Infuriated protesters poured into U.S. streets on June 24 at the news that reactionary Supreme Court justices had obliterated federal abortion protections (see “Supreme Injustice”). Activists across Europe, the U.K. and Australia also expressed “Solidarity for our Sisters from the USA,” as one sign read at a Paris rally.
The National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice led large, militant actions in four U.S. cities. Reflecting the tone of the protests, Christina López, with Radical Women’s Comrades of Color Caucus, stated, “We need to build a strong movement to stand up and fight not only for reproductive freedom but also against racism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, and xenophobia.” Pointing to the crowd, she added, “We can get all pessimistic about what happened at the high court. But look, this is where the optimism is; this is where the hope is.”
Thousands of participants turned out in San Francisco and were buoyed by additional thousands from an intersecting Trans Pride march. Demonstrators blocked a major downtown arterial with a sit-in. The event was coordinated by the local Mobilization, led by women of color.
In New York City, a massive crowd filled Union Square. When the call went out to block Fifth Ave., hundreds dropped to the ground in a militant act of defiance. Seattle protesters occupied the block in front of the Federal Building for 49 minutes to mark the 49 years that Roe v. Wade was the law of the land — then stayed in the street to finish hearing speakers before marching.
In Phoenix, a crowd estimated at 8,000 marched in a loop from the State Capitol past a conservative Catholic church. After the boisterous but orderly demonstration ended, state troopers fired tear gas on stragglers at the Capitol doors; toxins wafted to everyone in the area. The takeaway by rally organizer Susan Massey: “This is not really a democracy, your voice will not be heard.”
An influencer. The Mobilization for Reproductive Justice, initiated by Radical Women, has a broad agenda that addresses all barriers to bodily autonomy, especially those impacting women of color and the disadvantaged. Knowing that the power of change rests in the streets, the Mobilization called for day of decision protests months ahead of time, foreseeing there would be an outpouring of rage when the decision was released.
Liberals, however, spent those months looking to the Democrats to save the day. At the last minute, Women’s March (WM) and its allies including Planned Parenthood, Move-On, ACLU, and Ultraviolet called for “snap actions.” Rife with Democrats, Women’s March is a DC-based NGO. Its sole role was to provide a web calendar for posting events — with a disclaimer of WM responsibility. Thanks to on-the-ground folks, protests were held from coast to coast.
The Mobilization is goading the moderates to be bolder. Its call for Biden to issue an executive order to protect abortion was later raised by women of the Congressional Black Caucus and turned into a Women’s March petition. Liberals are now openly criticizing Democratic Party inaction, unmoved by Biden’s hollow July executive order and House Speaker Pelosi’s promise of a Congressional measure. Says the WM website, “We will not let politicians play games with our lives and our futures. If our leaders won’t take action, we will.” Hopefully, pressure from below will hold them to this vow.
Abortion rights are labor’s fight. Defense of abortion by unions is a crucial new development. The fight for reproductive justice needs the numbers, militancy, and know-how of organized labor. And labor’s working-class constituents need their right to bodily autonomy defended.
More than a dozen labor groups have endorsed the Mobilization. On decision day, the Chicago Teachers Association and the giant Service Employees International Union were visible in the massive protest organized by Chicago for Abortion Rights, a broad Left-led coalition.
The Mobilization invites everyone to join the work of building an inter-racial, multi-issue fighting coalition to win this historic fight. Its importance rings out in the words of Samantha Romines, an independent young grassroots organizer for women’s rights in East Tennessee: “Our grandmothers fought for our right to vote. Our mothers fought for our right to choose. Now it is our turn to fight for our right to be a human in the United States of America.”