The U.S. Is Falling Behind on Women's Rights
Bloomberg Businessweek|December 13, 2021
With the Supreme Court poised to restrict access to abortion, the nation takes another step backward
Kelsey Butler

When the U.S. Supreme Court first legalized abortion in 1973, the country was a global leader on reproductive rights. The women’s liberation movement and a growing outcry over deaths from unsafe procedures led a handful of countries, including the U.S., to liberalize their laws or legalize the procedure for the first time.

The U.K. had passed its Abortion Act in 1967, which at the time allowed women to terminate pregnancies up to 28 weeks. In 1972, East Germany made abortion free, up to 12 weeks. Then came the U.S. with its landmark Roe v. Wade ruling establishing a constitutional right to an abortion. Canada wouldn’t decriminalize the procedure for another 15 years.

Now the U.S. is on the verge of rolling back reproductive rights, while countries around the world are moving in the opposite direction. On Dec. 1, during arguments about the constitutionality of a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks, the conservative justices on the Supreme Court signaled they were ready to weaken protections established under Roe. If the court overturns precedent completely, legal abortion would disappear in at least a dozen U.S. states. Many others would allow it only in the first few weeks of pregnancy or in rare circumstances.

It’s a stark reversal for women’s rights, particularly compared with much of the rest of the world. “Although we think of America as one of the most liberal places, where people have the most rights, we’re seeing it become one of the most restrictive countries when it comes to abortion access,” says Christian Nunes, president of the National Organization for Women.

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