Roe v Wade: Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand politicians, celebrities condemn US Supreme Court's abortion decision

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has condemned the decision by the US Supreme Court to overturn the ruling recognising a constitutional right to abortion, calling it "incredibly upsetting".

The justices, in the ruling written by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, held that the Roe decision that allowed abortions performed before a fetus would be viable outside the womb - which occurs between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy - was wrongly decided because the US Constitution makes no specific mention of abortion rights.

Women with unwanted pregnancies in large swathes of America now may face the choice of travelling to another state where the procedure remains legal and available, buying abortion pills online, or having a potentially dangerous illegal abortion.

In a statement on Sunday (NZ time), Ardern noted that New Zealand had recently legislated to decriminalise abortion and treat it as a health, rather than a criminal, issue.

"Watching the removal of a woman's fundamental right to make decisions over their own body is incredibly upsetting," Ardern said.

"[New Zealand's] change was grounded in the fundamental belief that it's a womens right to choose. People are absolutely entitled to have deeply held convictions on this issue. But those personal beliefs should never rob another from making their own decisions.

"To see that principle now lost in the United States feels like a loss for women everywhere. When there are so many issues to tackle, so many challenges that face woman and girls, we need progress, not to fight the same fights and move backwards."

She was echoed by Minister for Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta, who called the decision "draconian".

"The US Supreme Courts overturning of Roe v. Wade Is draconian and does not support the right of women to choice. How can this happen?" she tweeted.

Ardern's partner, Clarke Gayford, called it a "giant leap backwards for womankind".

And Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick warned that prohibiting abortions doesn't stop abortions - it prevents safe, regulated abortions.

"It prevents access for those without the resources to travel to areas where abortion is legal," she tweeted. "Solidarity with Americans fighting for restoration of their rights to healthcare."

In the US, President Joe Biden condemned the ruling as taking an "extreme and dangerous path".

"It's a sad day for the court and for the country," Biden said at the White House.

"The court has done what it has never done before: expressly take away a constitutional right that is so fundamental to so many Americans."

Former President Barack Obama warned the ruling attacked the "essential freedoms" of millions of Americans, while his wife Michelle said she was "heartbroken" by the decision.

"We may now be destined to learn the painful lessons of a time before Roe was made law of the land - a time when women risked losing their lives getting illegal abortions," she wrote.

"A time when the government denied women control over their reproductive functions, forced them to move forward with pregnancies they didn't want, and then abandoned them once their babies were born.

"That is what our mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers lived through, and now we are here again."

"I'm absolutely terrified that this is where we are - that after so many decades of people fighting for women's rights to their own bodies, today's decision has stripped us of that," tweeted pop star Taylor Swift.

"It is truly unfathomable and disheartening to have to try to explain to my 11 year old daughter why we live in a world where women's rights are disintegrating in front of our eyes," added singer Mariah Carey.

Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane compared the ruling to a "dystopian sci-fi."

"The legacy of the 2016 election and the indelible mark of the GOP is printed here in black and white. How much farther this will go once again depends on American voters. Blame extremism or apathy, but this is America."

Reuters / Newshub