While Democrats in the United States fight to keep women and their bodies protected from the hands of grimy Republican white men, women and pro-choice advocates in various countries across Europe may feel that the current affairs in America hit a little too close to home.
Since Poland’s complete ban on abortions in 2020, pro-choice advocates have been discretely working to offer crucial medical services to women in need. This has led to the current trial of Justyna Wydrzynska. Wydrzynska, one of the founders of the Polish group Aborcyjny Dream Team (ADT), is currently at trial after being accused of illegally assisting a woman with an abortion. Wydrzynska allegedly provided pills to a woman in an effort to induce a miscarriage. Although the trial has been adjourned until January, Wydrzynska’s circumstance is a grim reminder of the obstacles that women in Poland face when they try to defend their bodily rights. Specifically, these dismal prompts can be traced back to the aggressive misogyny that has been present in Europe throughout history.
When working to understand the roots behind European abortion bans and these violent forms of control over women’s bodies, a significant amount of scrutiny should be placed at the hands of fascism and its misogynistic ideals. It is understood that fascism is obsessed with control and aggression towards the ‘other’. More specifically, we should consider that it is most often governments and political figureheads that use fascism to impose control. It would be be drastic to consider every individual person who opposes abortion to be a fascist. However, when we see these massive institutions imposing aggression against minority groups, this extreme abuse of authority can be considered a fascist act. Whether this is with restrictive voting laws that diminish the voice of racial minorities, or abortion bans that force women to help boost birth rates, fascism leaves an impression on each radical gesture imposed by the far right authorities. In Poland, this has enabled the country’s government to ban abortion and take egregious action against women who go against this restraint. Fascism is an extremely intricate subject as there are multiple definitions attached to it. However, when it comes to connecting the concept with anti-abortion sentiment, we see that fascism is continuously used by powerful institutions to control women, their sexual identities, and their bodily rights.
Turning away from Poland and towards Southern Europe, we see that with the election of Italy’s new prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, fascist rhetoric seems to have brought with it conversations surrounding future restrictions on abortions. Meloni has openly voiced her desire to limit abortion access and represents the Brothers of Italy party which desires to place a ban on abortions in general. Along with this, the party is also against permitting Italian citizenship to children born to non-Italian parents. Not only is the Brothers of Italy party actively working to restrict the number of Italian citizens, but the group is also pushing to provide benefits to Italian women who give birth. These efforts are considered by some to be a repeat of Benito Mussolini’s ‘Battle for Births‘ campaign. Mussolini is known for his historical fascist rhetoric and aggressive actions against non-Italian citizens during the 1920s to 1940s. Specifically, Mussolini’s ‘Battle for Births’ policy actively worked to eliminate non-white foreigners in Italy while promoting the birth of children with ‘true’ Italian blood. This policy goes hand-in-hand with fascism as it works to uphold the privilege and power of Italian nationality while reducing the importance and social position of non-white foreigners. Even more specifically, the policy was implemented by the government to control the bodies and actions of women. Therefore, it is alarming to see a new Italian party echoing the actions of Mussolini and his administration.
Although the impact of fascism on anti-abortion sentiment may be stronger in some countries compared to others, the history of fascism in Europe proves to still impact right-wing aggression today, even if minimal at times. This aggression has clearly played out through anti-abortion rhetoric across different countries in Europe. Although it may seem drastic to blame anti-abortion on fascist thought, it can be argued that when massive governments and political figureheads work to oppress racial and gender minority groups, this is an explicit act of fascism.