The Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, the biggest accomplishment of the U.S. feminist movement in the 60s and 70s. Fifty years of federal abortion rights are spinning down the drain.
Thirteen states have trigger laws. Abortion is likely to be banned or almost entirely restricted in half of the United States as a result of the Dobbs decision. Millions of people will not be able to access abortion services in their home states or even in neighboring states.
Abortion is healthcare and healthcare is a right. It should be accessible and easy to get; it should be free and available at any hospital. The high cost and inaccessibility of abortion is a product of the inherent sexism in this patriarchal capitalist system that has always sought to control, regulate, criminalize, and pathologize the sexuality of women and LGBTQ+ people.
But the overturning of Roe v. Wade will be especially terrible for the most marginalized sectors and communities across the United States — Poor people, working class people, people of color, and undocumented folks are going to be those most affected by this attack on reproductive rights, and they will face the most hardship in getting the abortion access they need. Overturning Roe means some people will undertake massive debt to get abortions, some will be forced to birth children, some will be seriously hurt, and others will die because of this denial of abortion rights. Black and brown people will be the first to face criminalization for getting abortions. The effect of this decision is clear: the criminalization of abortion doesn’t mean the end of abortion — it only means the end of safe abortions.
Nine unelected judges have the undemocratic power to decide on the bodily autonomy of hundreds of millions of people. From high up in their mansions and cushy Washington, D.C. offices, they are stealing the right to abortion from millions of people in America. Nobody voted for them — they were placed in their seats by the president and the Senate, which is the sector of Congress meant to ensure the overrepresentation of the whitest, most conservative states. Two men who have committed sexual harassment and sexual assault sit in these seats and get to make decisions about what people do with their own bodies.
The problem isn’t just right-wing justices. It is that the Supreme Court, whatever its makeup, has the power to dictate the rights of every single person living in the United States, often going against the interests and will of the majority of the population. Nine people have the ability to force people to birth children, to take away the most basic right of bodily autonomy.
Undoubtedly, the right wing is in a state of jubilation over the overturn of Roe v. Wade. They have been trying to overturn it ever since the decision came down in 1973. State by state, they have put forward legislation to curtail our right to abortion, and have mobilized religious fanatics to harass people at clinics. The most radicalized right wing sectors have bombed clinics and killed doctors who provide reproductive care.
There is nothing pro-life about the Far Right, which supports the murderous cops who kill Black people, wants to eradicate trans people’s existence, and does not support any policy that would ensure that parents have the means to take care of children, such as free and public healthcare, education, and childcare.
The right wing that is actively on the political offensive today is not the same anti-choice right wing that it was in the past. Given political expression by Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” brand of right-wing populist rhetoric, it is shifting to ever more reactionary and oppressive policies to consolidate its base. It is now also made up of the likes of Kyle Rittenhouse supporters, the violent bigots who ran over protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement, people who want to limit voting rights and overturn the 2020 election to keep Trump in office, and those who are now increasingly centering their politics around attacks on bodily autonomy and trans people, especially trans youth. They want to bar trans kids from playing sports and using whatever bathroom reflects their gender identity and makes them feel safest. They are trying to punish the few parents out there who do accept and support their trans kids and prevent them from providing their kids with the gender-affirming healthcare that they need.
Democrats are going to make fiery speeches about abortion rights and act as though they support a person’s right to make decisions about their reproductive health, but those speeches will be nothing but lies and empty promises. The Democrats also bear responsibility for the situation we are in. A key way that Democrats restricted abortion access was the barring of public funds from being used for abortion services. The Hyde Amendment, passed by Jimmy Carter, stopped Medicaid usage for abortions. Carter said:
Well, as you know, there are many things in life that are not fair, that wealthy people can afford and poor people can’t. But I don’t believe that the Federal Government should take action to try to make these opportunities exactly equal, particularly when there is a moral factor involved.
For low income folks and many folks of color, reproductive rights are already denied in several ways. Abortions are extremely costly, people are subjected to forced sterilizations in ICE detention centers, and Black women have a disproportionately high maternal mortality rate due to racism in the medical field. Reproductive rights means more than simply having access to safe and free abortion. Reproductive rights means making a living wage that allows folks to be able to raise a family and having unions to fight for those wages. It means being able to keep families together instead of separating them with borders and prisons. Reproductive rights means bodily autonomy, including gender affirming care.
It means a federal right to accessible abortion.
The Democrats promise to support abortion rights, but the majority actually supports anti-abortion legislation like the Hyde Amendment. They even throw their weight behind anti-choice candidates. They have had majorities and supermajorities in Congress, but they have not passed any legislation guaranteeing the right to an abortion. They want to use the topic of abortion rights to garner votes every election cycle and to inspire campaign donations, but it’s clear that they aren’t interested in our bodily autonomy or our healthcare beyond how weaponizing them keeps them in power to do the bidding of the capitalists and ultra-wealthy.
The situation is dire. We need to fight back. Make no mistake: the Right is going to come for more and more if we don’t organize and mobilize to stop them. They are going to go after abortion pills, and they are going to try to ban abortion on a national level. They are already declaring attacks on trans kids and trans adults, and they are going to broaden their attacks on LGBTQ+ rights. We need to unite and fight back, not only to win the tepid protections that Roe v. Wade guaranteed us, but to win the right to free, legal, and safe abortion as a federal law and to expand reproductive rights so that all people have the right to decide what happens to their bodies and futures.
Voting for Democrats may seem to many like a stopgap measure to at least abate the advance of the Right, but their complicity year after year shows that we can’t put our faith in this losing strategy anymore. The Democrats just want to keep us on a hamster wheel of broken electoral promises. Clearly, voting for them has not worked. Roe v. Wade will be overturned with a Democrat as president and the Democrats in control of both houses of Congress.
The Democrats and their allies have tried to convince us that there is nothing to do but brace ourselves for the overturn of the basic right to an abortion and just try to vote more Democrats into office. But there is an alternative. It is the more difficult option, but it is the best way that we can ultimately win and defend against the attacks of a patriarchal capitalist state. That option is to mobilize a mass movement in the streets. It is to organize groups to take the struggle to our workplaces. It is the path that millions of people took to win in Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico.
And it’s what won us even the limited protections of Roe v. Wade in the first place. We have a radical and combative feminist legacy to look back on. On International Women’s Day in 1970, people demanded free and safe abortion on demand, 24-hour, community-controlled childcare, and worker control of profits. That same year, 50,000 people took to the streets of New York City to fight for abortion rights and more.
But that movement was co-opted and quelled — it was funneled into nonprofits funded by billionaires whose primary strategy for decades has been to convince us to put our faith in the courts and the Democratic Party. That faith is misplaced and their strategy is a losing one. It is up to us, the people, to build a movement that does not fight for only one cause and doesn’t repeat the mistakes of white feminism, TERF feminism, or lean-in girl boss liberal feminism. We must build a movement that doesn’t put our fate in the hands of capitalist politicians who work directly against our interests and endanger the most marginalized sectors of society.
That movement must include all those ready to fight to protect the right to an abortion and reproductive rights. But to ensure that abortion becomes free, safe, legal and accessible on demand, to ensure the right to bodily autonomy, we need to connect the dots: to show that the oppression of women, LGBTQ+ folks, Black and brown folks, and immigrants is part of an intricate system of oppression engendered by a racist, sexist, trans and homophobic capitalist system. Within a broader movement, we need a socialist feminist wing that knows that the struggle for the liberation of women, queer folks, and all oppressed peoples is tied to the overthrow of the capitalist system.
Above all, we need to build a movement that knows that it can win. Most social movements of our generation have not seen many victories, but we are seeing them now in the labor movement. Recently, we have seen Starbucks and Amazon workers winning union elections. There is a broad range of folks in the United States who are fighting to unionize because their experience has shown that taking the fight into their own hands and harnessing their power as workers is the best way to fight for their rights and to improve their lives. We want those unions to be fighting unions that stand in support of abortion rights. We want to shut down the system not only through mobilizing in the streets, but by mobilizing in our workplaces as well. The working class runs and produces everything that we rely on as a society, and if we shut down then we can bring the whole system to its knees.
It is possible to win. So let’s take the streets tonight. We must express all of the rage of this moment and say: We are not going to accept this attack on our rights. We are going to fight, we are going to build a movement, and we are going to win.
If you are in New York City, join us in Washington Square Park at 6:30 p.m. for a rally and march. And if you would like to join us in the fight for socialist feminism, sign up here.