Banning abortion is key to Trump’s fascist agenda
Donald Trump speaking with supporters at an event hosted by Students for Trump and Turning Point Action at Dream City Church in Phoenix, Arizona in 2020. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

If a majority of Supreme Court justices follows through on its plans to outlaw abortion, then America will cross the threshold into full-blown fascism. This is controversial, so let me explain.

Any discussion of fascism quickly veers into jargon, qualifiers, and deep history, because it can cover many different movements with contradictory ideas. But there is an easy way to understand what drives fascism and how it relates to abortion.

Banning abortion is indisputably about controlling women’s bodies. The body is central to fascist ideas and practice. Simply put, fascism is fixated with the corruption and purity of the body. The body can be an individual, a community, or most important, the nation.

Trump is obsessed with the body. If he likes something it is beautiful. War, his border wall, dying doctors and nurses, coal, pipelines, Confederate statues, sleeping gas, missile strikes, Black reporters injured by police are all “beautiful.” If Trump hates someone, they are physically disgusting or dangerous. Hillary Clinton, Mika Brzezinski, Rosie O’Donnell and Megyn Kelly are disgusting. Entire countries are “shitholes,” Syrian refugees are snakes, Muslims are an enemy within, immigrants are animals, diseased, rapists, and criminals who are poisoning us.

Trump turned his politics of bodily disgust into policy about the national body. If America is diseased, poisoned, corrupted, then it needs to be purified. Upon entering the White House, Trump and his chief henchman, Stephen Miller, began the ethnic cleansing. Within a week they issued executive orders to round up more immigrants, reject refugees, and ban Muslims.

Trump didn’t have a clear political program like Mein Kampf, although Hitler’s speeches served as his bedtime reading and as president Trump said, “Hitler did a lot of good things.”

But Trump has a slogan that is fascist to its malevolent heart: “Make America Great Again.” You see, fascism combines extreme nationalism with an invented past of a pure master race. For fascists, the past is a blueprint for the future. They seek to purify the nation by violently imposing strict identities around race, sexuality, and gender they claim are ancient and eternal.

Trump said the master race part out loud during the 2020 campaign, and it was pure biology. While speaking to a virtually all-white rally in Minnesota, he praised the “racehorse theory of genes,” which is unvarnished Nazi eugenics.

Trump said, “You have good genes, you know that, right? You have good genes. A lot of it is about the genes, isn't it, don't you believe? The racehorse theory. You think we're so different? You have good genes in Minnesota.”

Trump’s obsession with bodily purity and corruption makes him a natural fascist despite his lack of erudition. The same is true for his base. They don’t need to know any history or philosophy. In fact it’s better if they don’t. As a practice, fascism is visceral. The followers only need feel they are part of a great, heroic community under siege. Anyone unlike them, anyone impure, needs to be excluded or even exterminated. Their great leader Trump will tell them what to do.

Fascism is a project of racial purification, and Trump is obsessed with race. But gender and sexuality are integral to creating the master race. Once elected, Trump said he would appoint judges who would ban abortion.

In the last year the fascist project of cleansing the body has spread to other identities. Outlawing abortion is happening as white nationalists and the Chistian right are attacking any group who doesn’t fit their totalitarian worldview.

Republicans are stripping trans people of basic rights. The “groomer” smear against the LGBTQ community is aimed at hounding them out of public life and targeting them for violence. It’s a classic fascist strategy of demonizing anyone who threatens the patriarchy. Racism, according to the right, is talking about racism, so the history of African-Americans must be suppressed and public schools must teach a white nationalist version of U.S. history. And voting rights are being eroded for Black and brown communities.

Republicans led by Tucker Carlson embrace white genocide and great replacement conspiracies. It’s warmed-over Nazi propaganda about how elites are replacing white people with dirty, savage foreigners. Sometimes the right explicitly blames Jewish elites for plotting to replace whites. Sometimes torch-bearing neo-Nazis whom Trump calls “very fine people” chant, “Jews will not replace us.”

Under Trump the main enemy was without: immigrants, refugees, Muslims. Fascism can not exist without enemies, so now the enemy within has to be purged. Seen through this lens, banning abortion is the essence of Trump’s all-American fascism.

Abortion bans are not inherently fascist; virtually every country has outlawed abortion at some point. But a Supreme Court ruling to return to a past of where abortion is illegal is fascist. It is a violent imposition of a strict identity. The highest role for women is to be mothers and wives, which also means to be heterosexual.

Women who don’t want to be mothers, who want to terminate pregnancies, who don’t want to be married, or have different sexualties or gender identities are all a threat to the fascist project. If white America is being corrupted from within and without, white motherhood and children are needed to save it. And if necessary it must be done by force.

If it sounds like Gilead, well, The Handmaid’s Tale is prophetic. Controlling race, sexuality, gender, and reproduction powers fascism, as is in Margaret Atwood’s novel. An abortion ban is enforced pregnancy, enforced motherhood. Women will be second-class citizens, baby machines who are property of the state, church, and men. Trump embodies this. He views women as his personal property having been accused by 26 women of sexual harassment, assault, and rape as well as marital rape.

Forcing women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term combined with shredding the social safety net is also enforced marriage. This has been the Christian Right’s agenda since Reagan: make women desperate enough to marry any man no matter how irresponsible or violent.

While many abortion-rights protesters plead, “Women will die,” fascists welcome their deaths. Umberto Eco, who grew up in Mussolini’s Italy and wrote one of the best primers on fascism, says fascism is a cult of death that sees life as “permanent warfare.”

Trump’s cult of death is the main reason 1 million Americans have died from Covid-19. His cult of death wants to ban all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest. Women must be punished for their sins, whether it’s being raped or trying to abort an unwanted fetus. America’s fascists are eager to return to a past when hundreds of women died every year from illegal abortions. Killing women is political and religious theater that serves as warnings of their defiance of the law, their wickedness, and divine wrath.

The right isn’t waiting for a Supreme Court ban. It is plotting violence against any woman who would seek an abortion or anyone who would help. Laws charging women with murder and seeking to imprison them for having an abortion will proliferate. White nationalists who are swarming the anti-abortion movement will escalate violent physical attacks, arson, bombings, and assassinations that have been going on for decades. They won’t be satisfied with bans in Red States. They will bring violence to wherever abortion remains legal.

If fascists can roll back constitutional precedent that Americans support by a nearly two-to-one margin, then comes the deluge. The right wants to ban contraception, marriage equality, and different gender expressions. They will seek to gut laws against marital rape and violence against women. Attacks on education and culture will spread as is already happening in Florida. Then comes censorship. Protest will be suppressed when not criminalized. Violence against dissenters, intellectuals, and journalists will be encouraged or ignored.

By banning abortion, the Supreme Court will become the leading agent of fascist purification.

It is opening the door to legal assaults on interracial marriage, same-sex couples, and birthright citizenship. Undermining the humanity of entire groups will embolden the right to throttle the legal rights of Blacks, Muslims, and immigrants, and encourage more violence by the police and far-right militias. Fascists will try to destroy any independent source of power, especially the left, unions, and workers movements because they are among its most powerful opponents. Whatever misgivings corporate leaders have about fascism, they accommodate it in the end because it’s good for business.

The fascist appetite for purifying and cleansing the body is endless. Banning abortion will not sate it. Trump’s fascism will devour everything until it is eliminated root and branch.