Building unity in the fight for reproductive justice

BY:Anita Waters| April 24, 2023
Building unity in the fight for reproductive justice


The following updated report was given to the National Board of the Communist Party USA on April 19th, 2023.

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe last June, it said it was done with abortion cases and was leaving it to the gerrymandered state legislatures to decide on abortion law. States controlled by extreme-right GOP legislatures and Governors are now passing draconian anti-choice measures, criminalizing abortion, submitting women who miscarry to investigation and prosecution, and driving OBGYNs out of their states. Some call their bills “six-week bans,” but pregnancies often can’t be confirmed until the seventh week or later. The bills sometimes have “exceptions” for rape, incest, and the life of the mother, but as abortion rights advocate Jessica Valenti and others point out, none of these are real exceptions. In some cases, there has to be a police report about rape or incest filed weeks before, and in order to be considered life-threatening, the pregnant person must be at death’s door.

Anti-choice forces aren’t happy with overturning Roe and having statewide bans in 26 states. They want a nationwide ban on all abortions. That is why they pursued the case before the Supreme Court to outlaw mifepristone. But people are fighting back.

The right to terminate unwanted pregnancies is foundational for working people’s autonomy and equality. Bans on abortion are one of the hallmarks of fascist regimes. Being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term can be a form of torture for any unwilling person, but even worse for those who are children or victims of rape and incest. Poor women and women of color face disproportionate consequences.

Unwanted pregnancies cause financial setbacks, including incurred medical expenses, lost wages, and loss of benefits and seniority at the workplace, representing thousands of dollars in lifetime earnings lost in what’s called the “motherhood penalty.” Women who sought abortions and were denied were four times more likely to fall below the poverty line than were women who obtained abortions.

It’s also a fact that abortion bans increase the rate of maternal mortality, or deaths due to pregnancy. The risk of death associated with childbirth is at least 14 times higher than that with abortion.

A Communist position on reproductive rights recognizes that the working class can unite only when it promotes liberation and equality across all gender boundaries, and that abortion bans are efforts to divide the working class. We all must embrace the struggle for autonomy over our own bodies.

We also have to look at reproductive rights as encompassing more than just the right to terminate a pregnancy. We need to enable people who want to make families, safely and affordably. U.S. capitalism makes it difficult for people who want children to be able to have them.

While anti-choice forces claim to be “pro-life,” they oppose measures that would actually reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, like free birth control and realistic sex education. They also oppose measures that would make it easier for families to raise safe and healthy kids, like childcare, universal health care, paid parental leave, the child tax credit, and student debt relief.

Over 60% of people in the U.S. are against overturning Roe v. Wade, as poll after poll has confirmed. That sentiment was reflected in the post-Dobbs election. First, there was the August primary in Kansas, where voters rejected an effort to ensconce a ban on abortion into the state constitution. Then, in the midterm elections in November 2022, even “red” state Kentucky rejected that effort, and abortion rights activists won in at least five key states. Finally, in early April 2023, Janet Protasiewicz won a Wisconsin Supreme Court seat by 10 points, with extremely strong support among young voters — wards near college campuses had high turnout rates — after being very upfront about her pro-choice views.

Republican lawmakers are recognizing that abortion bans lose elections, but instead of restoring people’s rights, they have turned to restrictions on voting rights to weaken the youth vote, make voting more difficult, and continuing to gerrymander districts.

In Ohio, we tried to get sympathetic judges onto our Supreme Court in November 2022, like Wisconsin did earlier this month, but lots of hidden corporate money was spent propping up the Republican candidates, all of whom won. The Republican candidate for chief justice spent $1.85 million, the most ever in an Ohio Supreme Court race, against her Democratic rival’s $630,000.

Reproductive rights activists then turned to referendum. A coalition of organizations joined together and drafted an amendment to the constitution much like the one that passed in Michigan. We’re now collecting signatures for that amendment to be on the November ballot. The Ohio district is all in on this struggle. Given that our membership is spread out among the 88 counties in Ohio, the Party has something unique to contribute to this action.

Once the ballot amendment process was underway, Ohio Republicans then decided they wanted to amend the constitution even sooner, to raise the threshold for referenda on constitutional amendments to 60%, i.e. to win by a 20-point margin, and make signature-collection twice as difficult as it currently is. Despite having passed a law to eliminate August elections, the GOP is now calling for an August 2023 election, to put the new threshold into effect in November when the reproductive rights amendment is on the ballot. As the August election is not yet a settled issue, we continue to gather petition signatures and lobby our representatives to protect the democratic right for citizen-run referenda.

If the August election comes to pass in Ohio, joining other states where the Republicans are pushing for the 60% threshold, we will throw ourselves into that struggle, alongside allies like organized labor (which recognizes the 60% threshold as a particular threat) and others, including some dissenting Republicans. Then in November, it will be an all-out GOTV effort, especially to help overcome the new restrictions on students’ voting.

Everyone who supports the struggle for reproductive rights, whether or not abortion is now legal in their state, should remain vigilant, make special efforts to keep youth and women engaged in the electoral process, and take a strong and principled stand against fascist abortion bans.

Images: Stop the bans (Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio on Twitter); Reproductive rights activists gather petitions for a pro-choice amendment (Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio on Twitter)


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