Tucker Carlson's wild new talking point is that abortion is somehow a tool of “corporate” oppression

Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Anti-abortion extremist Tucker Carlson has seemingly developed yet another far-fetched theory in his crusade against reproductive justice -- the idea that abortion is a tool of the capitalist class designed to trap women in the workplace and force them to forgo motherhood. The latest examples of this absurd argument came just this month: During the April 17 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News, Carlson said that protecting abortion access isn't about “autonomy” but about “making sure women can be obedient workers.” And on April 8, he said that abortion access is merely a backdoor tactic for employers to ensure women are “dutiful little worker bees who would rather have an abortion than disappoint shareholders.”

Beyond being ludicrous, Carlson’s allegation (and the underlying assumptions) intentionally obscures what’s at stake in the fight over access to essential reproductive health care. When women and gender nonconforming people are denied access to an abortion, the entire family suffers, and the ripple effects disproportionately disadvantage low-income people and people of color.

Carlson's baseless conspiracy theory only further demonstrates the emptiness of his supposed criticisms of capitalism. His refusal to air a February segment of his show with Dutch historian Rutger Bregman is evidence that he does not promote policies that would actually hold the super wealthy to account. These extreme anti-choice comments are not unique for the network. In fact, this latest attack is simply an extension of the Fox News playbook to spread anti-choice misinformation and rile up viewers for the 2020 elections.

This theory that “pro-choice means pro-corporate” is just another data point in Carlson's quest to attack people who make choices about pregnancy he disagrees with. After the first wave of advertisers left his show because of his comment that immigration makes America “poorer, dirtier, and more divided,” Carlson was forced to try to rebrand. He kicked off 2019 with a monologue about the importance of families as “the building block of everything.” Harkening to Donald Trump's nationalist rhetoric, Carlson demanded that “if you want to put America first, you've got to put its families first,” and he criticized free market forces for harming the family and targeted Republican leaders who do not support this point of view. This monologue, which is pinned to the top of Carlson's Twitter feed, set off a flurry of chin-scratching op-eds on right-wing sites.

Carlson went out of his way to endorse an obscure proposal by the far-right government of Hungary

Carlson's enthusiasm for white nationalism and the reconstruction of a “traditional family unit,” combined with his opposition to abortion access, adds up to a bleak picture of rigid gender roles and forced domesticity for women who want control over their own lives. Thus it is perhaps unsurprising that Carlson has explicitly endorsed a proposal by the far-right Hungarian government meant to “ensure the survival of the Hungarian nation” by incentivizing women to have more children. Put forth by authoritarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the proposal would exempt women with four or more children from paying income tax for life and give them other benefits to assist in child rearing.

Tucker's excitement for the Hungarian proposal fits comfortably within the overlap between the messaging of white nationalists and anti-abortion extremists -- and it paints a picture of his ideal America, a place where women don't have access to abortion but are incentivized by the government to have children they may or may not want. The idea that this is Carlson's goal is reflected in the fact that American media has generally not covered this proposal, which is motivated by the white nationalist sentiments prevalent in Hungary. But Carlson not only donated time to the cause but also forcefully endorsed it.

While hosting Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto on his show, Carlson praised Orban’s policy as an example of a country taking “pro-family policies seriously” and called it “a great idea” to address Hungary’s “low birth rate” without “immigration and importing new people.” Carlson said he has “rarely thought we could learn something important from another country, but I think in this case, we really can.”

Misogyny is at the core of white supremacism and Carlson channels both

This obsession with birth rates, combined with the oppression of women by eliminating pathways for bodily and economic autonomy in favor of unpaid familial labor, is a perfect example of the intersection between misogyny and the anti-choice movement. In the context of Carlson's regularly scheduled white identity politics, it’s unsurprising that his desire to promote so-called “family values” has morphed into attacking people who choose to have an abortion. His recent line of argument fixates on the importance of women having babies to “perpetuate the species.” (Conveniently, he has no problem with separating children from their parents at the border.)

During a February 4 segment, Carlson claimed that the reason “our ruling class keeps pushing abortion on the country” is because bodily autonomy makes women “loyal to company first,” which is not only patronizing but also ignores the personal and medical reasons people have abortions. Carlson’s argument also treats people's access to essential health care as a conspiracy by “corporate” bosses to prevent them from experiencing parenthood:

TUCKER CARLSON: So why does our ruling class keep pushing abortion on the country? Well, [Virginia Gov.] Ralph Northam just explained it as clearly as anyone has. Abortion leads to economic freedom, he said. It brings prosperity. Almost everyone in coastal America believes this as a matter of faith. Former hedge fund executive Chelsea Clinton once explained the reasoning here in some detail, quote, “American women entering the labor force from 1973 to 2009 added $3.5 trillion to our economy. The net, new entrance of women -- that is not disconnected from the fact that Roe became the law of the land in January of 1973.” End quote.

In other words, abortion boosts markets. It frees women from the tiresome demands of motherhood and allows them to fulfill their higher duty which is to corporations. Childless women make more dutiful, obedient workers. They can work longer hours. They take less time off. They are loyal to company first.

And from the perspective of private equity, they’re right. Having children may perpetuate the species, it may add meaning to your life, but it won't boost the stock price. It does nothing for shareholder value.

As economists at the United Nations put it, and it's on their website right now, when more women work, economies grow. Well, that means that when women decide to have and raise kids, economies shrink.

So, from this perspective, motherhood is a selfish choice. We have got widgets to make, forms to fill out, meetings to attend, mush, get to work.

Two years ago, a columnist in The Daily Telegraph called for the government to ban stay-at-home moms. They should be in the workforce, adding to the bottom line. So this is the real reason our elite so enthusiastically support abortion.

It doesn't set you free. It won't make you happier. But it make companies more profitable and that's what matters most to them. Pro-choice means pro-corporate.

This rhetoric is part of a pattern. During a February 1 segment, Carlson mischaracterized Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s comments on later abortion and claimed that abortion rights advocates care only about the “economic freedom” afforded to people able to make choices about their own bodies because such autonomy makes them “more efficient employees” who can “work longer hours without worrying about anybody but their bosses.”

TUCKER CARLSON: Northam explained that abortion at any stage is a positive good -- and this is worth listening to carefully -- because, quote, “reproductive freedom leads to economic freedom.” In other words, abortion is virtuous because it makes women more efficient employees, better and more dutiful servants of Northam's donors. They can work longer hours without worrying about anybody but their bosses.

Carlson also attacked former Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams for her criticisms of Georgia’s recently adopted draconian six-week abortion ban (also referred to as the “heartbeat bill”). On his April 8 show, Carlson disingenuously claimed that Abrams’ opposition to the bill stemmed from her desire to make women into “dutiful little worker bees” who wouldn’t dare prioritize “superfluous concerns like their own children or perpetuating the species” over the needs of “shareholders.”

Carlson not only ignored Abrams’ actual criticism that the ban was “bad for business” and an “abominable” attack on people’s rights and health, he also oversimplified the numerous reasons someone might want or need an abortion. Although in Carlson’s mind, abortion access is a tool to deprive people of parenthood, in reality, people can choose to have abortions because they don’t want children, aren’t ready to be parents, or in many cases already are parents:


STACEY ABRAMS: We have to be a state that is not only friendly to business, we've got to be friendly to the women who work in these businesses. You should not have to worry about your ability to control your bodily autonomy because the governor has pushed such an abominable and evil bill that is so restrictive. It's not only bad for morality and our humanity, it's bad for business.


TUCKER CARLSON: “It's bad for business.” So according to Stacey Abrams, who went to Yale Law School, protecting the life of a child whose heart is beating is evil because, as she just said, it's bad for business. Business needs reliable workers who will give everything to the company. Workers who won't be distracted by superfluous concerns like their own children or perpetuating the species. Dutiful little worker bees who would rather have an abortion than disappoint shareholders.

Stacey Abrams wants to make the world safe for workers like that. It's better for the bottom line. This is the face of corporate liberalism. It's a lot crueler than the old version.

Carlson's extremist anti-choice apologia fits squarely into white nationalist conspiracy theories about “the great replacement” and white “genocide” (some of Carlson’s other favorite talking points). His absurd argument framing abortion rights advocates as tools of capitalist oppression is yet another example of him using his show to elevate anti-abortion extremists and mirror the rhetoric of white nationalists on an ongoing basis.