Dobbs & Abortion: U.S. Law Is Extreme by International Standards


Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts during a group portrait session for the new full court at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., November 30, 2018. (Jim Young/Reuters)

During this morning’s oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Chief Justice Roberts asked Julie Rikelman, one of the attorneys arguing against Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks, about U.S. abortion policy as compared to the rest of the world.

Roberts noted that the U.S. is one of only seven countries to allow abortion after 20 weeks and pointed out that most European countries limit abortion to far earlier in pregnancy.

In response, Rikelman alleged that this wasn’t true and claimed that Roberts was incorrect to say U.S. abortion policy is extreme compared to the rest of the world. She argued most of Europe allows abortion until viability.

This is simply untrue. Nearly every European country that allows abortion at all limits it to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and a handful allow it until 15 weeks. They do not, as Rikelman suggested, allow abortion after that point for “broad social reasons.”

Meanwhile, Roberts was correct that the U.S. is one of only seven countries — along with North Korea, China, Vietnam, Canada, Singapore, and the Netherlands — to allow abortion after 20 weeks. It’s telling that Rikelman refused to respond honestly. To do so would’ve exposed how beyond the pale her side’s argument really is.

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