Global Effect to Roe v. Wade

In 1973, the decision of Roe v. Wade which gave women the right to a legal abortion created a global movement to recognize women’s reproductive rights. At the same time, it also created justification in some cases for the restriction of abortion. In 1988, the rulings of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton were used in Canada to rule that the Criminal Code of Canada’s restriction on abortion was unconstitutional. On the opposite side, The German Constitutional Court used Roe as a justification for restricting the right to abortion in 1975, two years after the Roe v. Wade decision [8].


Abortion-rights supporters at a rally at the California state Capitol in Sacramento in February 2018.

A case study written by Chao-Ju Chen examines how the Roe decision had an international impact that drove the feminist movement from the 1970s to 1984 when abortion was finally legalized in Taiwan. In 1945, under the criminal code of the Republic of China, obtaining or performing an abortion was made a criminal offense except in cases of illness or danger to the mother. Annette Hsiu-lien Lu, a key person in Taiwan’s feminist movement, argued that the Eugenics and Health Protection bill didn’t take into account single women’s legal access to abortion and their right to choose how to deal with pregnancy by quoting and directly referencing Roe and Doe [8].


The Roe v. Wade decision as well as U.S. activism created an international movement for reproductive rights. Unfortunately, while reproductive rights have gained momentum at the level of international human rights law, feminist and liberal groups in the U.S. have been losing domestic battles in court [9]. An example of this is that while the Texas Heartbeat bill passed on September 1, 2021, abortion was finally decriminalized in South Korea as of January 1, 2021 [10]. While the international world has taken a step forward, the U.S. has taken a step back.



[8] Chen, Chao-Ju. "Choosing the Right to Choose: Roe v. Wade and the Feminist Movement to Legalize Abortion in Martial-Law Taiwan." Frontiers 34, no. 3 (2013): 73-101,256-257.

[9] Rebouché, Rachel, Janet Halley, Prabha Kotiswaran, and Hila Shamir. “When Rights Return: Feminist Advocacy for Women’s Reproductive Rights and against Sex-Selective Abortion.” In Governance Feminism: An Introduction, 201–52. University of Minnesota Press, 2018.

[10] “South Korea: Abortion Decriminalized since January 1, 2021.” The Library of Congress.

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