Susan Dorazio, Women’s Liberation activist and past-convener of the Women’s Commission of the Socialist Party USA, currently residing in Scotland, highlights the dead-end into which the Democratic Party has taken the once vibrant US Women’s Liberation Movement over abortion rights.
Since the U.S. pro-choice and pro-life campaigns spring from the same source, namely the ‘new politics’ and the liberation movements of the Vietnam War era, some background is needed to appreciate their connections and meaning today.
From the late 1960’s through the 1970’s. abortion rights was intrinsic to the Women’s Liberation movement. During this period, one-third of the states in the U.S. liberalized or repealed their criminal abortion laws. In 1973, both the abortion rights and the Women’s Liberation movements seemed to emerge victorious when the U.S. Supreme Court, in their ruling on Roe v Wade, deemed abortion legal in all states on the grounds of a woman’s right to privacy as granted in the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.
However, as significant as this court decision was for enabling legal abortions to be available in all states, it was by no means an affirmation of the position of the women’s movement that abortion on demand was part of every woman’s right to make decisions involving her body and her life whether a particular state legislature liked it or not.
In fact, within months of the Supreme Court decision, the anti-abortion movement was vigorously organizing at both the state and national level. And in 1976, three years after the Roe v Wade decision, the U.S. Congress passed the Hyde Amendment to the Health, Education, and Welfare budget, banning the use of federal funds for abortion. In other words, no woman on Medicaid, the federally funded health insurance for low-income women, had access to a legal abortion.
Since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has been inserted each year into the federal budget, often without debate. That is it has been kept on the books, for 36 years thanks to Democratic and Republican members of Congress and Presidents, alike. By excluding abortion services from federal health insurance coverage, this piece of legislation now leaves tens of thousands of low-income women, young women, women serving in the military, Native American women, rural women, and women of color without their full reproductive rights. To quote the National Network of Abortion Funds, “For 36 years, this ban has burdened the most vulnerable and disadvantaged…(The) legacy of the Hyde Amendment is one of brutal economic and racial oppression.”
Indeed, this legislative action, and others at the state level, have been both a response to, and encouragement for, agitation and violence by such virulent anti-abortion groups as Operation Rescue and Army of God. As described well in Judy Molland’s commentary below, the pro-life movement, with its arsenal of tactics including abortion clinic bombings, intimidation of women seeking abortion services, physical attacks, and even murders of abortion providers, has created a hateful environment for women and men simply exercising their basic human and civil rights.
Meanwhile, the pro-choice movement has stagnated. For decades, the abortion rights movement has allowed the anti-abortion forces to pummel us with assaults, both literal and figurative. Instead of staying in the streets to demand the provision of full reproductive rights in all states, and organizing for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, women’s rights militants have let their agenda collapse into that of the liberal activists whose primary allegiance is to the dead-end strategies of the Democratic Party.
While there has been a resurgence of revolutionary socialist thought and action in the U.S. the abortion rights movement has failed to identify itself with the issues of socialized health care, human rights, social and economic justice, and independent political action. What’s left of it has become a purely feminist campaign, part of a reformist/stop-gap agenda, rather than agitation in alignment with a global movement for fundamental social, economic, political, and interpersonal change.
40 years ago, the differences between the pro-choice and pro-life movements were stark, each driven by distinct ideologies. Today, as participants in the “mushy middle” politics of the U.S. their antagonism has become largely meaningless. Both pro-life and pro-choice stances have become all-American, hence their attractiveness to opportunistic politicians invested in the status quo. For the U.S. radical left, the task is not to link up with the liberals in exposing the self-evident hypocrisy of the pro-life movement, nor to ignore the fact that “choice” doesn’t exist for women without jobs, housing, health care, or child care.
Instead the U.S. radical left needs to regain its commitment to abortion rights and its grassroots militancy in order to provide an alternative to the liberal, mainstream reproductive rights organizations whose placating posture makes them complicit in the ongoing attacks, or inertia, on abortion rights. A re-energized, radicalized pro-choice movement is one that will organize against restrictive and state and federal laws that prevent abortion access to young, low-income, and immigrant women, and women of color; defend abortion providers; demand sex education in the public schools; and act in solidarity with women and men around the world who view women’s rights in general, and abortion rights in particular, as pillars of the new global society we want to help create.
This position is captured well in the following statement issued last month by the Campaign for Women’s Reproductive Rights in Melbourne, Australia:-
On October 13 join Campaign for Women’s Reproductive Rights in celebrating the fourth anniversaryof the legalisation of abortion in Victoria. We’ll be gathering on the steps of Parliament House, Spring Street, Melbourne at 2.00pm. On October 13 declare your support for a women’s right to reproductive choice and demand:=
- Free, safe abortion and contraception on demand for all women and an end to sterilization without meaningful consent
- Free comprehensive healthcare, childcare and disability support services for all and quality, affordable housing for all those who need it
- An equal, living wage for all and full employer-paid parental leave so that every woman can afford to fund her reproductive choices
- An end to all institutional discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual preference, race, income or ethnic origin, particularly those that restrict reproductive choices
- Free, comprehensive sex education for all and compulsory training for all health workers in all aspects of reproductive health
IS “PRO-LIFE” JUST A DIFFERENT NAME FOR “ANTI-WOMAN”?
We are publishing the article by Judy Morland, which highlights the complete hypocrisy of the so-called ‘Pro-Lifers’ in the USA. We have left in her concluding statement, where she endorses New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, one time Democrat, later Republican, then Republican-leaning Independent. Emancipation & Liberation gives no support to this big-business billionaire and imperial war supporting politician. However, this weak conclusion, to an otherwise hard-hitting article, just highlights the problem raised by Susan Dorazio above, about the political deadend many sincere pro-Choice campaigners have ended up in.
I am sick of politicians using the term “pro-life” when what they really mean is “anti-abortion” or ” anti-women”.
As Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times last Sunday:
We must stop letting Republicans name themselves “pro-life” and Democrats as “pro-choice.” It is a huge distortion.
So many politicians who proclaim themselves “pro-life” are really not in favor of life at all: they show no interest in the lives of children once they are born ; they aggressively promote the death penalty and are against common-sense gun control ; they even want to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency , which seeks to ensure clean air, clean water and healthy living conditions for all.
How can you call yourself “pro-life” and oppose Head Start, which provides basic education, health and nutrition for the most low-income children and their parents?
If anything these politicians are anti-life.
I have had these thoughts for a long time, but thank you, Thomas Friedman, for voicing them loud and clear in last Sunday’s New York Times.
Here’s what Friedman had to say:-
The term “pro-life” should be a shorthand for respect for the sanctity of life. But I will not let that label apply to people for whom sanctity for life begins at conception and ends at birth. What about the rest of life? Respect for the sanctity of life, if you believe that it begins at conception, cannot end at birth. That radical narrowing of our concern for the sanctity of life is leading to terrible distortions in our society.
Care2 reported last week on Richard Mourdock, the Tea Party-backed Republican Senate candidate in Indiana, who declared during a debate that he was against abortion even in the event of rape because he “came to realize that life is that gift from God. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
Just a few days earlier, Republican representative, Joe Walsh of Illinois, said that he opposed abortion even in cases where the life of the mother is in danger, because “with modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance” where is had been necessary to perform an abortion to save a woman’s life.
And then there’s Todd Atkin with his declaration that pregnancy as a result of “legitimate rape” (whatever that is) is rare because we women have the power to “shut the whole thing down.”
These men are not religious. They are sanctimonious idiots at best and patronizing liars at worst.
Did these men emerge from the Taliban? What are they doing in 21st century America?
I first came across this game with semantics back in the 1990′s, when Randall Terry’s anti-abortion organization Operation Rescue hit Los Angeles. How could these people call themselves “pro-life” when they were so anti-life, so angry and so full of venom?
I learned then how important it was to use the correct terms when dealing with the media; rather than “pro-life,” we learned to say “anti-choice” or “anti-abortion.”
I can do no better than Thomas Friedman in describing what characterizes real pro-life people, as opposed to the Richard Mourdocks and Joe Walshes of the far-right Republican party, who disguise their hateful desire to control women with a supposedly “Christian” desire to preserve fertilized eggs.
Again, from Friedman in the New York Times:-
That’s why, for me, the most “pro-life” politician in America is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. While he supports a woman’s right to choose, he has also used his position to promote a whole set of policies that enhance everyone’s quality of life — from his ban on smoking in bars and city parks to reduce cancer, to his ban on the sale in New York City of giant sugary drinks to combat obesity and diabetes, to his requirement for posting calorie counts on menus in chain restaurants, to his push to reinstate the expired federal ban on assault weapons and other forms of common-sense gun control, to his support for early childhood education, to his support for mitigating disruptive climate change.
Now that is what I call “pro-life.”
Thank you, Mr. Friedman
For an earlier article on Abortion Rights see Venezueala – The Dangers of a Revolution Against a Woman’s Right to Abortion:- Venezuela – The Dangers Of A Revolution Against A Woman’s Right To Abortion