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  • Lena Nicoletti

Abortion Should Not Be a Political Issue – But the Global Anti-Abortion Movement Is

Lena Nicoletti is a first-year student studying International Social and Political Studies with a specialism in law and Japanese as her major language. She has interned at the Superior Court of Santa Clara County in California and the District Court of Mayen in Germany.

The opinions expressed in this article reflect the opinions of its author(s). They do not represent the views of UCL's Diplomacy Society, Diplomacy Review nor The Diplomat.



On 11 December 2023, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that Kate Cox, suffering from an unviable and dangerous pregnancy, “did not qualify for an abortion” in the state of Texas, forcing her to leave the state in order to undergo the procedure. The judgement comes in the wake of the landmark Supreme Court decision which overturned Roe v Wade in 2022 and “end[ed] the federal constitutional right to an abortion” in the US. Seemingly in response to this, the French Parliament began debating whether abortion should be enshrined as a constitutional right and likewise, in Germany, the proposed Gehwegbelästigungsgesetz seeks to prohibit the verbal and physical harassment of patients entering and leaving abortion clinics. 


These global developments demonstrate that abortion access and rights continue to hang in the balance, particularly with growing opposition to the procedure from religious and right-wing groups in both the US and Europe. Generally, abortion is much discussed as a political issue and has amassed a litany of associated litigation – for example, just last year, a woman in the UK was sentenced to 28 months in prison for “terminating her pregnancy after the legal time limit.” 


Despite being a medical procedure, abortion has become both a political and legal battlefield, whilst, paradoxically, the political significance of the global anti-abortion movement remains widely overlooked. 


In her book Bodies Under Siege: How the far-right attack on reproductive rights went global (2023), Sian Norris outlines the way in which far-right groups, who also oppose immigration and LGBTQ+ rights, fund anti-abortion movements in various countries. Norris convincingly shows that the pervasive anti-abortion movements in so many countries are not primarily the result of a widely held religious stance, but instead the result of an aggressive, global lobbying campaign aimed at restricting reproductive freedom. Norris holds that these alt-right groups, funded by wealthy individuals (often from formerly noble families), merge anti-immigrant and anti-reproductive-choice sentiments by furthering the so-called “great replacement” conspiracy theory. The ‘theory’ employs islamophobic and white nationalist rhetoric in suggesting that due to the demographic changes in many countries, i.e. an influx of primarily non-Christian immigrants, abortions must be banned in order for white women to have more (white, Christian) children. 


As such, it becomes evident that the global anti-abortion movement is not only a matter of women’s health and autonomy, but is inextricably linked to the proliferation of xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiments. Thus, it seems imperative to shift our focus away from the politicised debate surrounding the termination of pregnancies and towards the extremist groups and “think tanks” perpetuating anti-abortion sentiments in foreign countries, thereby gaining ever-growing influence into politics, government, and decision-making. 


This is particularly pertinent in light of the fact that a 2021 survey found 85 percent of Americans believe abortion should not be illegal and similarly, a 2023 survey in the UK found that 76 percent of Britons supported the right to an abortion. These statistics put the opposition to abortion rights into perspective. In other words, it becomes abundantly clear that the majority of citizens in the US or UK are not in agreement with anti-choice organisations and their attempts to stifle abortion access. In viewing the movement to restrict reproductive healthcare not as a democratic or even primarily religious campaign, but as a systematically orchestrated global lobbying network with xenophobic, racist, and misogynistic roots, we can begin to meaningfully dismantle their attempts to roll back women’s rights.  


Equally, Norris notes that through the incel movement, fringe, extremist notions about abortion are shifting into mainstream politics. Norris, along with various academic scholars, holds that the so-called “Red Pill Forum” – an online platform by and for incels (“involuntary celibates”) which proliferates misogynistic rhetoric – helped propel Trump to success in the 2016 presidential election. Upon his being elected, Trump delivered on many promises which the incel community expected of him, such as cutting funds for sexual assault prevention and nominating Supreme Court Justices for the purpose of overturning Roe. As such, the Trump presidency, backed by the alt-right incel movement, is a foundational example of “fringe” extremist views about women’s rights and abortion seeping into mainstream politics. 


We thus cannot wholly dismiss the anti-abortion movement as a completely undemocratic one – rather, we must be precise about what forces are behind it and exactly how these views are making their way into mainstream discourse and, importantly, the political sphere. Though abortion in and of itself should be viewed as healthcare and not an issue of political opinion, we cannot ignore the inherently political character of the anti-abortion movement and its far-right roots. We must recognise the motives of these groups not as representing an earnest religious belief, but perpetuating the conspiracy of the “Great Replacement” – a misogynistic and deeply xenophobic idea. Though democratic support exists worldwide in favour of abortion access, extremist stances are finding their way into mainstream politics – a phenomenon which desperately needs to be counteracted. Ultimately, in order to preserve women’s autonomy and access to fundamental healthcare, we need to understand the forces – and their foundations – which seek to erase these freedoms. 



Works Cited:

Chotiner, Isaac. “How Trump Transformed the Supreme Court.” The New Yorker, 11 Nov. 2021, www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/how-trump-transformed-the-supreme-court


Chrisafis, Angelique, and Kate Connolly. “France Debates Plan to Enshrine Abortion as Constitutional Right.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 24 Jan. 2024, www.theguardian.com/world/2024/jan/24/france-debates-plan-to-enshrine-abortion-as-constitutional-right


Democracy Forward. “Sidebar: Trump and Sexual Assault.” Democracy Forward, 2022, democracyforward.org/work/sidebar-sexual_assault_and_the_trump_administration/

Dignam, Pierce Alexander, and Deana A. Rohlinger. “Misogynistic men online: How the red pill helped elect Trump.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 44, no. 3, Mar. 2019, pp. 589–612, https://doi.org/10.1086/701155


Norris, Sian. “From Incels to American Think Tanks: the fascist foundations of Europe’s anti-abortion movements,” 2024, University College London, London, UK. 

Oppenheim, Maya. “Support for Abortion Rights Hits Record High in UK.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 21 Sept. 2023, www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/abortion-attitudes-uk-pro-choice-b2415934.html


Planned Parenthood. “Roe v. Wade Overturned: How the Supreme Court Let Politicians Outlaw Abortion.” Planned Parenthood Action Fund, www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/issues/abortion/roe-v-


Topping, Alexandra. “Woman Jailed for Taking Abortion Pills after Time Limit to Be Freed from Prison.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 18 July 2023, www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2023/jul/18/carla-foster-woman-jailed-obtaining-tablets-pregnancy-freed-appeal


Weber, Paul J., and Jamie Stengle. “Kate Cox Sought an Abortion in Texas. A Court Said No Because She Didn’t Show Her Life Was in Danger.” AP News, AP News, 13 Dec. 2023, apnews.com/article/abortion-kate-cox-texas-exceptions-e85664b2ab76bcb689b1b91913d3e33e

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