U.S. and World Politics

Women’s Rights Under Attack!

By Carole Seligman

Introduction: The following are remarks made at an October 1 Community Speakout for Reproductive Justice for All in San Francisco sponsored by the Freedom Socialist Party.

The demands of the Speak Out were:

  • No forced sterilization
  • Repeal the Hyde Amendment, full access to abortion
  • Uphold the Indian Child Welfare Act
  • End racism in reproductive healthcare
  • Affordable childcare
  • Reunite immigrant families
  • Solidarity against bigotry, homophobia, and transphobia

Before the Supreme Court made abortion legal in the United States in 1973, there was a vibrant feminist movement for reproductive rights. One of the slogans of that movement, shouted aloud at many demonstrations was: “Right to life, your name’s a lie; You don’t care if women die!”

After, the Supreme Court 1973 decision, we continued to shout this slogan wherever the anti-abortion zealots would gather to try to prevent women from accessing abortion at Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health clinics.

Now, in the face of the 2022 Supreme Court decision allowing states to outlaw abortion, which many are doing and have already done, this idea—that outlawing abortion can lead to women’s deaths—has taken on new meaning, as women’s lives have been put in extreme danger through forcing doctors to weigh the responsibility to “do no harm” as the Hippocratic oath demands, versus the threat of prison for performing an abortion.

Already we have seen a woman who had a very much wanted pregnancy, but with a severely malformed fetus, was forced to travel out of state to receive an abortion because, even though her life was endangered, and abortion was the indicated remedy for her ill-fated pregnancy, and travel made for even more risk, the hospital in her community would not do the abortion.

And a ten-year-old girl was forced to travel out of state to end a pregnancy caused by rape. Children who are pregnant face terribly dangerous consequences if they are forced to carry a pregnancy to term. These are just two examples, (which got major media coverage), of what the U.S. Supreme Court has done.

If we had any doubt about extreme misogyny in the world, where women’s right to bodily autonomy, to control our own bodies, to plan our own lives was in jeopardy, we can look to Iran, where women are being killed for how they dress, for trying to have any kind of independent existence.

Unfortunately, many of our sisters and brothers who support the rights of women to abortion and full reproductive rights, are placing, or I should say misplacing their hopes in the political parties, specifically, the Democratic Party and the election of Democrats, in the hopes of securing our rights.

But the record of both the Democrats and the Republicans is rotten and, as we have seen over and over again, the Democrats are good at giving lip service to women’s rights, but, in practice, even when they had majorities in Congress and the administration, have not managed to secure our basic rights.

There are signs of hope. The Kansas referendum’s huge majority vote in defense of abortion shows that a sustained campaign can win the overwhelming support of the majority.

Massive demonstrations—the biggest in the history of the country—have mobilized millions in favor of abortion rights and all women’s rights.

The militant mass demonstrations by the women of Iran and the great support of these actions among the youth, including men, show the power of independent mass action for our rights. The mass actions of the Black Lives Movement in the face of the lynching of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the many others, has brought Black women’s reproductive rights, Black infant mortality, and Black pregnancy mortality rates to the surface, including inequalities in healthcare across the board.

Capitalism is the culprit. Private healthcare delivery based on the ability to pay means that healthcare is not delivered to huge swaths of the working class, Black, Brown, and poor white people. This is a deadly situation for the poor. Private profit must be banished from healthcare and all human needs.

We need a massive, in-the-streets movement for our basic rights, and we also need an independent political party, a socialist party, to unify the working class to fight for all our rights and win.