Fighting to save the right to abortion

The first line of defense for reproductive freedom

PHOTO: Doug Barnes / FS
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The Christian right has detonated a legal bomb aimed at destroying abortion rights. Two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, one from Texas and the other from Mississippi, violate the concept of bodily autonomy established by the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. That the court didn’t immediately strike them down shows its affinity for the reactionary agenda sweeping the country.

The U.S. Supreme Court trends rightward. The anti-choice Alliance Defending Freedom drafted the Mississippi measure expressly to contradict Roe. It bans abortions at 15 weeks while the limit established by the Supreme Court is 23 to 24 weeks, when a fetus can survive outside the womb. The only reason for the justices to hear this challenge is to remove federal protection for abortion. Their decision, expected in the summer of 2022, will likely trigger 20 states to ban abortion.

The Court has already done serious damage. In December, justices let stand SB 8, a Texas measure that caps abortions at six weeks, with no exception for rape or incest. Since most people don’t know they are pregnant by then, SB 8 imposes parenthood. Most affected are those without the means to travel out of state and immigrants. SB 8 also legalizes vigilante persecution, allowing any member of the public to sue for “damages.”

The Court’s willingness to reverse constitutional rights threatens other legal precedents. Roe is based on 14th Amendment safeguards of equal protection under the law, as are rulings on contraception, interracial marriage and same-sex rights. What’s next?

Abortion is the leading edge of the far right. Anti-abortion is the main recruiting tool of the far right. It bridges the short gap between misogyny, racism and anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry. “Make women property again” and “Feminists deserve the rope” were two slogans raised by harassers at Women’s Marches in 2018.

Abortion activists identified at least a dozen anti-abortion figures at the Jan. 6, 2021 attempted coup at the Capitol. They included leaders of Operation Save America, Oath Keepers, and March for Life, and individuals formerly convicted of violence against clinics and staff.

The right-wing policies are not exclusively white. #JesusMatters, founded by two Black women, is one of the most rabid anti-abortion groups, falsely claiming that “the number-one killer of African Americans is abortion.” The two have harassed clinics, defaced Black Lives Matter murals, consorted with the neo-fascist Proud Boys, and participated in the January 6 riot.

To defend abortion rights is to oppose the whole right-wing juggernaut.

Fight for reproductive justice. The majority in this country supports Roe, according to the polls. So where is the movement in defense of abortion?

Scandalously, national organizations like Planned Parenthood and the Women’s March are not organizing nationwide protest. Unwilling to fight and accepting Biden’s queasiness about alienating conservative voters, they are providing no leadership. Weak mentions of the Women’s Health Protection Act are symbolic since it has no chance of passing the Senate without a bare knuckles brawl.

Radical groups, to their credit, are providing the only militant defense. The National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice, initiated by Radical Women, has been hitting the streets and raising the call for a united fight. The group’s demands (see reflect the broad nature of this battle. They address the right to parent or not, with social support and no forced sterilization. The needs of women of color, people with disabilities, and poor and LGBTQ+ folks are front and center. The issue isn’t just abortion, but full reproductive freedom.

The Mobilization has the goal of building a mass movement capable of pushing elected officials and the judiciary. This requires everyone to step forward — especially unions, with their power to educate and activate millions of affected people.

For workers to protect their economic futures, child-bearing people must have access to safe, legal abortions, as well as affordable childcare and decent paying jobs. Labor unions need to actively champion this cause and turn out their members. To their credit, the Oregon Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity (Seattle) endorse the Mobilization, and numerous unionists have participated in various protests around the country.

With a radical, working-class feminist program backed by people willing to seriously organize, we can ignite a grassroots war for abortion, reproductive justice, and all human rights. There’s no time to waste!

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