There is much excitement among pro-lifers in the United States and for very good reason. After all these years and after so much death, it suddenly seems likely that Roe v Wade will be overturned. Of course this will not make abortion illegal in the country, but will simply return the issue to the individual states. Still, it will finally address a great injustice and give hope that the tides may be turning and that abortion may someday be as unthinkable as it ought to be.
I know that many Americans—and non-Americans—are praying fervently that the opinion circulated in draft form will represent the final ruling and that all of the conservative Supreme Court Justices will hold fast. I am praying for this myself! But as we pray for America, I want to encourage us to widen our gaze a little bit and pray for the matter of abortion in other countries as well. Because, strange though it may be, the potential overturning of Roe v Wade, which is the law of the land in only one country, is already having ripple effects around the globe.
Canada is notorious for having no abortion law at all. Therefore, abortion is legal at all stages of pregnancy and for any reason. It is an issue that even ostensibly pro-life conservative governments tend not to touch since they know that if it becomes a core issue in a campaign, it is likely to sink their chances of gaining power. Yet with news of the overturn of Roe v Wade, the ruling Liberal Party is sensing political opportunity. Suggesting that access to abortion is now somehow threatened in Canada, they are hinting that they may strengthen abortion laws here. As one commentator says, they “are clearly trying to transpose the American debate onto Canada without acknowledging the very large political and legal differences between the two countries, in an unveiled attempt to draw out pro-life Conservatives and perpetuate the myth that the Tories have a hidden agenda.” The Prime Minister says he is now looking at legislative options to ensure the right to abortion is permanently protected. Thus, strangely, a ruling that may be very good for one country may end up being bad for its neighbor.
Meanwhile, writing from Australia, Murray Campbell says “Of course, decisions made by the US Supreme Court have no legal bearing on Australian law, but the cultural influence of America inevitably washes up on our shores. I look forward to seeing how this development might affect things here in the State of Victoria, where abortion is aggressively defended as an unfettered legal right up to birth. In such an environment, I am thankful for any public and legal decision that weakens the abortion position.” It could be that the demise of Roe v Wade helps the situation in Australia, or it could be that it worsens it. But what’s certain is that it will in some way impact it.
Then from the UK, Stephen Kneale says that there, like in Canada, “it has for quite some time been considered something of a done deal in British politics. No major political party stands on a pro-life platform and almost no MPs identify as pro-life. Those that are also frequently remain very quiet about the fact. It is seen as a policy that may well spell the end of a political career if pushed too hard. At best, it is seen as a dead issue, effectively unrepealable, and therefore not a good use of campaigning time. Politically, the calculation is that it is better to focus energies on what can be changed rather than on what is assumed cannot be.” Yet “the Roe v Wade decision in the states may well put the matter back on the agenda,” which could in the end either help or hinder the pro-life cause in the UK.
Thus what is happening in the United States—a country that has massive power to create and shape culture—is making headlines all across the world and motivating politicians in far-off countries to once again address the issue of abortion. Some may use it to further life and some may use it to further death. Some may use it to limit abortion access in their nations and some may use it to strengthen it. Some will want to follow in the footsteps of the US while some will want to do all that’s within their power to distance themselves from it. And, indeed, that is the most likely outcome for a country like Canada under a government like ours.
None of this is to say that it’s wrong or bad for the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade. None of this is to say that we shouldn’t pray that this will actually happen and that we shouldn’t celebrate if and when it does. Not at all! The day Roe v Wade is overturned will be a truly beautiful day. But I do hope it serves as a reminder that the decision of a handful of judges in one country will ripple out for good and for ill, perhaps to help the cause of life in some nations but certainly to hinder it in others. And the only one who can sort out a mess like that is the one to whom we pray—the one whose mind is vast and whose hand is strong. So let’s pray together that he would act to protect the lives of the unborn in the United States and far beyond. Let’s pray that he would move powerfully to do far more abundantly than all we can ask, think, or even imagine, not only in America but all across the world.