It’s 2006 and we are very close to losing Roe. Fifteen states have criminal bans on the books that would outlaw abortion with few exceptions, and Ohio legislators are considering a law that will prohibit all abortions with no exceptions, even if the woman's life is at stake.
This movement and all people who care about the fundamental rights of women are facing a juncture, and which way we go will decide the future for generations. The pouring of all hopes and energies into the Democratic Party that has sacrificed the issue of abortion to “winning” in the mid-term elections leaves us with this question: at what point will we decide to really fight and at what point does it become too late?
The women of the pro-choice movement must resolve to take a radical departure from the strategy that is in large part responsible for the ground we have lost. Funneling all our energies, money and imagination into elections and candidates and a political process that is howlingly disconnected and at odds with people's needs, objectives, interests and principles has to be roundly and decisively rejected.
Unless there’s a drastic shift of strategy from accepting "what's possible" within the official politics of this country that are pitching far right, unless we bust through the confines that are squeezing the life out of what we have going for us the most - the initiative of millions of women who are looking for a way out and asking to be called into action - we are going to lose it all, and the agenda of the Operation Save America lunatics now moving to shut down the last abortion clinic in Mississippi will be the handmaid’s tale we will actually be living.
When you have a situation where even the nine pro-choice women Democrats in the Senate support Pennsylvania's Robert Casey Jr., an anti-choice, pro-war, anti-stem cell research Democrat, because, in their words, his election is "critical to our efforts of regaining the majority in the U.S. Senate," isn't it time for something drastically and radically different?
There is still time, but the clock is ticking. If we treat Roe as already gone we will certainly lose. We cannot settle for a defensive strategy of fighting attacks on abortion state by state. And what is most important, if the whole agenda of unlimited war, torture, massive spying, attacks on gays and women and the destruction of basic rights is not rejected and the Bush regime driven from power, it will become increasing impossible to stop any single outrage. The entire Bush agenda and fascist remaking of society have to be brought to a HALT.
World Can’t Wait is calling on people to reject accommodating to and settling for what has become a killing logic. What begins as something too dreadful to contemplate becomes today’s compromise position that is then signed into law and given a bipartisan legislative mandate and legitimacy. The point is not, voting or not. Our point is that if our struggle remains confined within the parameters of the elections, we will lose - even if the Democrats win.
World Can’t Wait is calling on people to step outside of these confines - to find your sharpest tongues to say the whole political discourse around this is WRONG and has to be radically altered in the way political discourse has always been changed: by what is initially a minority of society stepping up and stepping out in massive enough numbers to create an entirely different discourse and political dynamic than the one officially permitted. The passivity and demobilization of the pro-choice and women’s movement needs to be swiftly reversed. And the money we need must be found by going directly to the people, instead of allowing ourselves to be limited by the purse strings of those who want to muzzle us.
Public opinion on the war did not change because people voted for Democrats - it changed in spite of it. Massive political action in the streets put out an example and a position that the actual reality of the war soon confirmed for millions of people who were not yet convinced. What would have happened had we not been there in the fall of 2002? Would people be drawing the same conclusions? Would opinion polls on the war be what they are now? Would dissent have been completely silenced without millions of people refusing to “watch what you say” and instead going up against that kind of intimidation in massive resistance, saying "No! Your war is wrong and unjust, and you will not prosecute it in our name? Would GI’s today be able to say, "I refuse" without this?
The only thing that has a chance of beating back the assault on abortion, on derailing the assertion of patriarchal morality and authority being made into law, of stopping the dangerous fascist remaking of society that is undergirding an endless war for empire, is to put all our energies, post haste, into truly massive mobilization and resistance.
On October 5th World Can’t Wait is calling for a day of mass mobilization to break the paralysis that still grips too much of American political life and to say Enough - Bring this to a halt! Drive Out the Bush Regime. We are calling on people to walk out of schools, and off their jobs, to stop shopping and close their shops, and to assemble in massive demonstrations.
Be part of taking this momentous step. It is time to pool our energies and resources to take responsibility to really change the course of history. There is no other way the political will of the people will be heard this fall - no other way it will not be frittered away and dissipated.
As the World Can't Wait Call says: The future is unwritten. Which one we get is up to us.
Drafted by Mary Lou Greenberg, an activist in the women's liberation movement in the 1960s who has defended women's clinics and abortion providers across the country. She received a Susan B. Anthony Award for grassroots activism from the NYC Chapter of the National Organization for Women in 2001. She works with World Can't Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime and is a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA - NYC Branch.
Debra Sweet, National Coordinator, The World Can't Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime (www.worldcantwait.org)
Merle Hoffman, Founder/President of Choices Women's Medical and Mental Health Center, Long Island City, NY, est. 1971 as one of the first ambulatory abortion centers; co-founder of the National Abortion Federation (NAF) and founder of the NY Pro-Choice Coalition; publisher/editor-in-chief of On the Issues: the Progressive Women's Quarterly.
Eleanor J. Bader, co-author, Targets of Hatred: Anti-Abortion Terrorism; contributor to Z, Library Journal, Lillith, NY Law Journal and The Brooklyn Rail.
Rosemary Candelario, Pro-choice activist, co-founder of the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund, formerly of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, the Abortion Access Project, and the Reproductive Freedom Taskforce of Refuse & Resist.
Please sign and circulate widely. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know if we can add your name to this Call to Action.
Appendix to: A Call to Action for the Women's Movement
And Everyone Who Cares About Women's Lives
Food for Thought - Lessons from History
The Bush regime and its whole agenda, including an end to the right to abortion, will not be stopped by the fall elections. It will not be stopped by pouring money and energy down the drain of Democratic Party candidates. A case in point: The April 2004 March for Women's Lives mobilized over a million people to march in DC for reproductive freedom. The energy and passion of the crowd to defend women's rights was inspiring. But the take-home message to "get out the vote" was disarming, demobilizing and ultimately, demoralizing when the campaign brought more compromise and conciliation by the Democratic Party. People came away thinking no one in power was listening, and they were right.
Hilary Clinton was a big star at the April rally. But by January 2005, in opposition to overwhelming sentiment at the march, she was urging people to find "common ground" with anti-choice forces to reduce the need for abortion. She said, as her husband did, that abortion should be "rare, and said that it represents "a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women."
This kind of giving ground and legitimacy to the moral and political position of a hard core within the Republican Party that, once fed, will not stop at banning abortion, is deadly. They are now demanding the banning of contraception and accurate, science-based sex education. You cannot seek "common ground" with religious fundamentalists. The outlook and active agenda of the assault on abortion, on birth control, and the argument against gay marriage is that marriage is for procreation and procreation is the only purpose for sex. If you don’t believe it, look at the written decisions by the State Courts in NY on gay marriage. There is no mythical center position acceptable to theocrats from Flip Benham to Antonin Scalia who want to see the Bible as law.
The truth is that abortion on demand is absolutely necessary if women are to be free and have the ability to determine their life's course, and it is in the interests of everyone who wants a better world to enable half of humanity to play a full role in all of society. A woman who does not have reproductive choice has no more freedom than a slave. Abortion should not be "rare," but available and accessible to every woman who wants or needs to end a pregnancy and without apology.
But "rare" is now the accepted Democratic Party mantra, and it's paving the way for “never,“ as demonstrated in the current Senate race in Pennsylvania where Bob Casey, Jr., an anti-choice, pro-war, anti-stem cell research Democrat, is running against an anti-choice, pro-war, anti-stem cell research Republican. Senator Charles Schumer, the top Senate recruiter for the Democrats, forced a pro-choice woman to drop out of the race in favor of Casey. Schumer has called defending abortion "a game" that the Democrats "can't afford to play" any longer. Even if the Democrats were to succeed, we will lose.
Women's rights leaders rightly called this out as "an effort by party leaders to build a so-called 'bigger tent' at the expense of women's rights." But the solution they urged, threatening Democrats with the loss of women's votes, is nowhere close to what's needed to derail the unrelenting assault on fundamental rights by this regime.
As World Can't Wait (www.worldcantwait.org) states in its Call:
...There is not going to be some savior from the Democratic Party. This whole idea of putting our hopes and energies into 'leaders' who tell us to seek common ground with fascists and religious fanatics is proving every day to be a disaster, and actually serves to demobilize people...
The point is this: history is full of examples where people who had right on their side fought against tremendous odds and were victorious. And it is also full of examples of people passively hoping to wait it out, only to get swallowed up by a horror beyond what they ever imagined. The future is unwritten. Which one we get is up to us.
Mary Lou Greenberg, July 2006