head of the European Life Sciences Practice of Ropes & Gray in London.
Going against global trends
While abortion laws vary widely from country to country, lawyers around the world have noted that by rolling back deerthe United States was going against global trends toward more liberal abortion rights.
The trend is perhaps most visible in Latin America, a region with a history of tough laws that have seen women imprisoned for miscarriages or alleged abortions.
In February, the Colombian Constitutional Court authorized abortions up to 24 weeks. This decision followed the decriminalization of abortion by the Mexican Supreme Court in 2021 and the legalization in 2020 of abortion on demand in Argentina up to 14 weeks of gestation.
In Mexico, where many American women are already seeking abortion care following restrictions in border states like Texas, the country’s Supreme Court president tweets almost daily in support of abortion rights and need to empower women.
Arturo Zaldívar called the possibility of terminating a pregnancy “fundamental rightand describes the criminalization of abortion as “a profound social injustice” against women.
In Germany, on the same day, the Dobbs decision was made, lawmakers voted to repeal a Nazi-era law banning doctors from providing abortion information.
According to Valentina Chiofalo, a lawyer and research associate and holder of the chair of public law and European law at Freie Universität Berlin, the timing of the vote was a coincidence – the problem had been developing for years – but the repeal will raise awareness of the ‘abortion.
Johannes Eisenberg, a partner at the criminal defense firm Eisenberg König Schork in Berlin, said the 1933 law had led to a “culture of secrecy” around the medical abortion service that should now be lifted.
The repeal could also, Chiofalo said, set the stage for a broader discussion that on paper at least abortion remains illegal in Germany, though the law is rarely enforced. “No other crime is framed like this,” she said.
Germany’s development mirrors that of countries around the world that have recently eased restrictions on abortion.
In Asia, the landscape includes Thailand, which voted last year to allow abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy. Singapore was one of the first countries in the region to legalize abortion in 1969, four years before Deer. Abortion is still illegal in Laos and the Philippines, among other countries in the region.
“The question of a woman’s right to medical intervention; the autonomy of one’s body over one’s life – this is subject to the laws of many countries including Singapore,” the city-state’s home and law minister K Shanmugam told parliament earlier. This year. “But it becomes difficult when the issue becomes politicized and if you tilt too far from giving a woman autonomy over her own body.
Fears for the future
Following the Dobbs decision, Zaldívar wrote that he had rarely felt so proud to sit on the Mexican high court:All rights for everyone. Until equality and dignity become the custom.” The message was accompanied by emojis of green and purple hearts in support of abortion and women, as well as rainbow flags for LGBTQ+ rights.
His message sums up a growing fear in the world that Dobbs could encourage local actors to challenge other rights besides abortion – and that protesters might even succeed.
In South Africa, where the right to abortion during the first three months of pregnancy has been enshrined in the constitution and in law since 1996, lawyers have said they fear Dobbs would encourage anti-abortion activism, which has resulted in at least two High Court cases challenging the right.
Even if the challenges have not been crowned with success, South Africa is not “completely immune to the overthrow of Roe vs. Wadebecause I think we’re going to be faced with a lot of anti-abortion rhetoric and strategies,” said Cathi Albertyn, a law professor at the University of the Witwatersrand and South African Research Chair in Equality, law and social justice.
Similar fears are brewing In France, where more than 400 lawyers have signed a petition from the Paris bar in favor of a constitutional amendment enshrining the right to abortion.
One of the reasons for the urgency, according to some signatories, is the rise of Marine Le Pen and her far-right National Rally party, which has issued a strong challenge to the re-election of President Emmanuel Macron this year and has just won 89 seats in the French Parliament. high time.
Le Pen, a longtime opponent of abortion rights, said she might consider supporting a constitutional bill. “Why not?” she told Le Monde over the weekend, which then rejected the need for the proposed amendment enshrining the right to abortion in the constitution.
“This fuss doesn’t seem justified to me,” she said. “We are not the United States and no party plans to change our laws.”
But supporters of the amendment disagree, insisting it is justified. “To those who say that women’s rights are not at stake here, I would say that the far right will act as soon as it comes to power, and not only on abortion,” said Valence Borgia, co-founder of Medici. Law, an arbitration boutique in Paris, said Law.com International.
The Dobbs The decision, Borgia said, was “a shock that even the biggest democracies should pay attention to.”
Dobbs also has implications for funding nonprofits that support women’s health services in the developing world, according to India’s Nishith Desai Associates.
“Roe versus WadeThe reversal paved the way for the United States to remove government funding from overseas development programs that fund, support, and provide sexual and reproductive health services, including, but not limited to, treatment for abortion, through subsequent legal actions,” the firm said. said in a circular published on June 27.
“Such a change will compel Indian entities to seek out funders or supporters who align themselves with India’s liberal views on reproductive rights and especially laws related to abortion,” he added.
Stephanie Musho, a partner at SM Law & Policy in Nairobi, Kenya, expressed a similar concern. A change in the United States’ position on abortion rights, she said, would certainly hamper progress toward relaxing Kenyan laws, which only allow abortions in cases where the health or the life of the mother or the child are in danger. Kenya’s health care sector receives funding from US NGOs and is therefore influenced by US policy, she said.
Lawyers and clients speak out. Law firms, not so much
As lawyers around the world make their views known through petitions, social media posts and other actions, law firms have so far been more reluctant to take a stand on Dobbs or its offshoots.
Many international companies headquartered in the UK declined to comment. Some companies, including Ashurst and Bird & Bird, said they were evaluating their positions and policies in light of the rapidly changing landscape of US state laws.
Others, including Pinsent Masons and Slaughter and May, said they would not comment because they had no offices or staff in the United States. Law firms in other countries, such as Canada, with little or no U.S. staff, have also been silent.
Clifford Chance, with more than 300 lawyers in the United States and offices in New York and Washington, said he would not make a statement, but noted that many of his lawyers had signed the Call to Action petition in the States. States which collected more than 2,000 signatures for Date.
The firm also provided US Clifford Chance staff with a statement from Evan Cohen, the firm’s New York-based regional managing partner. Cohen wrote that, for him, Dobbs was a matter of both freedom and racial justice, since its impact will fall disproportionately on “those who lack the resources to overcome the barriers created” by state anti-abortion laws.
Caura Barszcz, co-founder and publisher of Juristes Associés, a legal market research and publishing firm in Paris, said further statements were likely to be released following theDobbs picture becomes clearer for law firms and their clients.
“Many companies are still figuring out what this means for them,” Barszcz said.
Meanwhile, a growth A number of global corporations and leaders in France, Canada and elsewhere outside the United States are showing their support for abortion rights on social media, in posts that often combine resolve for the future with sadness. for the present.
“How can a woman be prevented from having total control of her body?” Francis Barel, director of PayPal France, posted on LinkedIn with a photo of the late Simone Veil, the lawyer and former French Minister of Justice and Health who successfully defended laws guaranteeing the right to contraception in 1974 and to abortion in 1975.
“We are lucky in France to have had a woman whose courage is now legendary,” the post continues. Veil “gave a very simple answer to the question of women’s right to their body: it is total. And that was almost 50 years ago.
This story was reported by Anne Bagamery, James Carstensen, Jennigay Coetzer, Gail Cohen, Habiba Cullen Jafar, Amy Guthrie and Jessica Seah.