The fight for reproductive justice continues!
Happy anniversary of Roe v. Wade! January 22 marks the 36th anniversary of the historic 1973 Supreme Court decision wiping out all U.S. laws criminalizing abortions. Since then, the ultra-right has worked to undermine the verdict and 2008 was no exception. The past year brought a slew of anti-abortion initiatives to voters. In California, Proposition 4 attempted to require parental notification for teens seeking abortions. In South Dakota, Measure 11 sought to outlaw most abortions and in Colorado, Measure 48 tried to legally define a fertilized egg as a human being. Fortunately, all of these efforts were overwhelmingly defeated. Radical Women (RW) celebrates these important victories!
State ballot initiatives are part of a larger reactionary and misogynist movement whose goal is nothing less than a complete ban on abortions, contraceptives and sex education. For example, the U.S. government's global gag rule is still in effect, which denies U.S. aid to health centers in other countries if they offer or educate about abortion. Pharmacists can refuse to fill birth control prescriptions or sell over-the-counter drugs for "moral" reasons. Each year clinics stop performing abortions because health insurance or public money won't pay for the procedure or practitioners fear being murdered.
The neo-conservatives loathe females controlling their own bodies and making independent decisions about their lives. They equally despise LGBT folks getting married and people of color and undocumented immigrants demanding civil rights. The bigots share a financial and political base that is sexist, homophobic, racist and xenophobic. They vehemently defend the nuclear family and the institution of marriage, which subjugates the "second sex" as the private property of men and keeps rigid gender roles intact. Criminalizing abortion and denying queers the right to marry are serious attempts to defeat the feminist and gay liberation movements. And targeting undocumented workers helps control a rebellious workforce during these tough economic times.
RW has a long, proud history of mobilizing with women of color, radicals, youth, the labor movement and community groups to stop anti-abortion initiatives and defend clinics from Los Angeles, to Jackson, Mississippi, to Melbourne, Australia. Early members in Seattle, along with poor and Black women, sparked the campaign to legalize abortion in Washington State. Their efforts helped win the state referendum that passed overwhelmingly three years before the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
But while abortion was legalized over three decades ago, there is still much work to be done to protect and expand reproductive justice. Religious conservatives will stage their 5th annual "Walk for Life West Coast" in San Francisco on Saturday, January 24. The Bay Area Coalition for Our Reproductive Rights (BACORR) and Radical Women urge all defenders of women's rights to join the counter-protest. For more information, contact BACORR at (415) 864-1278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Los Angeles RW chapter is also mobilizing people to attend; email them at email@example.com to get involved.
Activists in Olympia beat the fetus fanatics to the punch by reserving the steps of the Washington State Capitol on January 22; thereby forcing the ultra-right to move its anti-abortion demonstration. Radical Women is carpooling from Seattle to attend this celebration of reproductive justice; for more information contact RWSeattle@mindspring.com.
Radical Women sisters in Portland, Oregon mobilized a spirited counter-demonstration of a January 18 "Right to Life" march; email them at firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved with future organizing.
Clearly people are ready to move! Continued attempts to roll back reproductive rights, along with ongoing ICE raids and virulent anti-gay initiatives underscore the need for a multi-racial, multi-issue women's liberation movement that fights for all oppressed and exploited people. We need a revived and independent feminist movement that can ignite revolutionary change and win the long overdue relief everyone needs.
Many hope that Barack Obama will expand reproductive justice and fight for women's equality. He is painted as a staunch supporter of abortion rights despite voting against late-term procedures and opposing universal healthcare. The reality is that neither Obama, nor any Democratic or Republican politician of ANY color can guarantee our rights. Their political hands are tied to the capitalist system and the corporate donors whose bottom line depends on the second-class status of workers, females, queers and people of color.
The twin parties of war and reaction have done everything they can to deny the things that poor people and women of color need. The passing of free trade agreements has outsourced U.S. jobs. The dismantling of welfare and childcare programs and the bank bailouts are just a few examples of these politicians' profit-driven disasters. When money is the name of game, working people are left behind to fend for themselves. Changing this paradigm will take more than a new face in the White House, it will take an overhaul of the economic system. Ruthless profiteering must be replaced by the humane alternative of shared wealth — socialism.
The energy and hope put into electing Obama can be re-directed into a fighting movement to demand unconditional access to abortions and basic human rights like food, housing and union-wage jobs. History shows that organizing people into action has been the only way to win civil rights for those struggling on the bottom.
Feminists of all genders, colors, ages and sexualities are eager to build common cause in a force that must be reckoned with. Here are some ideas on how to get started:
o Participate in a Roe v. Wade demonstration.
o Write a letter to the editor about the importance of protecting and expanding abortion rights.
o Pass a resolution in your union or community group supporting reproductive, queer and immigrant rights.
o Contact a local RW chapter (www.RadicalWomen.org) to work together or join!
Let's realize our collective power and potential. As Radical Women always says, "We are the leaders we have been waiting for!"
National Executive Committee