By the hundreds of thousands of women and men:
« Hands off the right to abortion,
it’s not up to the Supreme Court to decide!”
As soon as the press leaked the intention of reactionary Supreme Court justices to challenge the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy (abortion), thousands, then hundreds of thousands of women and men, sometimes together with trade unions, took to the streets across the United States. On 15 May, major demonstrations will take place to defend this democratic right.
« Bans off our bodies! », « Abortion is healthcare!” On Monday evening, May 2, within moments of publication of the leaked draft of a United States Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade (the 1973 Supreme Court decision protecting the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy), people mobilized outside the Supreme Court and organized protests at federal courts throughout the country.
“ We refuse to let the U.S. Supreme Court deny women’s humanity and decimate their rights” read a large banner displayed at New York City’s Foley Square courthouse. “Economic freedomand reproductive freedom are inextricably linked,” declared labor leaders at a rally organized by the San Francisco Bay Area labor councils at the federal building in Oakland, Calif. “An attack on women’s reproductive rights,” they asserted, “is a direct attack on all workers.”
Women’s right to self-determination threatened
More than 100 million women, including those living in nearly every Southern state and many throughout the Midwest, will lose access to legal and safe abortion. Twenty-six states — more than half of 50 the states — are certain or likely to ban abortion with laws or constitutional amendments already in place. These laws are, in essence, forced pregnancy legislation. They are attacks on a woman’s right to have control over her body and future (bodily autonomy). They treat a woman as property, imposing child bearing and child rearing responsibilities upon her should she become pregnant, or forcing her to make the traumatic choice to abandon a child. These laws are part and parcel of a war on women.
Seventy percent of women in the United States today have grown up in the aftermath of the 1973 Roe ruling. They struggled in state after state as these states made access to abortion difficult and, in many instances inaccessible, such that 90 percent of U.S. counties have no clinic providing abortion services. They raised private funding to enable poor women to have access to abortion procedures after the federal government cut off public dollars in 1976, soon after the Roe decision.
A handful of reactionary judges claim to be able to decide for women
But few anticipated that the day would come when a majority of justices, albeit conservative, would feel empowered to overturn Roe itself.
The draft opinion crafted by justice Alito not only shows complete disregard for women, it is a narrow reading of the U.S. Constitution, more as a biblical tract written in stone than as a document to be interpreted with deference to societal changes.
Instead, the reactionary and doctrinaire Alito relies upon judicial precedents dating back to the 13th century — an era of English Common Law when a woman was considered to be her husband’s chattel (property) — in order to sustain his position that abortion historically has been a crime. Among Alito’s most egregious citations, however, is that from Sir Edward Coke’s 17th-century treatise in which Coke concludes that abortion was “some heinous offense under the degree of felony.” This is the same Sir Edward Coke who wrote the English laws on witchcraft condemning women and children to death.
Women can expect nothing from the Democratic Party!
Despite the impending Supreme Court decision there remains the option of federal legislation that would supplant anti-abortion state laws. As people protest throughout the country, they demand: Where is Biden? Where is the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) that would guarantee the right to abortion?
What else can women expect from the Democratic Party, the same party that consistently denies blacks their rights, that refuses to take any action to guarantee the basic needs of nearly a third of the American population who live in food and healthcare insecurity? A party that systematically votes for wars of pillage and plunder against the peoples of the world?
It is the working class and oppressed communities that have the most to lose. “We must be able to control our own bodies”, stated Liz Shuler, AFL-CIO president, noting the “direct impact on economic justice and the ability of working people to make a better life for themselves and their families.”
All well and good, but historic union challenge remains: “Which side are you on?” The time is long overdue for Liz Shuler and other U.S. labor leaders to break with the Democrats and demonstrate that they truly are on the side of women as well as all the working class – in deeds as well as words.
It is up to each and every one of us as we mobilize and show our strength in numbers to assert our political power not by electing Democrats but by developing our own political party — a working class party rooted in labor and oppressed communities — that is independent of the capitalist ruling class and the Democratic Party that serves its interests.
By our US correspondent, Mya Shone, Socialist Organizer activist.
What is Roe v. Wade?
“Roe v. Wade” is the case that established the right to abortion as a « fundamental » right. Until the Supreme Court’s decision of 22 January 1973, there was no federal protection for this right. Abortion was illegal in thirty states, and the remaining twenty states had laws that permitted abortion under often restrictive circumstances. With its 1973 decision, the Supreme Court left the decision to terminate a pregnancy to the woman herself before the point of “viability” where a fetus can survive outside the womb, now considered to be twenty-three weeks. Prior to 1973, the American Academy of Gynecologists and Obstetricians estimated that 1.2 million American women had illegal abortions each year. These illegal abortions resulted in up to 5,000 deaths per year.
State anti-abortion laws
the examples of Texas and Alabama
One in ten American women live in Texas. The new Texas « heartbeat » law of September 2021 (which the Supreme Court upheld, overturning any legal challenge) encourages citizens to report and prosecute anyone who performs an abortion more than six weeks after conception, with no exceptions for rape, sexual abuse, incest or diagnosis of a fetal anomaly. Anyone who helps a woman to have an abortion in any way (a friend who has helped financially, a taxi driver who has taken the patient to the doctor, etc.) can also be convicted. However, six weeks after conception, most women do not know that they are pregnant. About 85% to 90% of women who have abortions in Texas are at least six weeks pregnant.
The state of Alabama paved the way for a total ban on abortion when its « Protection of Human Life Act » was signed into law on 15 May 2019. This law claims that « personhood » begins at conception and makes no exceptions to the ban on abortion, including for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. As a result, any doctor who performs or attempts to perform an abortion is considered a « criminal » and faces a sentence of ninety-nine years in prison.
Taliban impose full-face veils and demand that women « stay at home” The Taliban government issued a decree on 7 May requiring women to wear full-face veils that mask all but the eyes. But this is still too much, and the decree states that it is « better for them to stay at home ». This decision comes after the 23 March decision that drove millions of girls out of school.
The Taliban, a fanatical militia created in the 1990s by Pakistan’s intelligence services, returned to power in August 2021, after an agreement by US Presidents Trump and Biden.
As the activists of the Afghanistan Radical Left (ARL) recall: « After twenty years of military occupation (2001-2021), the US decided to return power to the Taliban. It launched a massive media campaign to make the Taliban ‘presentable’, claiming that their practices had changed. The US said it was « optimistic » that the Taliban would no longer restrict freedoms, oppose women’s rights, interfere with women’s
right to work or their presence in society. The US signed a « peace agreement » with the Taliban in February 2020 in Doha, Qatar, and returned them to power in August 2021 after the withdrawal of NATO forces. The day after their return to power, the Taliban imposed severe restrictions on women’s rights (…) The Taliban have not changed since the 1990s. They know that literate and educated women will not accept being confined to the home: they will want to work and earn a living, to free themselves from the bondage of men through financial independence and to fight for equal rights and freedom.”
Do we need to be reminded that, on 31 August 2021, after handing Kabul over to the Taliban, Joe Biden dared to declare: « We will continue to defend the fundamental rights of the Afghan people, especially women and girls (…) And I have been clear: human rights will be at the centre of our foreign policy.”
Activists of the Afghan Radical Left (ARL), who took part in the demonstrations in Kabul against the anti-women measures, are right to say: « The Afghan people have no hope in the so-called ‘International community’ because it is responsible for their fate. The Afghan people can only rely on progressive, democratic and secular forces, on the ‘Spontaneous Women’s Protest Movement’ and on the solidarity of workers and women around the world. Tomorrow, the Afghan people will overthrow the misogynistic and medieval tyranny of the Taliban. »
Article published in
La Tribune des Travailleurs (France)
The POID organised a picket on 9 May in front of the US Embassy to denounce the US Supreme Court justices’ shameful intention to challenge the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy.
In her speech, Christel Keiser, National Secretary of the POID? emphasised the incredible arguments used by the Supreme Court to justify its decision – a case law dating back to the 17th century, when women were legally the property of their husbands, she said: « Today we are still in a maledominated society, in a society that can be described as patriarchal, which makes decisions for women. A patriarchal society where women must remain the de facto property of their spouses, just as the means of production must remain the private property of the capitalists. And that is why this society can seek to force women to continue an unwanted pregnancy. »
She went on to talk about the situation in France and the urgent measures that a workers’ government should take, both in France and in the United States: « The right to abortion must be unconditionally defended, both legally and in practice. In France, this right has existed since 1975. A democratic conquest won thanks to the mobilisation of women’s associations, but also of the labour movement organisations. Initially very restrictive, the right to abortion has gradually become accessible to all women.
However, can it be said that all women who need abortion can have access to it in France today? Certainly not!
Abortion centres are closing one after the other, closures linked to hospital restructuring, maternity unit closures (when a maternity unit closes, an abortion centre closes) and job cuts. Since 2017, 8 % of the establishments performing abortions have closed, which amounts to 130 centres. Many “départements” (i.e., a territorial subdivision of a region in France – translator’s note) do not have an abortion centre, forcing women to travel dozens or even hundreds of kilometres.
This situation is the result of the policy pursued for decades by successive governments and aggravated by the MacronCastex-Véran government, a policy that financially strangles public hospitals, maternity wards and abortion centres and damages the staff’s working conditions. The consequences of this policy were blatant during the Covid epidemic, and this is patent today with the announcement of the closure of several emergency wards throughout the country.
Meanwhile, money is showered on capitalists. 607 billion have been offered to them since the beginning of the pandemic, billions used to organise redundancy plans.
Against the threat posed by the Supreme Court, an immediate question arises: that of the massive mobilisation to preserve abortion. Beyond this mobilisation, another question is raised: in the United States as in France, what government will really restore the right to abortion?
In the US, Biden criticises the Supreme Court’s decision. He says he is supporting mobilisation. But why doesn’t he push for federal legislation that could counter the Supreme Court’s decision and replace the antiabortion laws passed in several states? He has the power to do so, he refuses. As for the trade union organisations, which supported Biden’s election, can they subordinate their actions to the President’s decisions – or nondecisions?
In France, the right to abortion for all implies a decisional move: to allocate the necessary financial resources – and therefore the reopening of closed abortion centres, the opening of all abortion centres with the necessary staff to meet women’s needs. And this decision presupposes to break with the policy that has been pursued for decades and to repossess the billions offered to the capitalists so to allocate them to women’s needs.
This is what the POID is fighting for in France. Democracy is the law of the majority. And a majority government should provide all the means to ensure that women’s rights are respected, and in particular the right to abortion.
As chance would have it, a decree issued on 7 May by the Taliban government in Afghanistan, which requires women to wear full-face veils that mask all but the eyes, is coming into force today. The decree goes so far as to state that it is ‘better for them to stay at home’ (…).
The Taliban (…) returned to power in August 2021, after an agreement by US Presidents Trump and Biden. War-mongering presidents, in Ukraine today, in Iraq and Afghanistan before.
Against imperialist wars, against capitalist exploitation, for the defence of women’s rights, the POID supports the women and men who will be demonstrating on 14 May in the United States to defend an inalienable right.
Freedom for Afghan women!
Freedom to abort for women in the US!
Freedom for all women, against the double oppression and the capitalist exploitation they are the victims of !”