Radical Women Condemns the U.S. Supreme Court Decision to Ban Abortion Procedure

By Margaret Viggiani, National Radical Women Executive Committee

Radical Women condemns the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision to uphold Gonzalez v. Carhart, which bans a specific abortion procedure on the outrageous grounds that women don't always make good choices. We are appalled that this ruling elevates the rights of a fetus above those of a living, breathing female. By criminalizing this medical procedure, the five majority Justices strike another blow to a woman's fundamental right to control her body.

A doctor who performs an intact dilation and extraction after the 1 st trimester can face up to two years in federal prison, even though this may be the safest procedure for the woman. Supreme Court Justices have taken control of women's health care decisions. History has shown that those with the least available resources to obtain an abortion—young girls, the poor, immigrants and women of color—will be hit the hardest by this ruling. In 1977, after the Hyde amendment banned federal funds for abortion, the first woman to die from a back-alley procedure was Rosie Jimenez. Who will be the first to die from this decision? When legal access to abortion is denied, all that remains are illegal and desperate measures.

This ruling is part of a larger battle by Bush and cronies to limit the rights of working people. With the rising waves of discontent due to the war in Iraq and the downturn in the economy, the administration is desperate to control any organized opposition to its policies. Housing and gas prices skyrocket, real wages stagnate and the overall standard of living decreases, while at the same time large corporations show record profits and a very few get obscenely rich. This is a recipe for civil unrest. In response, the state clamps down on civil liberties by conducting ICE raids of immigrant workers, locking up antiwar activists, falsely accusing defense lawyers, like Lynne Stewart, of being terrorists, and controlling reproductive health.

The administration, along with its religious fundamentalist allies, has continually targeted women. On Bush's first day in office he banned funding to international groups that provide counseling about or otherwise facilitate abortion. This global gag rule has left millions of women with no access to contraception, prenatal care and other basic reproductive services.

The so-called feminist leaders offer little resistance other than rhetorical outrage in order to line their own coffers over the reproductive rights set backs. Radical Women is disgusted by the response of mainstream feminists to this latest crisis. The earliest emails to circulate from NOW and NARAL Pro-Choice America asked for money to run 'pro-choice' (pretty much a code word for Democrat) candidates for office in 2008. These are the same Democrats that consistently refuse to take a strong stance in defense of reproductive rights. Just last year the Senate Democrats, elected in large part due to the money contributed by the reproductive rights movement, refused to filibuster and stop the appointment of ultra-conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and John Roberts. NOW-endorsed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has gone so far as to call for common ground with anti-abortionists.

With friends like this, who needs enemies? Fronting for the Democrats undercuts and demobilizes the struggle for women's liberation. It's time to remind all elected officials of the power of the feminist movement and put the lives and welfare of women back on the national agenda.

This U.S. Supreme Court decision sends the clear message that women's lives are not their own. Our message back to the Court is equally clear. Yes they are! It took a militant, in the streets, multi-issue movement to win reproductive rights. That is what is needed today. Feminists must fight for the rights of all women, demanding safe working conditions, affordable housing, reproductive justice, universal healthcare and fully funded childcare. We need accessible and safe contraception, medically accurate sex education, an end to the global gag rule and the repeal of the Hyde amendment, which banned federal funds for abortion.

Radical Women calls on feminists of all genders to build an anti-capitalist movement that can take on the onslaught of attacks by this woman-demonizing system. It's time once again to march, demonstrate, sit-in or teach-in for reproductive justice and assert the power of the people to control all aspects of our bodies and our lives.