No reliance on the FBI: Community defense of abortion rights

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As harassment and violence against abortion clinics accelerate, it’s clear that an aggressive feminist response to the anti-abortion forces is urgently needed. The “pro-life” terrorists must be stopped before they strip us of our constitutional rights.

The Freedom Socialist Party and Radical Women support the National Organization for Women’s call for a national campaign in defense of abortion rights. And we applaud NOW’s call for full-scale congressional hearings to investigate publicly the rise of assaults against clinics, patients, and staff.

In March and April, the House Civil and Constitutional Rights Subcommittee convened three hearings to investigate attacks against clinics. Panel members demanded that anti-abortion vigilantes be prosecuted under civil rights laws. Testimony from clinic staff and clients from Philadelphia to Yakima, Washington attracted national press coverage.

So far so good. Still needed are well-publicized regional hearings, which would provide a forum for mobilizing broad public support to stop clinic violence and pressure the government to uphold women’s constitutional right to reproductive freedom.

Broad support is indispensable to defense of abortion rights. It was precisely community outrage over the rash of clinic firebombings last year that put muscle behind NOW’s call for congressional hearings. It was community pressure that resulted in the 20-year sentencing last December of Everett Feminist Women’s Health Center firebomber Curtis Beseda in Washington State. It is a safe bet that without massive community organizing for abortion rights, the congressional hearings will in the end come to nothing.

We call for a national united feminist front, open to all and democratically organized, that builds a mass movement embracing the call for hearings as one demand among many. This united front could work out specific demands for defense of the clinics and raise all the underlying issues of women’s reproductive rights, including free abortion on demand, no forced sterilization, and quality childcare. It must also show that reproductive rights are a paramount issue in the fight against rightwing attacks on all the oppressed, and rally people of color, lesbians and gay men, labor and radicals in a broad offensive to protect the rights of all who are under attack.

Now is precisely the time for feminists to unite around the program outlined above. A mass rightwing movement backed by big business has already coalesced to strip women of reproductive freedom and relegate them again to the status of breeders and unpaid domestics in the home, so capitalists can have two workers for the price of one. The current no-holds-barred assault on abortion rights also serves as the front line in the right wing’s campaign to nullify women as a social and political force.

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Controversy is raging within the feminist movement over whether or not to support NOW’s call for FBI investigations into violence against clinics. We strenuously object to this demand. While we believe open congressional hearings can help build a mass pro-abortion movement, nothing could be more suicidal than to invite secret police investigations into violence against clinics.

The FBI is infamous for its sweeping infiltrations and persecution of activists. It maintains thick files on every feminist organization, including NOW, and has always opposed feminism as a threat to the status quo.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF), which has also “investigated” antiabortion violence, is allied with the FBI in its attitude and actions toward the feminist and other social movements. In the Everett clinic firebombing case, BATF made pro-abortion forces the prime target of their investigation. The Bureau, along with local officials, intimated time and again that clinic supporters had bombed the clinic to muster support and sympathy! BATF also stalled the actual investigation for months, meanwhile finding time to bring charges against striking unionists at Everett’s Nord Door Factory!

After our experience with the Bureau, it does not surprise us that the BATF, while it had an undercover agent in the Greensboro, North Carolina, chapters of the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis, did nothing to prevent the Klan/Nazi assassinations of five Communist Workers Party members.

Experience teaches that U.S. police agencies are out to divide and destroy our organizations and movements, and to promote government policies that are clearly anti-abortion and pro-rightwing.

We urge NOW to drop its call for secret police investigations immediately and instead focus on building an open, united feminist campaign to save abortion rights. We would gladly join with NOW and other feminist organizations in such an effort.

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