‘Anti-Democratic Zealots’: US Abortion Opponents Seen as Growing, Wider Threat

"This is not just about abortion at all," said Anu Kumar of the international pro-choice group Ipas.

By Julia Conley | 8 July 2021
Common Dreams

(Credit: YouTube / screengrab)

An international reproductive rights group on Thursday warned that the anti-choice movement has grown increasingly dangerous in recent years, with violent extremist groups gaining influence in state legislatures—resulting in some of the most extreme anti-choice laws being passed since Roe vs. Wade affirmed in 1973 that women in the U.S. have the right to abortion care.

The rising power of groups like Operation Save America and Defy Tyrants not only endangers women in the U.S. but access to sexual and reproductive rights all over the world, said Anu Kumar, president and CEO of Ipas, which works in four continents to ensure people have access to education and safe abortion services.

“Yes, I’m worried about the global opposition to [sexual and reproductive health and rights] and you should be too,” Kumar tweeted Thursday.

Despite polls showing that 77% of adults in the U.S. support maintaining Roe, state legislatures have enacted 90 abortion restrictions in so far 2021, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America, already breaking the previous yearly record of 89 in 2011 with months left until the end of the year. As Kumar explained, groups including Operation Save America are directly linked to the extreme restrictions Republicans are enforcing.

“This is the bright shining light that needs to be put on this issue, that all people should be concerned about these groups,” Kumar told The Guardian. “Because their agenda is really big and far-reaching.”

As Jessica Glenza wrote in The Guardian earlier this week, the extreme anti-choice group Defy Tyrants—whose leaders were signatories of a statement saying the killing of abortion providers should be classified as “justifiable homicide”—has had success in at least three states with pushing lawmakers to introduce bills that would charge women with murder if they obtain abortion care.

According to the pro-choice group Abortion Access Front, at least 15 influential anti-choice leaders participated in the violent attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

“Fundamentally they are about democracy—they are anti-democratic zealots, this is not just about abortion at all,” Kumar told The Guardian. 

In May, voters in Lubbock, Texas approved a law declaring the city a “sanctuary city for the unborn”—a proposal that was pushed by Republican state Sen. Charles Perry, among others, who wrote that they were seeking the legislation “because we fear God, view the intentional shedding of the blood of unborn children to be an inconceivably wicked action, and we believe that we all have a responsibility to protect the lives of the smallest and most vulnerable humans among us.”

Such proposals put the U.S. at odds with much of the global community. According to the Council on Foreign Relation, more than 28 countries have liberalized their abortion laws in the past two decades, but the growing influence of groups like Defy Tyrants could eventually harm people around the world.

“What’s hard for Americans to understand is the actions by these extremists seem very hyperlocal,” Kumar told The Guardian. “These are connected movements and the rightwing extremism is actually transnational.”

Anti-choice extremists have succeeded enough in pushing local and state legislation to bring the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected to hear Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization later this year—a case out of Mississippi in which the court will decide whether a 15 week abortion ban is constitutional.

“Most Americans do not actually support these radical extreme points of view and yet we have elected officials who do,” Kumar told The Guardian. “Our politics have become extreme, and these groups are responsible.”

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