January 21, 2012
Happy 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the monumental U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion throughout the United States! Abortion is a simple medical procedure that is vital for women to exercise any form of control over their lives. But despite its safety and legality, the fight for full reproductive health care for all women continues.
Last year a record 135 new provisions related to reproductive rights were passed in the United States, including bans on funding, prohibitions against abortion after a certain gestation period, forced waiting periods, and mandatory ultrasounds. When abortion is unavailable or unaffordable, it is poor women who suffer because they can't pay the medical fees and travel costs, or take the time to overcome all the outrageous barriers that have been devised by opponents of women's equality.
But there's good news too. Reproductive rights advocates are mobilizing. Last summer, activists converged in Maryland to defend Dr. LeRoy Carhart and the Germantown Reproductive Health Services from Operation Rescue harassment. Recently, voters in Mississippi rejected a "fertilized-egg-as-person" amendment to the state constitution that would have effectively banned abortions and many forms of contraception. New legislation has been introduced in Washington State to require private insurance plans to cover abortion if they cover maternity care. Young feminists in the Occupy movement are embracing the fight for reproductive justice and gender equality.
Where to next? With a presidential election looming, the pressure is increasing to "elect Democrats to protect us from Republicans." This is an often tried and always failed approach. The Democratic Party is a capitalist party that maintains loyalty to its investment base, not the voter base. The wealth of the 1% rests on the second-class status of women, queers and people of color. Corporate America's massive profits demand the super-exploitation of women providing free labor in the home (cooking, cleaning, care of the young, sick and elderly) and cheap labor on the job.
Many hoped President Obama would be different; that he would champion women's equality. Instead, his policies have repeatedly sided with the far right. Federal health reform sacrificed abortion coverage. In December, the Obama Administration took the unprecedented step of overruling the Food and Drug Administration's decision to remove age restrictions on Emergency Contraception. These are not isolated incidents. Jodi Jacobson's article in Conscience Magazine,"Is Obama Prochoice?", concludes that "the President has presided over the greatest erosion to women's reproductive health and rights in the past 30 years, and a continuing degradation of our rights at the state level."
Instead of diverting energy into electing Democrats, feminists should continue the momentum of the vibrant Occupy movement and demand what workingclass women and men need – things like healthcare (with full reproductive services), food, social services, housing, and union-wage jobs. We must look beyond politics-as-usual to support socialist or anti-capitalist candidates who will take action in the interest of the 99%.
Let's make the next year one of tremendous growth for the movements for equality and justice!
National Radical Women
747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109
Phone 415-864-1278 * Fax 415-864-0778