In the 1960s, I waited anxiously in a seedy New York City hotel lobby for my friend having The Procedure upstairs. Two decades later in the Pacific Northwest, despite abortion becoming legal, I regularly faced down right-wing louts jeering at abortion clinic patients.
Fighting for abortion has been a generations-long battle. It was legalized in Washington state in 1970, three years before Roe v. Wade. A key role was played by Black women from anti-poverty programs who worked with Seattle Radical Women members in a militant coalition named Abortion Action Now. High-volume, multiracial organizing pressured a conservative legislature to put legalization to a public vote and it passed decisively. Massive speak-outs, rallies and grass-roots organizing won this crucial right nationally.
And now we need to do it again because Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has taken aim at the 14th Amendment, enacted to protect newly freed slaves, and the basis for such rights as birth control and LGBTQ+ and interracial marriage. Banning abortion will especially harm Black, Latinx, and poor people, including non-binary and transgender folks.
Spread the word. Voting and donating to the devious Democrats will not secure reproductive justice. Tell your friends and coworkers it’s time to give up this illusion. The Democrats aren’t waging a serious fight, but they do use threats to women’s rights to mine for money and votes.
I recently received an email from Washington state Democratic Senator Patty Murray saying the Senate had failed to pass a bill that would have made Roe v. Wade law, but, hey, can you chip in $5 to elect pro-choice candidates? Contrast this ho-hum attitude to the response when protesters on May 9 shouted “Abort the court!” outside of Alito’s house and a bipartisan bill was immediately proposed to increase security for the justices.
The Democrats must put up or shut up. President Biden, sign an Executive Order making abortion the law! Pro-choice politicians, get off your duffs and sit in at the Supreme Court (if you can climb over the new security fence). Call for a march on Washington. Act or get out of the way!
Stop the ultra-right with a feminist left. Attacks on abortion, contraception, trans and LGBTQ+ rights, voting access, civil rights, and Critical Race Theory are all coming from right-wing white supremacists. SCOTUS is controlled by a far-right, religious ideology and is an undemocratic institution.
Who’s behind the rightward turning court and legislature? The U.S. ruling class. Thirteen major corporations — Coca-Cola, General Motors, AT&T, Comcast, Walmart, CVS, Amazon, Verizon, Walgreens, Google, Wells Fargo, Team Mobile, Citibank — while publicly claiming dedication to equality and women’s rights, have donated $15 million to anti-abortion politicians since 2016.
We need a multi-issue fight led by the most oppressed. Union leaders must step up, following the will of members, to represent women of all colors and workers of all genders. Abortion is a labor issue, a human right and essential healthcare.
Action now. “There will be hell to pay. It’s up to us,” declared Helen Gilbert, Radical Women Organizer at a rambunctious Seattle rally following Alito’s leaked draft decision.
How can you turn your anger into action? Get connected with a group like the National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice (ReproJusticeNow.org), which Radical Women launched two years ago. This grass-roots campaign raises demands that show how reproductive justice is a multi-faceted need that affects many communities. In addition to abortion, they demand stopping forced sterilization; an end to caged kids and child welfare abuses; universal non-racist healthcare; defense of queer and trans families; sex education and affordable childcare; sexual self-determination for people with disabilities; and expanded voting rights and strong unions to uphold social progress.
Abortion won’t be free from threat without this kind of broad approach that embraces every movement. In addition, U.S. feminists can look to the Southern Hemisphere for strategies.
Argentine activists won legal abortion on December 30, 2020, after decades of work.
They succeeded through grass-roots organizing that was linked to campaigns against femicide. Feminists held mass protests in the streets and educated the general public about the estimated 371,965 to 522,000 Argentineans who risked their lives each year through illegal abortions.
Argentina’s “green wave,” referring to the green bandannas displayed by supporters of legal abortion, is sweeping Latin America. On June 30, 2021, the state of Hidalgo in Mexico lifted penalties for elective abortion, joining Oaxaca and Mexico City in confirming the right to choose.
No more playing nice. Let’s take the gloves off! We need national, massive civil disobedience. Rise up against the treacherous fakers who keep demanding our votes and our cash. Organize statewide and nationally to demand our rights. Unjust laws will be broken!
With anger forged into united, multi-racial working-class action, we can turn the court or overturn the government. We won’t go back!