European officials said they were alarmed by the prospect of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the right to abortion – and warned against the threat to reproductive freedoms for American women and others around the world.

Some European leaders called for more protections for women after a rare leaked draft opinion revealed the U.S. court may overturn the precedent set nearly 50 years ago in Roe v. Wade.

A Spanish official described the possibility as “an alarming step backward with dire consequences for American women.”

“We need to continue to protect sexual and reproductive rights, in the U.S. and around the world,” Yolanda Diaz, the government’s second deputy prime minister, said Tuesday.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon echoed the sentiment. “Experience tells us that removing the legal right to abortion doesn’t stop abortions happening – it just makes them unsafe and puts the lives of women at much greater risk,” Sturgeon, the most senior politician in Scotland, wrote on Twitter after the news.

The decision about whether to strike down the landmark 1973 abortion rights ruling is one of the most polarizing in years. Monday’s rare leak of a draft opinion, published by Politico, sent shock waves across the United States and brought protesters to the Supreme Court.


It remains unclear whether the document – which said that it was time to “return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives” – will serve as the basis for the court’s decision or if it was just a round of negotiations. The language in drafts of opinions can be strengthened or toned down.

Still, there is no federal law protecting or prohibiting abortion in the United States. So the Supreme Court striking down Roe would leave abortion laws entirely up to the states, which have been deeply divided.

London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said Tuesday that such a scenario would imperil a legal precedent that “enshrined women’s fundamental rights over their own bodies” and access to health care. “That cannot and must not be undone,” he tweeted. “London stands with women across the United States today.”

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters the matter was up to the U.S. justice system, while adding that Britain, where abortion is legal on broad grounds until 24 weeks of pregnancy, “defends the reproductive rights of women globally.”

In the past three decades, countries such as Mexico, Argentina, New Zealand, Thailand and Ireland have made it easier to legally get an abortion.

In some parts of the United States, it has gotten harder, and access has declined in more than a dozen states. The most restrictive law to date is in Texas, which banned most abortions after about six weeks. While many countries have a cutoff for abortions of 15 weeks or earlier, the differences around the world are complex, as The Washington Post previously reported.

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The Washington Post’s Robert Barnes and Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.

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