Europe’s Abortion Lesson – WSJ

Swedish women take part in a demonstration in support of famous Polish pro-abortion women in Malmoe, Sweden, October 3, 2016.


Magnus Persson / Zuma Press

America’s progressives, and some on the right, have convinced themselves that legal abortion will disappear as soon as the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade precedent. As the Court is weighing this, readers can appreciate examples from democracies that have grappled with this difficult issue without the nine Judges telling them what to do.

We mean Europe, where abortion is legal in most countries, often with stricter limits than the United States, and generally the result of democratic choice.

A notable feature of abortion in Europe is that each country has adapted its laws to a more local fit following political debates. Britain and the Netherlands are among the more permissive, allowing abortions in most cases up to 24 weeks of pregnancy — and at the expense of Britain’s National Health Service.

Poland and a few small, Catholic-majority countries at the other end of the spectrum, ban abortion in most cases, although women can take advantage of free movement within the European Union. Europe to another country.

Abortion in Sweden is performed on request until 18 weeks and then only with medical permission if the fetus is not alive. In Italy, that’s for the first 90 days. Many countries, such as Denmark, Germany and Belgium, allow on-demand abortions up to the 12th week, while France recently extended it to 14 and in Portugal to 10. Countries tend to stricter restrictions apply after that time, such as requiring registration from multiple doctors or allowing abortions only later if the mother’s life is in danger.

Without court rulings stipulating access to abortion, European voters as a whole have chosen to allow it in a way that could frustrate American advocates. But even liberal and mostly secular Europeans impose the kind of limits on abortion that America’s advocates claim are unacceptable. Mississippi’s ban, which is currently being enacted by the Supreme Court, begins in 15 weeks.

European law also covers abortion waiting periods in some countries, such as seven days in Italy and three days in Germany. Denmark and the Netherlands are among several countries that require parental consent before minors can have an abortion. Germany and Belgium require prior consultation.

Keeping abortion politics in the democratic arena rather than the courts has prevented it from becoming a destructive front in the culture war. This is not to say that abortion laws are immutable. Ireland in 2018 legalized abortion through a referendum, while Germany recently lifted a ban on “advertising” abortion services. But those changes happen as society changes and through persuasion from legislators and undecided voters rather than jarring fundraising letters. They tend to represent a consensus that has a good chance of remaining stable for a while.

Note that Europe’s abortion policy has mostly ended as opinion polls show most Americans prefer to be: with first-trimester legal abortion but with more restrictions then and with some checks like waiting time or parental notice for minors. The main abortion lesson from Europe is that voters can be trusted with such an important issue.

If the U.S. Supreme Court rules on Dobbs sues Jackson Women’s Health Organization As last week’s leak showed, this new abortion politics will be an adjustment for parties – on both sides – more accustomed to endorsing 100 Senators on Supreme Court nominations than plagiarism. serve millions of voters. But it would be a relief if America could one day look to the relative political peace that Europe enjoys over this controversial ethical question.

The Journal’s Editorial Report: Democrats want to systematize Roe v. Wade, but they might overdo it. Image: AP / AFP / Getty Images Synthesis: Mark Kelly

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Appears in print May 9, 2022. Europe’s Abortion Lesson – WSJ

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