When a gang of far right racists, including UKIP members, attacked Bookmarks bookshop in central London last Saturday they abused the staff, ripped up anti-racist posters and wrecked displays. They shouted their support for Trump and the fascist Tommy Robinson— one wore a Trump mask— as they pulled books off the shelves that particularly offended them.
Such was their confidence these thugs filmed their actions and posted the video online.
One of the titles they took offence to was a pamphlet supporting the Repeal the Eighth campaign for abortion rights in Ireland. In the video one of the attackers puts the pamphlet in front of the camera shouting “For abortion! Can you believe this shit?”
Well, the shit that is hard to believe is that the far right is confident enough to invade a socialist bookshop, shouting that they hope it “burns down”, and then boast about it online.
What is not hard to believe that these Trump lovers were not only racists who hated the left, but that they also mocked abortion rights. The far right across Europe has wanted to attack abortion rights for decades. Even where reproductive rights are already restricted, for example in Poland, it wants to clamp down even further on women’s rights to control her body.
This ideology is dominated by the view of women in traditional roles in the institution of the family as the child bearer and carer. This support for the imposition of gender roles is also reflected by, sometimes violent, opposition to gay rights. Scenes of fascists attacking Pride Hungary in Budapest have been witnessed since 2008.
But it’s not simply about idealising the family unit and imposing gender norms. Racist bigotry shapes eugenicist attitudes to women’s right to control their fertility. Women are portrayed as breeders of the “master race”. In Greece the fascist party, Golden Dawn, describes abortion as “a crime against the race”. In Italy, where abortion has been legal since 1978, Massimiliano Romeo, a senator with the far right Northern League has said: “Six million children have been killed in the womb [since 1978], then they say we have to import migrants to boost the population.”
It’s no surprise that the gang who attacked the bookshop shouted support for Trump and won wore his mask. Trump’s election as US president has emboldened the far right and racists globally and given confidence to those who oppose women’s rights. We have seen that effect in Britain as pickets of abortion clinics have stepped up.
Trump is keeping his election promise to crack down on reproductive rights and overturn the Roe Vs Wade legal precedent that has enshrined the right to abortion in the US since 1973. Already states in the US can severely restrict access to abortion. Research by the Guttmacher Institute shows that currently 58 percent of women of reproductive age in the US live in a state that “hinders their ability to safely terminate their pregnancy.”
In fact 401 abortion restrictions have been adopted by states across the US since 2011, 71 in the past year alone. Mississippi, Louisiana, North Dakota and South Dakota already have “trigger laws”, or statutes that would automatically ban abortion if the Roe v Wade decision were overturned. Nearly half of US states could limit abortion within two years.
Death threats against abortion providers have doubled since Trump took office, and there has been over 78,000 incidents of picketing at clinics in 2017, a figure that “far exceeds any other year since began tracking these statistics in 1977”.
There has also been resistance. The magnificent Women’s Marches of 2017 and 2018 had reproductive rights at their centre and polls show that two-thirds of Americans do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned.
Across the globe, from the US to Poland and Argentina, the fight for abortion rights has become a defining issue. The fantastic victory in Ireland is a sign of what is possible. The setback in Argentina, where the Senate voted this week against lifting restrictive laws on abortion, shows that reforms are not won easily.
But the rise of the far right and fascist parties in Europe, given new confidence by Trump’s presidency, is now is now finding its echoes in Britain. This has profound implications for women’s rights in general and reproductive rights in particular. We have to unite to stop them, whether it’s an attack on a socialist bookshop, or on abortion rights, or against LGBT activists or whether it’s whipping up of racism—an attack on one of us is an attack on us all.
Judith Orr is the author of Abortion Wars, the fight for reproductive rights published by Policy Press.
Abortion Rights will be supporting the day of solidarity with Bookmarks on Saturday 11 August from 2pm, where authors and activists will come together in the bookshop to show we will not be intimidated.