SAIS Europe MAIA Thesis Abstract:
Transatlantic Alliance: the International Anti-Abortion Agenda
The right of abortion appears to increasingly be put into question in several European countries and, more generally, in the West. Anti-abortion discourses are starting to widely re-occupy center stage in the political arena, fostered by the need to fight the demographic decrease and often accompanied by xenophobic preoccupations. This is a matter of concern. Extreme claims regarding the need to increase the birthrate without "surrendering to the idea of ethnic substitution
", as stated by the Italian minister of Agriculture Lollobrigida1
, or Orban's promotion of financial remuneration to mothers because Hungarians "want Hungarian children
are becoming always more common. Similarly, the narrative of the alarming demographic decrease, or "demographic suicide
" as defined by the Spanish party Vox3
, is arising in many different countries to advocate for the restriction of women's reproductive rights and, in particular, to tackle abortion. This cannot be by chance. The evolution of anti-abortion actors and movements, their discourses and narratives seem to follow a homogenous path across countries and even in different continents.
After the abortion ban in Poland, the tightening of the abortion rules in Hungary, the overturn of Roe v. Wade
in the United States, it is essential to understand the reasons underpinning the raise of these conservative, anti-abortion tendencies across different countries and continents, and expose the existing Transatlantic anti-abortion alliance. Indeed, conservative forces in the U.S., Europe and Russia have worked in close cooperation to create an anti-abortion moral agenda and narrative and spread it across countries through a very close network of actors and fundings.
Hence, this thesis aims, on the one hand, at revealing such a Transatlantic network and investigating how Transatlantic pro-life movements have created the evolving moral agenda aiming at fostering their anti-abortion crusade. On the other hand, it explores the ways in which the debate revolving around abortion is shaped, specifically in Europe, and how different tools and means are employed in different context of democratic erosion.
In particular, the first part analyzes discourses and arguments around abortion and the ways in which they have been instrumentally shaped by the pro-life actors to serve their anti-abortion agenda. Indeed, starting from fetus-centered arguments pitting the innocent fetus against the murderous mother, they moved to the women-centered arguments advocating for the paternalistic protection of the mother. This narrative culminates in society-centered arguments where the anti-abortion campaigns are framed mostly as a messianic mission to rescue society from the evils of abortion.
The second part is devoted to investigating the main actors that stand behind this agenda. First, this thesis uncovers their highly interconnected Transatlantic network. Second, it shows the tools and strategies employed. For example, this analysis will cover how transatlantic anti-abortion actors have deployed events and rallies, judicial litigations in courts, political infiltration, as well as digital mobilization.
In the last section, some exemplary case studies are presented to show how pro-life actors have implemented their agenda in different ways and to different extents, depending on the democratic and institutional context. In particular, I address the use of conscientious objection in order to hamper and de facto
erase abortion rights in relation to the case of Italy, which is experiencing populist and illiberal tendencies at a political level, but still maintains the democratic check and balance mechanisms. Differently, the cases of Hungary and Poland are presented to show how abortion rights can be effectively restricted, and even banned, to achieve the anti-abortion agenda in situations of democratic disruption. What can be clearly inferred is that in all cases the Transatlantic anti-abortion alliance retains one ultimate goal: erasing the right of abortion and restrict women's access to it.
Il Sole 24 Ore (2023) Lollobrigida: "Aiutare nascite, no Alla Sostituzione Etnica". Schlein: "parole Dal Sapore suprematista", Il Sole 24 ORE
. Il Sole 24 ORE. Available at: https://www.ilsole24ore.com/art/lollobrigida-aiutare-nascite-no-sostituzione-etnica-schlein-attacca-parole-sapore-suprematista-AErTvuID (Accessed: April 20, 2023).
Walker, S. (2019) Viktor Orbán: No tax for Hungarian women with four or more children, The Guardian
. Guardian News and Media. Available here
. (Accessed: April 20, 2023).
La Vanguardia (2022) Vox propone proteger a la familia contra el "Suicidio demográfico" De España, La Vanguardia
. La Vanguardia. Available here
: (Accessed: April 20, 2023).
Giorgia Renoldi, MAIA '23 (Italy), participated in the MAIA Cooperative degree with the University of Bologna. Her main study interests are EU Institutions and external relations. Both her coursework and thesis while at SAIS have been concentrated on the study of human and, especially, women's rights in Europe and beyond.
She is especially thankful to Professor Susanna Mancini, who played an important role in her time here, has both her thesis advisor and professor for the SAIS Europe class "Multiculturalism and the Human Rights of Women".