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‘The news coming out of the United States is horrific’: Biden’s G-7 allies left aghast at U.S. abortion rights reversal

June 25, 2022, 5:28 PM UTC
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens as he attends a plenary session of the 9th Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California, June 10.
Patrick T. FALLON / AFP

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson didn’t wait for President Joe Biden to react after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and erased the constitutional right of women in America to have an abortion. Neither did Canada’s Justin Trudeau. Both abandoned diplomatic niceties to express their dismay. 

French President Emmanuel Macron was not far behind.

All four are due in the Bavarian Alps this weekend for a Group of Seven summit, where the key focus is what to do about Russia as its invasion of Ukraine enters a fifth month. But the political bombshell that just dropped in the U.S. immediately struck a chord beyond American borders. 

The UK prime minister, shackled with his own problems back home, was quick to comment. “I’ve got to tell you, I think it’s a big step backwards,” he said at a news conference during a visit to Rwanda. It’s unusual for any British leader to speak critically of the U.S., given how highly the UK prizes its “special relationship,” particularly to wade into domestic matters.

Johnson is the first Catholic prime minister of the UK following his conversion last year. He said the U.S. ruling “has massive impacts on people’s thinking around the world.” Trudeau, who was also in Kigali with Johnson for a summit, defined it a “devastating setback.”

Biden, a church-going Catholic, agreed a few hours later by saying the U.S. now finds itself “an outlier.” It’s an uncomfortable position for the president to be in when heading into an international gathering, at a critical time, with some of the leading democracies and most developed nations. 

The U.S. essentially would now stand among its G-7 cohorts as a nation with some of the most stringent restrictions on the reproductive rights of women. Abortion was legalized in mostly-Catholic Italy in 1978.

The next to comment was the recently re-elected Macron, representing a nation where the separation of church and state has been sacrosanct since the French Revolution. 

His tweet, translated into English, was unequivocal: “Abortion is a fundamental right for all women. We must protect it.”

Members of Macron’s party, who last week lost their majority in the National Assembly, said on Saturday they would move to enshrine the right to abortion in France’s constitution. 

The ruling came on the same day the lower house of Germany’s parliament moved to abolish a law that banned doctors from providing information about abortions.

The G-7 host, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, tweeted on Saturday about the U.S. ruling. It will no doubt be something that he and other leaders at the summit will be asked about in coming days. 

The U.S. downplayed the impact, if any, that it will have on the G-7 talks, and said Biden wouldn’t be sidetracked by the issue. 

“The president is not worried about that at all,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Air Force One on Saturday as Biden flew to Europe. “There’s real national security issues here that have to be discussed, and the president’s not at all concerned that the Supreme Court’s decision is going to take away from that at all.”

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