It isn’t surprising that Biden administration officials strongly disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. But it’s shocking that they’ve denounced it for foreign audiences. By trying to recast the U.S. as the world’s pro-abortion power, officials will weaken the legitimacy of U.S. foreign policy and undermine America’s standing in the world.
America’s ambassador to the United Nations,
issued a statement calling Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization “a cruel, dark and dangerous decision” and asserting: “I have traveled the globe advocating for women’s rights. Now, this decision renders my own country an outlier among developed nations in the world.” Secretary of State
insisted that “the State Department will remain fully committed to helping provide access to reproductive health services and advancing reproductive rights around the world.”
Abortion has played a role in foreign policy since 1973, the year the court decided Roe and Congress passed the Helms Amendment, which prohibits federal funds for abortions abroad. President Reagan instituted the “Mexico City Policy,” which required nongovernmental organizations to agree, as a condition of federal funding, that they wouldn’t promote abortion as a method of family planning in other countries. Every subsequent Democratic president has reversed the policy, and every Republican has reinstated it.
This seesaw policy is a consequence of partisan polarization in the wake of Roe. But most polling shows that upward of 60% of Americans support restrictions on abortion that were legally impossible under Roe, especially during the second trimester of pregnancy. Dobbs gives these voters a say in the matter by returning it to the states.
The Biden administration is using national-security institutions as agents of an extreme pro-abortion view. That will erode Americans’s trust in their own government—and, in turn, its standing in the world. It will make it harder to rally broad American support on other matters vital to national survival. Officials who urge Americans to support expensive aid or weapons packages to allies, or actions to deter Chinese and Russian abusers of human rights, shouldn’t be surprised when Americans who oppose abortion respond with cool indifference.
A foreign policy pushing for abortion abroad is also a strategic blunder with long-term consequences. Many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America have strict limits on abortion, and even most of the free world is closer to Dobbs than to Roe.
Some Western politicians, such as French President
and the European Parliament have joined Mr. Biden in denouncing Dobbs. But their statements reflect more the global solidarity of pro-abortion politicians than diplomatic prudence or even their own nations’ laws and practices.
The laws of most European countries would have been deemed unconstitutional under Roe. According to international abortion advocacy organizations, only Iceland, Sweden, the Netherlands and the U.K. have widely available abortion on request throughout gestation. France and Germany require health justifications or other tragic but rare events such as rape or incest for abortion beyond the first trimester. Many members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization prohibit elective abortion beyond 10 or 12 weeks of gestation. Thus Dobbs permits U.S. states to align their laws more closely with those of American allies.
Moreover, the Biden administration’s full-throated support of abortion is a gift to the West’s opponents. It turns a blind eye to the practices of China and North Korea, whose enthusiasm for abortion is consistent with their inhumane treatment of their people. In China alone there were almost nine million abortions in 2020. Abortion is freely available in state-run hospitals, and the Communist Party has used compulsory abortion as a population-control measure. By supporting an extreme view on abortion, U.S. officials align themselves with Chinese Communist Party officials who have gleefully criticized the U.S. Supreme Court.
Dobbs isn’t a stain on America’s standing in the world. To the contrary, it upholds what the Biden foreign-policy agenda purports to employ as an organizing principle for the free world: democratic self-governance. To defend the decision against the criticism of Canadian Prime Minister
or the Chinese Communist Party is to defend national sovereignty and democracy. America’s top diplomats, regardless of their views on abortion, should applaud the high court for respecting the rule of law, democratic decision making and the merits of debating complex matters that touch on the most important questions of justice and human dignity.
Perhaps Dobbs offers lessons about the merits of stronger federalism at home and robust geopolitical pluralism in the free world. Learning those lessons would strengthen the hands of our diplomats during these tumultuous times.
Mr. Grygiel is a professor of politics at the Catholic University of America. Ms. Heinrichs is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.
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