As lawmakers in the Nebraska legislature debated and advanced a near-total abortion ban last week, one Republican took to the floor and delivered an argument undergirded by a white supremacist conspiracy theory in support of the ban.
In a speech last Wednesday, Republican State Sen. Steve Erdman said that an abortion ban is necessary because there are too many of “those foreigners” and “refugees” in the state — coded language for non-white people.
“Our state population has not grown except by those foreigners who have moved here or refugees who have been placed here,” he said, blaming recent demographic changes in the state on the availability of abortion — a dubious claim that is, in its most favorable reading, a major white supremacist dog whistle long used by hate groups to supposedly justify abortion bans. Video of his arguments was posted online by Heartland Signal.
Erdman also said that the absence of an abortion ban in the state, where the procedure is currently banned after 21 weeks and six days, is part of what’s fueling a labor shortage in the state, revealing what Republicans view as the value of their constituents. The aborted fetuses are “people that could be working and filling some of those positions that we have vacancies,” he said. (Republicans’ arguments about a labor shortage are also untrue — Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that unemployment is lower in Nebraska than it has been in the past decade.)
The Republican’s argument invokes white nationalists’ “great replacement theory,” a conspiracy theory that global elites are trying to replace white people with people of color. It is a completely debunked idea that has nonetheless gained hold among the right and the Republican Party, especially as it has been used to supposedly justify antisemitic and racist violence.
The “great replacement theory” was invoked by the shooter who killed 10 people and injured three in a supermarket in a majority-Black neighborhood in Buffalo, and the man who killed Jewish worshippers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018. It has also increasingly been referenced by Republicans opposed to humane immigration regulations.
In his argument, Erdman invoked the theory to justify another type of violence: forced birth. Experts have said that the growth of white supremacist rhetoric on the right and the rise of abortion bans and attacks on trans people are deeply linked.
Bans on trans and abortion rights are both about taking away the public’s bodily autonomy — specifically, the bodily autonomy of already marginalized populations. Black people already suffer from higher rates of parental mortality than their white counterparts, and experts have said that abortion bans will exacerbate that problem.
Meanwhile, as misogyny becomes more prevalent on the right, and abortion bans aid in far right white supremacist groups’ missions to increase the population of white people by forcing white women to give birth, some especially abhorrent groups advocate for doing this via sexual assault. Since abortion bans largely affect cis women — and since right wingers refuse to acknowledge that some trans people can also become pregnant — abortion bans also serve these groups’ desire to control women.
This is perhaps evidenced by Erdman’s own arguments for abortion bans. During the debate on the abortion ban last week, the Republican state senator also openly said that the life of a pregnant person is less important than the bundle of cells growing in their body.
“Those who we should care for are the babies. It’s not the mother. It’s not those who are choosing to have an abortion,” he said. “It’s the babies. It’s the babies.”
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