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Supremacy movements unite over abortion restriction, though for different reasons


Overturning Roe v. Wade has long been thought of as the work of Christian conservatives, but other nonreligious movements on the far right have also played an important part, and aspects of their extreme ideologies have found their way into the mainstream.

NPR's Odette Yousef covers domestic extremism and joins us now to discuss. Hi, Odette.


FLORIDO: Odette, generally, when we think about the intersection of extremism and the anti-abortion movement, we think about violent attacks on clinics and providers. But you've been looking at other aspects of this relationship. What have you found?

YOUSEF: Well, Adrian, I spoke with Alex DiBranco, who runs something called the Institute for Research on Male Supremacism. And she says we have to stop thinking about extremism in the anti-abortion context simply as violence. Instead, she says, we should be looking at the ideologies and movements that inspire that violence because they've pulled America's abortion debate to the extreme right. And you can hear that in the language used today.

ALEX DIBRANCO: We've been sort of convinced by the growth of the movements themselves to only think about, well, if they're not committing mass violence, then they're not extreme. If they're not killing doctors, they're not extreme. That's - you know, that's a totally different kind of issue of tactics.

And anything that talks about criminalizing or banning abortion or contraception inherently - that is supremacist. It's extremist. And it's important that we don't fall into their own self-framing around that.

YOUSEF: And DiBranco says there are three supremacist movements in particular that have really shaped the anti-abortion campaign over the decades.

FLORIDO: And what are these three supremacist movements that have been so influential?

YOUSEF: Well, DiBranco talks about what she calls Christian supremacism, secular male supremacism and white supremacism - basically, all of these as movements that seek policies that would assert their dominant status or their personal beliefs over other people. There are areas where they overlap, Adrian, but there are also some differences when it comes to what each of these ideologies seeks when it comes to abortion restrictions.

FLORIDO: What are those differences?

YOUSEF: Well, for example, the Christian anti-abortion wing historically has framed their campaign as multiracial, multi-ethnic. But white power activists frame the issue differently. Here's Carol Mason. She's a professor at the University of Kentucky.

CAROL MASON: There's a far-right idea of demographic decline or of the great replacement in which Christian civilization or white people are being outnumbered by non-Christian and nonwhite people. And this is a fear that has been bubbling up in anti-abortion materials for a long time.

YOUSEF: So for example, Adrian, prominent white supremacists have at times called for abortion to be banned only for white women but for it to be accessible and even free for women of color. To be clear, Mason doesn't say all anti-abortionists are extremists or that they're all extremists or white supremacists, but she says that anti-abortion messaging has tended to accommodate white nationalism and conspiratorial thinking, most recently including QAnon and its claims about elites dismembering babies, you know, imagery kind of similar to what anti-abortion activists have used of aborted fetuses. So, you know, as we look at the growth of the far right in the U.S., you know, this cause to overturn Roe v. Wade has really benefited as a unifying issue, even for those who have different ideologies within it.

FLORIDO: That's NPR's Odette Yousef. Thanks.

YOUSEF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Odette Yousef
Odette Yousef is a National Security correspondent focusing on extremism.