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America’s Roe Reversal Is the Elephant in NATO’s Room

Foreign ministers from thirty NATO states unexpectedly discussed the U.S. Supreme Court this week during a luncheon held in conjunction with the military alliance’s annual meeting.

According to one of the two Americans present, at least four ambassadors in the room voiced their displeasure with the Supreme Court’s decision last week to overturn Roe v. Wade and eliminate the constitutional right to abortion.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Virginia), chairman of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, joined Secretary of State Antony Blinken and 29 other foreign ministers for the event.

Both men have voiced their disagreement with the Court’s ruling, although Connolly stated in an interview that he was surprised by the criticism from officials of friendly states.

“In diplomatic circles, individuals are typically reticent to criticize your internal domestic policies,” Connolly said, adding that in each of the four separate encounters, foreign ministers “started the dialogue” and “made a point of conveying with me their displeasure.”
Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade

The Supreme Court has voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the precedent-setting case that has preserved abortion rights for the past 50 years.

The incident harkened back to Donald Trump’s presidency when lawmakers and diplomats often heard inquiries from foreign counterparts expressing concern, anxiety, and even indignation regarding the former president’s comments and behaviour.

President Joe Biden admitted at a news conference on Thursday that the Supreme Court’s recent actions have been “destabilizing,” although other MPs attending the NATO summit minimized the significance of the abortion verdict on the summit.

After defeating Trump on a pledge to demonstrate to the rest of the world a more stable America, Biden now faces a high court that could make this task much more difficult.

Connolly cautioned that the Roe turnaround risks harming U.S. credibility and reinforcing the notion among many NATO allies that the U.S. cannot be trusted to uphold the 21st-century ideals that its leaders constantly promote overseas.

“All the pledges of ‘we’re back and ‘don’t peek behind the curtain of the last four years’ are somewhat undermined by this,” Connolly remarked. “This diminishes faith in our system. And that’s quite crucial when you’re tasked with helping to lead a military alliance against the big, terrible Russians.”


Connolly refused to identify the foreign ministers who addressed the meal. Eleven of the thirty NATO foreign ministers are women, and several NATO heads of state and government promptly issued statements affirming the right to abortion following Friday’s court judgment.

French politicians have even stated their intent to legislate abortion rights in the nation’s constitution.

At least as of Wednesday, according to a senior Biden administration official, leaders at the NATO summit had not brought up the topic of abortion.

Members of a different bipartisan group of U.S. senators, led by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), reported hearing little about the abortion problem from their Spanish colleagues since their arrival.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware), another member on the tour, stated that the senators have not even discussed the Roe v. Wade case during their travels, in part because of its political toxicity at home.

“I hold fairly strong opinions on the matter, as do several delegation members… This topic [abortion] probably divides us more than any other,” Coons said, adding, “If you want to represent our country well in a crucial moment for the future of NATO, focus on the things that unite us. When we return, we will have ample opportunity to express our strong disagreement.”

Shaheen was asked at a NATO public forum on Wednesday if the U.S. has lost credibility on global women’s issues due to the Supreme Court decision.

Shaheen countered that the United States has been a leader in promoting women’s roles in foreign policy decision-making at the State Department and the Defense Department. She reaffirmed that she disagrees with the Court’s ruling and supports abortion rights.

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Tillis, like the vast majority of Republicans in Washington, appeared to support the decision of the Supreme Court. He dismissed its effect on America’s international standing.

“The Supreme Court decided whether or not it was a constitutional right or a legal decision, a legislative decision that the states can make,” Tillis explained. “We’ll see how this plays out over time.”

Some Democratic lawmakers, however, have focused on the impact of the abortion ruling on the international stage, emphasizing what they believe it says about American democracy that an unelected group of justices can overturn policies that are popular with the general public.

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