Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the U.S. has been in the target of the religious right in this country for decades. Since Trump was elected they feel they are getting closer to their goal of rolling back this key gain of the women’s movement.
For years, anti-abortion activists have organized with Republicans to pass laws that severely restrict access to abortion. In 2016, Republicans controlled both houses in 35 state governments, and anti-abortion conservatives have celebrated Trump’s two court appointments in Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
On February 7, the Supreme Court put a stay on a Louisiana law that requires abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a hospital no more than 30 miles away. While preventing the law from going into effect is a victory, it is is only a temporary one while the Court decides whether or not to hear the case. There is no guarantee that the law will be struck down. The only way to defeat this attack decisively, and others that are making their way to the Supreme Court, is the full mobilization of the emerging women’s movement on a national scale. Roe v. Wade was won in the context of massive civil rights, women’s rights, and anti-war movements. Defending Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose more broadly will require a fight back on the same scale.
Republicans Dismantling Roe v. Wade
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 93 percent of American women live in a state where abortion access is limited through various laws. On February 22, the Trump administration cut Title 10 federal funding to clinics that provide or refer for abortion services, which targets Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of non-abortive family planning care for working class women nationally. In Texas, millions of dollars are being directed to faith-based, anti-abortion service providers. One high-profile example, the Heidi Group, has been under investigation for neglecting to provide even the most basic healthcare services to women. Groups like Women on Web provide online consultation with doctors and abortion pills but even with Roe v. Wade on the books they’re banned in Oklahoma and 18 other U.S. states. In some cases using such services is punishable with jail time. A movement for abortion rights must be connected to overturning these potentially deadly state laws.
We Need a Fighting Leadership for Working Women
A 2018 poll showed two-thirds of Americans support Roe v. Wade. The explosion of #MeToo both as an online phenomena and also a banner for workplace actions against sexual harassment, particularly by the Google and McDonalds workers, clearly shows that there is a mood for an organized fightback against sexism.
Unfortunately, while the mood to fight back is strong, mainstream liberal women’s organizations like NOW and NARAL, as well as the Democratic Party who put themselves forward as the party of women, are not leading a fight in the streets. After the Democratic victories in the midterms last November, they could have built for the women’s marches in January around the call to defend and extend reproductive rights. They could have connected the fight for women’s rights with a rejection of the racist, anti-women, anti-working people Trump agenda. They could have rejected the racist border wall, or gone even further and built support for workers furloughed by the government shutdown. They could have boldly called to mobilize for Medicare for All and a Green New Deal. The Democrats unwillingness to build the movements necessary to win such demands shows that while they definitely want to defeat Trump and the Republicans electorally, they’re afraid of taking any stance that would offend their corporate donors. They cannot be relied on in the fight to defend women’s rights.
Workers Organizing Show the Way Forward
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 2018 experienced the highest number of workers on strike since 1986. Workers in industries dominated by women – teachers, nurses, and hotel workers – have largely been the spark for the revival of labor struggle. These actions set a precedent for how we can force those in power to change course, and shows the important role the labor movement must play to unify working people in a fight against the bosses and billionaires. The labor movement in the U.S. is beginning to rebuild and is more diverse than at any time in the past. To win against the bosses it must take up struggles against all forms of oppression. The labor movement should call to bring #MeToo into the workplaces and organize a broad struggle against harassment. The labor movement must demand the right to reproductive healthcare, including abortion, as well as the right to have a child without the burden of enormous childcare costs – this means demanding free, universal childcare.
Our movements can’t wait for the Democratic Party or the mainstream women’s organizations to become the leadership we need. Defeating backwards anti-choice legislation will require a determined struggle from below. Beyond defensive battles, we must organize for an end to for-profit healthcare, and for a Medicare for All system including free, legal, and accessible abortion. We can fight to win a federal $15 minimum wage and high-quality social housing, which is the bare minimum necessary for working class families. To win lasting change, we’ll need to transform these struggles for reforms into a fight for a radical shift in society – for a socialist society based on human need, not oppression and profit.