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Future of Abortion Medication and Women’s Equality: Look to Europe

Health and Gender Policy Brief #154 | By: Geoffrey Small | July 6, 2022

Header photo taken from: EURACTIV

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Photo taken from: AFP / Twitter

Policy Summary

On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark ruling and protections for abortion rights, Roe v. Wade. Recent polls indicate that the majority of U.S. citizens oppose this ruling, because it infringes upon women’s equality and their right to choose. This Supreme Court decision has made a seismic impact on accessibility to procedures that were previously available for generations of women. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 42 states have already enacted 541 restrictions and 11 states have legislated abortion bans since the beginning of 2022.  

Some state laws, like Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, ban clinical abortion procedures after 15 weeks. These restrictions are just the beginning, as Republican states are now targeting the growing accessibility of abortion medications. In order to understand the future of abortion legislation and accessibility, one can look to studies conducted in European countries, where abortion medication was made available over a decade before the United States. The European Union has a public perception of being a hub for progressive values and institutions. 

However, further analysis of European countries’ access to abortion medication, when correlated with their societal values on women’s equality and activism, paint a more complicated picture. This insight can help determine the potential outcome on widespread restrictions that can take place in the United States if the public doesn’t take action.

Policy Analysis

Photo taken from: The Guttmacher Institute

The Guttmacher data analysis illustrated above highlights that, since their legalization in 2000, medication-based abortions account over half of abortion procedures in the United States. A recent ACLU legal victory in 2021 over the FDA has led to unprecedented access to abortion medicatations. 

Women are now able to legally receive the medication through the mail via a Telehealth consultation from a licensed physician. This victory may be temporary. Republican states, now emboldened by the overturned Supreme Court ruling, are targeting abortion medication through additional restrictions and bans.

There are already a total of 22 states implementing 117 restrictions including 7 states that are attempting to fully ban the use of abortion medication.

The future of abortion accessibility in the U.S. may be uncertain. However, analysis of abortion policy in European countries can provide some insight. A Bielefeld University study from Germany correlates European countries’ abortion medication accessibility with their societal perspectives on equal representation through participation.

Photo taken from: Bielefeld University’s Medical abortion ratios and gender equality in Europe: an ecological correlation study

(click or tap to enlargen)

The data shown above highlights the disparities between European countries that promote progressive reproductive health practices, gender equality, and feminist movements and countries that are more conservative. The German University study assessed these values by collecting multiple ratings on gender equality conducted by the U.N, Social Watch, and the World Economic Forum. 

 

 

The ratings were then correlated with each European countries’ ratios on abortion medication availability. As illustrated, countries like the ones located in the Scandinavian region have better access to abortion medications because their institutions encourage feminist activism and reproductive rights. When you look at a country like Spain, heavily rooted in Catholicism and less progressive overall, abortion medication is more restricted.

The data is an ominous sign for the future of abortion rights in the United States. Kentucky, South Dakota, and Tennessee have already enacted state abortion medication restrictions. These states can arguably be characterized as religiously conservative supporting institutions that repress reproductive rights. The U.S. may be entering a downward spiral where states that are legalizing these restrictions are simultaneously preventing a women’s right to choose and to have a voice politically with the legislation they pass. 

There is hope with recent ACLU legal victories supportingabortion and a woman’s right to choose.. Therefore, it is critical that the public coordinate their response and donate to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood in order to challenge the growing legislative restrictions that Republican states are attempting to implement.

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