With the Supreme Court’s radically conservative decision on Friday to repeal Roe v. Wade, demonstrations erupted all over the U.S.
The Supreme Court’s decision poses immediate risks to tens of thousands of women and pregnant people across the country. Already in half the country, many will have no recourse but to carry a pregnancy to term and give birth, lacking the means to access the many attempts to aid them by organizations like Aid Access, which raise funds for travel, and attempt to facilitate a road to a safe abortion.
Women that are imprisoned in states with abortion bans will now be forced to give birth only to have their children taken from them, and then likely sent into a foster care system that cares very little for their child once out of the womb. So, too, will women who cannot travel for other reasons, including those who cannot afford to take off work, those who do not find a connection to aid organizations soon enough, those who are disabled, and those who face tight control by their families. And this will lead to more pain and deaths.
The maternal death rate in this U.S. is already the highest of any industrial developed country and especially for poor women, with the rate for Black women being double that for white. This ruling will only send it higher, and lead to more death.
In addition to the latest Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the Supreme Court should now move to overturn other rulings, including the right to use contraception and the right to same-sex marriage.
Already there is increasing pressure from the Democratic Party to redirect this outburst of demonstrations in the streets, and to channel the fight right back into the ballot box. But depending on the Democratic Party to fight for reproductive rights is what has gotten this movement into the dark corner where it is today. Indeed, in 2007, then-Senator Barack Obama promised that as President he would sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which would have codified abortion rights into federal law. Once elected, even with a majority in Congress, in April 2009, he explained that he “…had other priorities” and broke his promises, helping to pave the way for another decade of increased attacks on reproductive rights across the country.
Elizabeth Warren exhorted people to vote “like a laser” in the midterm elections in November by electing Democrats who are willing to eliminate the filibuster to help Congress pass a bill that would reinstate the right to abortion.
While this is not absolutely impossible, the Democratic Party cannot be the path for working-class people and others living in poverty to win access to abortion rights, just as it has never been a path to winning healthcare access for all. First, can we trust the Democrats even to enact such a law when they have betrayed their voters so often in the past? And second, for wealthy women, a federal law may be enough, but what about the rest of the population? The truth is that if working class women follow the lead of the wealthy and rely on simply giving their vote to the Democrats, without depending on our own organizing and protesting in the streets, without disrupting the comfort of these wealthy politicians, there will likely be no federal law at all. But even if there is one, the Democrats will turn their back on working people as soon as such a law is won. Just as a Supreme Court decision like Roe v. Wade can be overturned, so can new legislation — that’s what happened to the Voting Rights Act. Real access to reproductive healthcare, which includes abortion, is a far cry from the legal right — as the entire history of reproductive rights in this country has clearly shown.
In the summer of 2020, after the murder of George Floyd, we saw people rise up to protest police violence in huge numbers all across the country, but those mobilizations began to subside as they were co-opted by the Democratic Party, and many different non-governmental organizations, which basically told people to go home and let the professionals take charge. We don’t want to see this with the movement to win reproductive rights and the right to control our bodies.
At the same time, as a result of that experience in the streets in 2020 and 2021, there are many young people who are beginning to question the ability of the Democratic Party to do anything to turn the tide on the wave of attacks that the Supreme Court and other right-wing efforts are carrying out.
In this period, we need to organize with all those who are angry and outraged by these ongoing attacks, and prepare for a long fight, one that won’t be fooled by the false promises of the Democratic or Republican parties to represent working people.This fight for working class people to win control over their bodies and access to reproductive freedom from contraception to abortion is an international fight. We have seen a wave of organizing to win this right in Argentina, Colombia and Chile, a fight known as the Green Wave for the color they have taken as their emblem. We have much to learn from their organizing and fighting! With creative and relentless organizing that began in women’s homes, they confronted the Catholic Church and its supporters, and changed dominant views, putting enormous pressure on the elected officials with massive demonstrations.
We have good reason to be hopeful that we are entering a new period with the possibility for a new movement for major social change. This time, this can be a movement that fights to guarantee to all women and pregnant people easy access to abortion services at any stage of pregnancy, without apology. It can be a movement that protects lives of all people, including the lives of all mothers and children, from birth to death. This can be a movement that fights for quality health care for all, including reproductive health care, child care, and maternity leave. It could demand free access to education and guaranteed housing. It could fight against environmental destruction so we can maintain a planet able to sustain human life, and more. This can be a movement to stand up to this entire system that is organized against us.