U.S. abortion policy shouldn't emulate China or North Korea. We should be more like Europe.

·3 min read
Pro-life and pro-choice demonstrators at the Supreme Court in 2019.
Pro-life and pro-choice demonstrators at the Supreme Court in 2019.

What do most European nations have in common with Mississippi? Commonsense limitations on elective abortion performed in the second and third trimesters.

Surprised? While American elites often look to Europe for social policy guidance, a new study by the Charlotte Lozier Institute shows 47 out of 50 European nations limit elective abortion at or before 15 weeks of gestation. In the United States, 0 out of 50 states have enforceable limits on abortion at 15 weeks.

So, who is following the policy example from Europe – pro-life legislators in Mississippi, or politicians in Washington who support abortion on demand until term?

European abortion restrictions

This fall, the Supreme Court will take up Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, involving a Mississippi statute adopted with the legislature’s bipartisan support in 2018 that limits abortion on demand after 15 weeks.

A comparative analysis between Mississippi and European abortion law finds an overwhelming majority of European countries limit elective abortion prior to 15 weeks, and more often at 12 weeks. Data revealed no European country allows elective abortion through all nine months of pregnancy as is permitted in the United States, where Supreme Court precedent only allows states to regulate after viability.

Brussels won’t likely be inviting Mississippi to join the European Union anytime soon, but its refusal to do so would not be based on The Magnolia State’s abortion law, which differs little from most on the continent:

Denmark, France and Norway are among the 27 European nations that limit elective abortion at 12 weeks.

Germany and Belgium are among the five European nations that limit elective abortion at 14 weeks.

Great Britain and Finland are among the eight European nations that do not permit abortion on demand, though some allow abortion based on exceptions for specific medical or socioeconomic conditions.

Our 2014 study of abortion laws worldwide found that only a small handful of nations, including the United States, allow elective abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy – more than halfway through pregnancy and a point by which research shows the unborn child can feel pain.

Lynn Fitch: Mississippi supports protecting life at 15 weeks. Give abortion debate back to the people.

The 2014 study was heavily challenged, yet even hostile fact-checking organizations ultimately concurred with our conclusions. U.S. policy on late-term abortion stands in the company of China and North Korea – nations that routinely rank among the worst for human rights abuses.

What’s more, we reached this inglorious status by judicial decree, joining only Canada in the dubious distinction of completely sidelining the consent and consensus of the governed.

The question the court will face this fall is whether the Constitution allows any effective limit on abortion before the 1973 definition of viability (“usually placed at about seven months,” the Roe court said), though advances in science and medicine over the past 50 years continue to allow babies to survive outside the womb at a younger and younger age.

Recognizing life in the womb

If the court upholds the Mississippi law, it will likely involve narrowing the scope of Roe v. Wade, which, along with subsequent abortion jurisprudence, permits abortion through the full term of pregnancy.

Upholding Mississippi’s law will bring the United States a small step closer to the accepted mainstream in Europe, where limits on late-term abortion at 15 weeks (or less) are the norm.

Tom Krattenmaker: Republicans would miss legal abortion, just like they would have missed Obamacare

Mississippi lawmakers did not advance this law with the intention of achieving an international happy medium. Rather, legislators in Mississippi and in states across the country have passed abortion limits with the intent of recognizing the reality that human life exists in the womb. At 15 weeks, unborn children respond to touch, have fully functioning hearts that pump 26 quarts of blood per day, have the ability to feel pain, can suck their thumb and undergo lifesaving and life-altering treatment.

Advocates of Mississippi’s law and the law itself are far from radical – rather, it’s Roe v. Wade and its legal progeny that are truly outdated and out of touch.

Charles A. “Chuck” Donovan (@cantdon) is president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, where Angelina B. Nguyen is an associate scholar.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mississippi abortion law mirrors commonsense legislation in Europe

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