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Abortion in 2024: Where are the global hotspots?
Anti-abortion demonstrators and counter protesters attend a rally in Washington, U.S., June 24, 2023. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
What’s the context?
After a tumultuous 2023 for abortion rights, here's where the major battles are shaping up globally in 2024
- Abortion rights key to 2024 U.S. presidential race
- Possible rollbacks in Argentina, gains in Poland
- Abortion could become constitutional landmark in France
BOGOTA/RICHMOND - Abortion was a major flashpoint in 2023, dividing Americans and dominating political debate. Brace for more of the same in 2024, with key election battles and legal landmarks due to determine a woman's right to choose in the U.S. and well beyond.
In the year that Roe v Wade marked its 50th anniversary, pro-abortion Americans scored mixed results in 2023, months after the landmark decision was overturned and moral wrangling over abortion hit fever pitch.
Next year promises to be just as scrappy, with abortion set to loom large in U.S. elections and in closely watched political and legal campaigns stretching from Argentina to France.
"I don't have a crystal ball so I cannot tell you (about) 2024," said Irene Donadio with the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network, a pro-choice advocacy and policy group.
"But I certainly can tell you that things have changed a lot in the last (few) years, and also that the change in the U.S. has been a wake-up call for everybody."
Here's what to expect around the globe in 2024:
States continue to grapple with fallout from the Supreme Court's momentous June 2022 decision to overturn the court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that had established a constitutional right to an abortion.
About half of U.S. states have since moved to impose tighter restrictions - though voters in Ohio backed a ballot measure enshrining abortion rights in the state constitution.
That result followed a string of similar wins at the ballot box for abortion rights supporters since Roe was overturned.
These wins may preview how abortion will play in 2024's presidential and congressional elections, with all Republican presidential hopefuls backing some restrictions on abortion.
Advocates are also keeping a close eye on new laws in states such as Idaho and Texas that restrict people from helping others to travel out of state for an abortion.
Such laws "create a chilling effect that scares people out of seeking care or information," said Kimya Forouzan of the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research group.
The Supreme Court might also restrict access to mifepristone - an increasingly sought-after abortion medication - once the drug's legality has been debated in the lower courts.
"Even if you live … in a place where abortion access is protected in your state constitution, if the Supreme Court essentially pulls (mifepristone) from the shelves, no matter where you live it will be gone for you, too," said Angela Vasquez-Giroux of Reproductive Freedom for All, a pro-choice advocacy group.
On Dec. 13, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a bid by President Joe Biden's administration to preserve broad access to mifepristone.
The justices are expected to hear arguments in the coming months and issue a decision by the end of June.
Anti-abortion advocates hope that should a Republican win the White House in November, the new president would crack down on access to abortion pills through administrative action.
They are also wary that some states may shift in the other direction and expand abortion rights.
"If we're not careful, we're going to be the United States of abortion," said Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International, an anti-abortion advocacy group. "That, to me, is what would be the most egregious scenario."
In Poland, which has some of the harshest abortion laws in Europe, pro-choice campaigners are hopeful for change in 2024.
The Law and Justice government (PiS) in Poland lost its parliamentary majority in October after eight years of nationalist rule which restricted reproductive rights.
PiS had enforced a prescription requirement for emergency contraception and implemented a near-total ban on abortion.
In the past year, Polish activist Justyna Wydrzynska was prosecuted for providing pregnancy termination pills.
Opposition parties have formed a ruling coalition with the Civic Platform and New Left promising to legalise abortion up to 12 weeks.
Experts say the proposal will face political hurdles.
In France, abortion could become a constitutional right.
President Emmanuel Macron submitted in October a draft that, if approved, will make France the first country to explicitly enshrine the right to an abortion into its constitution.
In Mexico and Colombia, abortion laws have been liberalised.
In September, the Mexican Supreme Court struck down a law criminalising abortion, opening the door for the federal healthcare system to start providing pregnancy terminations.
Twelve of the country's 32 states had already repealed their penal codes following a 2021 ruling by the Court that local criminal penalties for abortion were unconstitutional.
After a 2022 ruling by Colombia's constitutional court, Colombia has one of Latin America's most liberal abortion laws - allowing terminations under any circumstances up to 24 weeks.
However in both Mexico and Colombia, many poor, rural and Indigenous women still struggle to access abortion care and do not know about the legal changes.
Pro-choice campaigners will keep a close eye on Argentina, a regional pioneer in expanding reproductive rights, after right-wing libertarian Javier Milei was elected president in November.
Milei, who took office on December 10, opposes abortion and has said he wants a referendum on repealing 2020's legalisation of abortion before the 14th week.
El Salvador bans abortion under any circumstances.
But campaigners said October's release of a woman who had been imprisoned for abortion crimes offers a glimmer of hope that more women will not be similarly prosecuted.
The Salvadoran was one of 17 women whose sentences have been commuted following high-profile campaigns.
In September, Brazil's Supreme Court voted on the issue of decriminalising abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.
After a first vote in favor of decriminalisation, voting was suspended by a request from judge Luís Roberto Barroso, who became president of the court later that month.
A liberal, Barroso said he could resume voting on the issue before the end of 2025 and that the issue could also be debated in Congress, which is regarded to be against decriminalisation.
Much like in the U.S. Congress, abortion is becoming a flashpoint in the Philippines, enmeshed in a wider debate over funding for the country's Commission on Human Rights.
The commission clarified last month that it was opposed to abortion except in extreme circumstances, prompting pushback from human rights campaigners.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had expressed support for easing tight restrictions on abortion during his 2022 campaign.
Sierra Leone has proposed a "Safe Motherhood" bill, supported by its president, that would expand access to abortion in a country where terminations are only legal if a mother's life is at risk. Campaigners want it to become law next year.
This article was updated on December 14, 2023 at 15:04 GMT following latest U.S. Supreme Court announcement.
(Reporting by Anastasia Moloney; David Sherfinski; Andre Fabio Cabette; Bukola Adebayo; Joanna Gill. Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths)
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