January 22, 2016
Commemorate the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade
Unite for Reproductive Freedom!
On Jan. 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that women had the right to an abortion. Forty-three years later that ruling hangs by a thread as the Catholic Church, FOX news, and reactionary zealots line up to send women back to the days of forced motherhood, discriminatory hiring, unequal wages and poverty. But this march to turn the clock back has been met in battles large and small across the United States.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, of the 1,074 abortion restrictions placed by states since Roe v. Wade, 27 percent of these limits were added in the past five years. That’s 288 attempts to interfere with women exercising control over their bodies.
Last year Tea-Party-type Republicans in the U.S. Congress waged all-out war against Planned Parenthood. A disinformation campaign of epic proportions helped build the hype. Despite it all, attempts to shut down the government over the issue failed to get the support needed. These politicians are plotting to renew the battle in 2017, after the presidential elections.
And while attacks on Planned Parenthood have topped the headlines, other clinics have faced state regulations designed to shut them down. Seventeen states enacted 57 anti-abortion measures last year alone. The Jackson Women’s Health Clinic in Mississippi has been the sole abortion clinic in that state for years. Black feminists have been in the forefront of the ongoing struggle to keep its doors open.
In Texas, 20 of the 29 clinics were closed due to rules passed by the state legislature. This stranded about a million women 100 miles or more from a clinic. Pro-choice advocates have fought the laws every step of the way.
Supreme Court threats
The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether two Texas laws have created “an undue burden” on women who have to travel up to 400 miles to get an abortion. So far the 5th Circuit Appeals Court, which covers Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, has ruled in favor of these state laws. If the Supreme Court refuses to throw out these laws, the devastating effect on reproductive rights will reverberate across the country.
The Supreme Court will also decide whether religious non-profits can opt out completely from any kind of contraceptive coverage for their employees as required by the Affordable Care Act. Current regulations allow these non-profits (such as hospitals) exemptions from covering contraceptives, but they must notify the government they are opting out. Coverage for workers is then provided by another entity to ensure all have access to contraceptives. Catholic bishops object that this would make non-profits “complicit in sin” if they made the required notification, because doing so would trigger a process where their employees could get contraceptive coverage elsewhere.
This is an all-out attack on access to affordable medical care, contraceptives and abortions for the most vulnerable across the country. It requires a forceful, broad-based call for self-defense.
Building the fightback
Reproductive justice is the right to free, safe abortion on demand. It also includes access to safe birth control; no forced sterilization; accurate, inclusive sex education in the schools; and social support like childcare, public education, and parental leave — including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered parents.
Women of color in the U.S. have always resisted laws and practices that deny them reproductive choice. Over 20 percent of Black, Latina, and Native American women live below the poverty line. And all women of color face systemic racism as well as sexism. No wonder women of color are the strongest defenders of all aspects of biological self-determination.
This militancy is needed now, more than ever. The right-wing zealots are clear on their multi-issue agenda: it includes banning abortion, contraceptives and affirmative action, undercutting voting rights and destroying public unions. The feminist movement has to be equally clear — and stand firm against all attacks on working women and people of color.
What’s needed is a coordinated response with all our allies. And where better to find friends than in the labor movement? Progressive unionists from Wisconsin to California have fought for expanded social services, quality public education and health care for all, living wages, an end to discrimination of lesbian, gay and trans workers, equal pay and much more. Not surprisingly, the most militant unions are those that are predominately women and people of color — teachers, nurses, and public workers.
Attacks on affirmative action, social security, minimum wage, union organizing and healthcare are all, in the end, attacks on women. And the fight for all these necessities of life brings us all together.
Yes, we’ve got our work cut out for us, but building united fronts and organizing collaboratively gives us the strength needed to win.
* Free abortion on demand.
* Safe, effective contraceptives.
* No forced sterilizations.
* Fully funded public education & all social services.
* Living wages for all!