Although the Vast Majority of Europeans Support Abortion Rights, This Does Not Mean These Rights Are Secure

As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the constitutional protections for abortion established by the seminal Roe v. Wade case fifty years ago, access to abortion for millions of women in the United States is on the verge of being severely restricted or eliminated. The case that established these protections was Roe v. Wade. 

The decision empowers state legislatures to outlaw abortion, and it is expected that at least half of them will do so

Despite widespread opposition from European leaders, abortion remains illegal in some EU member states. Malta maintains a total prohibition. In Poland, an already onerous law will become even more onerous in the year 2020. Several women have recently been found dead as a result of increased penalties for medical professionals who perform or assist in the procurement of abortions. 

It is important to remember, however, that decisions in both the United States of America and Poland were made by courts of law rather than democratic majorities. What has happened in the United States is the result of years of hard work by activists there to ensure that more socially conservative judges are appointed to positions of authority. 

A court decision was also to blame for Poland’s seismic shift in abortion legislation

In 2016, the conservative Law and Justice government attempted to pass legislation, but they backed down and abandoned their plans in the face of massive street protests. Instead, it stacked the deck by appointing people to the constitutional tribunal and other courts. In the year 2020, the court correctly ruled that foetal fetal abnormalities could no longer be used as a justification for abortion, limiting access to abortion to cases where rape or incest was proven. 

This activist judicial behavior is not a coincidence

Democracies in the majority of countries support the right to abortion. Independent judicial courts, on the other hand, are not subject to popular vote. As a result, conservatives frequently look to the judicial branch to impose the restrictions they desire. 

Abortion legalization is supported by large majorities across Europe

This is also true in the United States, where recent polls show that more than sixty percent of respondents believe abortion should be legalized in most cases. In Poland, respondents in 2020 said they supported legalizing abortion in the first trimester 66% of the time. Only one Pole in every ten supports the 2020 restrictions. 

Abortion is supported by a sizable proportion of both men and women

Abortion support in the United States is not influenced by a person’s race or income. Younger voters and liberal voters are more likely to support abortion than older voters, while conservative voters are less likely to support abortion than liberal voters. Religious beliefs may not be as important as we believe, with one notable exception being white evangelical Protestants in the United States. These people are overwhelmingly anti-abortion, but only since a political shift occurred within the Republican Party in the 1980s. 

Because the majority of voters support abortion rights, democratic processes such as votes in parliament and referendums tend to favor expanding access to abortion. The majority of democratic parliamentary majorities in countries all over the world have been responsible for passing abortion-legalization legislation. Almost all of Europe’s national parliaments are democratically elected, and the majority of them have gradually established legal support for abortion access, which is consistent with societal consensus. A majority of Bundestag members voted in favor of the reform, which resulted in the repeal of a Nazi-era law that criminalized medical professionals who performed abortions. 

Referendums have also contributed to increased access

The famous abortion referendum in Ireland in 2018 resulted in one of the highest voter turnouts in the country’s history. More than 66 percent of voters supported repealing a constitutional abortion ban. Recent referendums in San Marino and Gibraltar have also resulted in abortion rights being expanded in those countries. 

Authoritarian leaders, whether in Turkey, Hungary, or Russia, have been at the forefront of efforts to limit women’s rights and undermine gender equality. 

Organizations opposed to abortion keep a close eye on public opinion

As a result, they tend to steer the conversation away from the majority’s views on the democratic legitimacy of their position. They have been vehemently opposed to popular referendums, claiming that public support for abortion is “artificially created.” During the 1990s in Poland, the Roman Catholic church was so concerned about the outcome of a referendum that it agreed to a “compromise” solution that legalized abortion in some circumstances. This enabled abortions to be carried out. 

Instead of pursuing changes in abortion law, which would fall outside the purview of the EU, anti-abortion activists have begun to use new EU citizens’ rights mechanisms to challenge the bloc’s funding of “life-destroying” science and research programs. Rather than pursuing changes in EU funding for science and research programs, this is being done. 

This is not surprising given that abortion opponents face an even steeper hill to climb in Europe than they do in the United States. They receive less political support and have fewer people attend their rallies. Because religious practice is less prevalent in Europe than in the United States, fewer Europeans base their abortion opinions on their faith or beliefs. The vast majority of populist parties that have challenged the mainstream political consensus in other ways have remained silent on the issue of abortion. 

Furthermore, in the majority of European countries, abortion cannot be obtained “on demand,” and access to abortion is more restricted after the first trimester of pregnancy. These restrictions make it more difficult to polarize public opinion or persuade people that abortion involves “murdering babies” or “dismembering children,” as anti-abortion forces have done in the United States. Furthermore, arguing that abortion is a necessary medical procedure is more difficult. Human Life International, which bills itself as Europe’s “largest international pro-life organization,” is headquartered in the United States. 

The question now is what this means for Europeans who oppose abortion

They can rely on non-democratic means, such as challenging authority through the courts or autocratic leaders, according to these patterns. They are, however, unable to rely on public support or democratic legislative procedures. However, as demonstrated by the examples of the United States and Poland, persistent minorities can still prevail.