What do the U.S. midterms, abortion, and democracy have to do with one another?

Ottawa – Canada. There is a worrying rise of anti-democratic leaders and populism in the United States–and globally–and direct attacks on sexual and reproductive rights, women’s rights, and gender equality. This is not a coincidence.  

“Anti-rights actors use opposition to sexual and reproductive rights and gender equality as an organizing principle to attract money, support, and influence across a wide spectrum of anti-democratic political and economic agendas,” explains Frederique Chabot of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights.

Action Canada is a progressive, pro-choice charitable organization building on the 50-year legacy of advancing and upholding sexual and reproductive health and rights in Canada and globally. 

The high-profile overturning of the right to abortion in the United States represents years of chipping away of the institutions designed to uphold women’s rights.

“It is a mistake to believe the overturning of Roe v Wade is unique and that roll-backs in rights will not happen elsewhere,” warns Chabot.

In fact, OpenDemocracy revealed that in 2020, 12 US Christian-right organizations, led by supporters of former US President Donald Trump, spent at least 280 million USD across five continents to influence global policy and public opinion to oppose sexual and reproductive rights.

This is especially concerning because the advancement in women’s civil rights and democracy go hand-in-hand. Women’s rights activism and political participation is a precondition for genuine democratic and egalitarian progress while authoritarian and populist movements are centered around the ideal of progress for only those who are included in their community, as opposed to progress for all. Creating so-called “culture-wars” around hot-button topics, like abortion, is an effective way to cover the larger agenda of authoritarian or anti-democratic leaders and helps raise money and support across the globe. 

This moment demands bold leadership from Canada, at home and abroad, that is backed by concrete action to fulfil its obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the sexual and reproductive rights of all persons. 

The work of feminist and human rights organizations cannot be seen as separate from strengthening democracy and human rights. The fight for sexual and reproductive rights is part of a larger human rights and democratic movement that must be funded and supported to push-back against the rising autocratic movements that attempt to divide communities and to move us toward a more equal vision of our future based on the realization of human rights for all people, not just some.  

For more information, please read Action Canada's full policy brief: Sexual and Reproductive Rights & Democracy: A Call to Action

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Posted on 2022-11-04