The end of constitutional protections for abortions in the United States has been described as a “backwards” move by world leaders and health organisations, while handing a huge boost to pro-life groups around the world.
The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, all condemned the supreme court’s overruling of the landmark Roe v Wade decision, while New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said the decision was “incredibly upsetting”.
“Watching the removal of a woman’s fundamental right to make decisions over their own body is incredibly upsetting,” she said.
“Here in New Zealand we recently legislated to decriminalise abortion and treat it as a health rather than criminal issue.
“That change was grounded in the fundamental belief that it’s a woman’s right to choose. People are absolutely entitled to have deeply held convictions on this issue. But those personal beliefs should never rob another from making their own decisions.
“To see that principle now lost in the United States feels like a loss for women everywhere. When there are so many issues to tackle, so many challenges that face women and girls, we need progress, not to fight the same fights and move backwards.”
Johnson described the court ruling as a “big step backwards”, and hundreds took to the streets of London and Edinburgh to demonstrate against the decision.
Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish Nationalist party, the third biggest party in the UK parliament, said it was “one of the darkest days for women’s rights in my lifetime … this will embolden anti-abortion and anti-women forces in other countries too”.
Trudeau said that “no government, politician or man should tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body”, adding that he “can’t imagine the fear and anger” women in the US must be experiencing in the wake of the ruling.
The French foreign ministry urged US federal authorities “to do everything possible” to ensure American women have continued access to abortions, calling it a “health and survival issue”. France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, added in a tweet that “abortion is a fundamental right of all women”.
The former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard called on women to keep fighting for their rights and retweeted Michelle Obama’s statement in which the former US first lady said she was “heartbroken” about the decision.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, said on Twitter that he was “concerned and disappointed” by the ruling, and that it reduced both “women’s rights and access to health care”.
The UN agency dealing with sexual and reproductive health said that whether or not abortion was legal, “it happens all too often” and global data showed that restricting access made abortion more deadly.
The United Nations population fund issued a statement following the supreme court’s decision noting that its 2022 report said that nearly half of all pregnancies worldwide were unintended and over 60% of those pregnancies might end in abortion.
“A staggering 45% of all abortions around the world are unsafe, making this a leading cause of maternal death,” the agency said.
It said almost all unsafe abortions occured in developing countries, and it feared that “more unsafe abortions will occur around the world if access to abortion becomes more restricted”.
The court’s overturning of the landmark Roe v Wade decision “shows that these types of rights are always at risk of being steamrolled”, said Ruth Zurbriggen, an Argentinian activist and member of the Companion Network of Latin America and the Caribbean, a group favouring abortion rights.
However, anti-abortion activists cheered the ruling, with legislator Amalia Granata tweeting: “There is justice again in the world. We are going to achieve this in Argentina too!!”
In El Salvador, anti-abortion campaigner Sara Larín expressed hope the ruling would bolster campaigns against the procedure around the globe.
Larín, president of Fundación Vida SV, said: “I trust that with this ruling it will be possible to abolish abortion in the United States and throughout the world.”