Ahead of a counter protest on Saturday 3 September, Abortion Rights supporter Ellioté Long writes about the dangers of underestimating the anti-choice lobby.
The international anti-abortion movement is powerful and well-organised: ‘antis’ have built a formidable global network that shares funding, resources and tactics. As the so-called March For Life approaches on 3 September, it’s a good time to reflect on the coordinated global offensive on reproductive freedom and the ways that pro-abortion activists are striking back.
Throughout history, anti-abortion movements around the world have shown a remarkable consistency in their tactics. Legal initiatives, like six-week bans, are tested and replicated in courts and legislative assemblies around the world. We hear coordinated messages in the ways antis talk about abortion: for instance, experts studying anti-abortion discourses have noticed the global adoption of the ‘both lives matter’ framing. And we see the same protest tactics replicated time and again: from eerily identical scenes of clinic harrassment during the global ‘40 days for life’ to the repetition of the ‘March For Life’ blueprint. In 1974, the founders of the US March For Life vowed to march every year until the Roe v. Wade ruling, enshrining the constitutional right to an abortion, was overturned. Since then, that style of demonstration has spread far and wide: there are now annual Marches For Life in London, Dublin, Paris, among others.
We might assume that international abortion groups are just taking inspiration from the well-established ‘pro life’ movement in the USA. But investigations have found more deliberate coordination and underhanded funding links between organisations in the US Christian right and anti-abortion groups around the world. A key report from the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (EPF) states that US donors sent $81.3 million to help fund anti-abortion activism and other ‘anti-gender’ conservative causes between 2009 and 2018. As an important note, these anti-gender causes also include campaigns again trans lives: we have a common enemy and our fight for bodily autonomy is one in the same!
This coordination gives the impression of global groundswell of anti-abortion sentiment, especially when coordinated protests such as the ‘40 days for life’ are occuring around the world. These shared resources allow the anti-abortion movement to become a loud minority, drowning out popular support for the bodily autonomy and personhood of pregnant people.
Faced with this well-resourced and powerful opponent, the pro-abortion movements are fighting hard to insist that universal abortion access is non-negotiable. It is fair to say that the global pro-abortion movment has historically been more fractured and localised but this is changing. With the example set by Latin American pioneers, pro-abortion movements are linking up and nurturing global networks of solidarity and care. We can see this in actions around International Safe Abortion Day, global knowledge-sharing networks and coordinated counter-protest actions, like the March For Choice.
Undoubtedly, there is power in setting our own agenda and not being dictated to by the anti-abortion movement. This is especially true when antis try to bait us into bad-faith arguments. There is also power in standing up to anti-abortion protests. We can do both!
That is why coalitions of pro-abortion and feminist groups turn out every year to counter protest the so-called March For Life wherever it rears its head. You can join Abortion Rights: this Saturday, 3rd September, meet at the Fawcett Statue, Parliament Square, London at 3:30pm.
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