Abortion Rights are Human Rights: No Apologies, No Restrictions!

Women protest against Texas’ new law restricting abortions at a rally in Austin in September.
(Jay Janner / Associated Press)

                                                        By Comrade Redbeard

    Once again, the state of Texas is on the cutting edge of reactionary politics. Earlier this year, the cultural luddites, moral lepers, and sadists with a quorum in the Texan legislature and governor’s mansion passed one of the most extreme anti-abortion laws in recent US history. Essentially, the new law, SB 8, overturns the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling by banning all abortions after six weeks, with zero exceptions for rape or incest, well before the vast majority of women know they’re pregnant. In a neoliberal twist on previous state-level abortion restrictions, SB 8 privatizes enforcement of the law by allowing anyone to sue abortion providers or anyone who “aids and abets” an abortion, which could theoretically be the Uber or Lyft driver who gives a patient a ride to a clinic, or the friend or relative who helps them with bus fare. For their contribution, they may receive as much as $10,000 from the state. Similar to how the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act deputized the entire white settler population of the United States to hunt down Black people, so SB 8 transforms the public as a whole into potential bounty hunters, adding to the fear many women already feel when they discover an unwanted pregnancy, and the difficulties of combatting the law through the legal system. In September, in a dark-of-the-night maneuver known as a shadow docket decision, the far-right majority on the Supreme Court rewarded Texas for their legal ingenuity by refusing to block the law. Several challenges to SB 8 have already gone into effect, such as the bold action of one Dr. Alan Braid of San Antonio,1 but we can only guess how many women in Texas have been forced to give birth over the past month, or compelled to jump through even more hoops by traveling across state lines.

It should go without saying that reproductive rights, including abortion, are human rights. As with all forms of health care, abortions must be free, universally accessible, and available on demand. For this, we should make no apologies, excuses, or caveats. I have little interest in debating the merits of reproductive freedom here. To me, abortion rights are no more disputable than the right of every child to be free from hunger, every person to a safe and secure home, and of every person with a disability to live with dignity in an accessible society. There is no middle ground, no compromise worth pursuing. There is no scientific data or moral argument that the anti-choice zealots can hide behind, and as figures like Dr. Willie Parker demonstrate, it’s entirely possible to both support abortion rights and be a devout Christian or follower of another faith. 

The abortion rights won back by women in the past century and the early decades of this one were not the fruits of polite requests, tepid reforms, or a magnanimous state. They were seized through sustained militant action by women and their supporters. Since Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the fight for reproductive rights, like all too many social movements in the U.S., has been largely captured, de-fanged, and domesticated by the left wing of imperialism, as exemplified by the Democratic Party and the parasites that hang off of it. 

In the meantime, the Right has waged a shrewd, patient, and effective death of a thousand cuts campaign against abortion access. The anti-abortion movement (“pro-life” being nothing but a sick joke, a stance that usually ends the moment a child leaves a mother’s body) has installed a whole arsenal of weapons throughout society to ensure that abortion is legal only as a technicality for millions of girls and women, including enforced ultrasounds and waiting periods, state-imposed false medical information, laws designed to shutter abortion clinics and make the procedure unaffordable for working class women, parental consent and notification mandates, and even fake clinics run by antiabortionists. And who can forget the mobs of terrorists who routinely harass and attack patients and medical providers at clinics themselves? These measures have yet to overturn the nominal right to abortion in the United States so far, but they have severely weakened it, particularly for poor and colonized women. In states like Texas and Mississippi (the origin point of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a pending Supreme Court case that could bring about the end of Roe) they have helped create some of the worst maternal mortality rates in the United States, which already can claim the highest maternal death figures in the industrialized world. Thanks to the intimately intertwined evils of class and racial oppression, New Afrikan women in Texas and Mississippi make up a disproportionate amount of the dead.2

26th August 1970: A women’s liberation demonstration in New York. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

In all of this, the anti-abortion movement has had a powerful if unwitting ally in the form of public ignorance. Large portions of Amerikan society are misinformed about the realities of abortion and reproductive health, even if majorities still reject total abortion bans. This is a testament to the pitiful state of public health education, as well as the effectiveness of the anti-abortion Right’s strategies.3

Instead of apologizing or pleading for abortion rights, appealing to capitalistic notions about individual choice or efforts to depoliticize a fundamentally political topic-the power human beings have over their own bodies- we must defend them with every tool and tactic we have, and those we have yet to create. What’s more, we must go beyond defense and go on the offensive. Simply trying to hold onto the incomplete abortion protections allowed in the United States, whether through the courts or by voting for the “right” politicians has been a losing strategy overall. We can use the limited legal means allowed under Amerikan fascism, but we cannot rely on the capitalist, racist, patriarchal state to defend human rights, nor on bourgeois politicians or judges to recognize passive public support for this stance or that. These are one-way express tickets to disappointment and defeat. After all, revolutionary struggle is the exercise of independent class power. 

When it comes to women’s liberation, that also means guiding our actions with proletarian feminism. What is that? Unlike bourgeois/white feminism, which is the feminism embraced by the so-called liberal sections of the ruling classes and those that aspire to join them, proletarian feminism is created by and meant for the vast majority of women in the world. These are the working class and peasant women, women from oppressed nations, women forced to live and work underground or on the margins of society, women who are super-exploited, neglected, and abused, yet keep the wheels of life turning in public and private. Proletarian feminism is rooted in their experiences and interests, as shown by figures like the late Indian revolutionary Anuradha Ghandy, aka Avanti. It is a revolutionary, mass-based socialist feminism. It is a feminism that imperialism cannot steal from us. The fight for women’s liberation, which is also a fight for women’s reproductive and sexual self-determination, has been part of the strongest and most successful socialist revolutionary struggles for generations, and socialists and communists have long been at the forefront of women’s emancipation. And so it must continue to be! We must understand that “the struggle for women’s liberation cannot be successful from the struggle to overthrow the imperialist system itself,”4 and vice versa.

This is why we raise our heads, our fists and our voices to say: Abortion rights are human rights! No apologies, no restrictions!

1. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/texas-abortion-law-alan-braid-doctor-sued/

2. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/may/30/texas-maternal-mortality-crisis-black-women-medicaid and https://www.jacksonfreepress.com/news/2019/may/23/mississippi-debates-abortion-maternal-mortality-re/

3. https://www.kff.org/womens-health-policy/poll-finding/abortion-knowledge-and-attitudes-kff-polling-and-policy-insights/

4. https://www.npr.org/2021/10/04/1042454835/the-provisions-in-texas-restrictive-abortion-law-are-not-popular-an-npr-poll-fin

5. Anuradha Ghandy, “Philosophical Trends in the Feminist Movement.” 

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