Women’s fight for justice and equality
Published Dec 6, 2008 8:28 PM
WW photo: G. Dunkel
For working-class and oppressed women—especially immigrant women,
unemployed, low-paid and low-income women, lesbians and trans women—the
struggle for reproductive rights, justice and equality is an important part of
the overall working-class struggle against capitalist exploitation and
Women cannot participate fully in society or in that struggle without the
fundamental right to control their own bodies and reproductive capacities.
Without the full participation and leadership of women, the working class will
never be able to win the historic battle against the capitalist class. The
liberation of women and all the oppressed, no matter what gains we may achieve,
will only be assured when the socialist revolution triumphs and a new society
begins to be built.
Working-class women factored hugely in the electoral victory of Barack Obama
for president. The election was in essence a referendum against racism, a vote
to bring jobs to millions of workers in the failing economy, as well as a
repudiation of years of reaction that have impacted women in devastating
The overt racism of Hillary Clinton did not win in the end. Nor were women
fooled into believing that a racist, right-wing, arch-reactionary like Sarah
Palin was deserving of support just because she’s a woman.
On Nov. 4, voters in three states defeated anti-woman, anti-choice ballot
In Colorado, the grossly-misnamed “equal rights” amendment would
have conferred full legal and constitutional rights on fertilized eggs and thus
outlaw all abortions and many types of birth control, as well as give women
second-class status in relation to their fertilized eggs. This law was defeated
73 percent to 27 percent.
In South Dakota, voters revisited a law already rejected in 2006. This time the
abortion ban supposedly had exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or
incest, or which endanger a woman’s health. But these were onerous
exceptions that would have required women to submit to all kinds of humiliating
procedures, undergo DNA testing, and fulfill other strict requirements in order
to prove they were “worthy” of being granted an abortion.
Fifty-five percent of voters said no to this abortion ban.
In California, voters for the third time in four years rejected–by 52
percent–another law aimed at young women, requiring them to notify their
parents when seeking an abortion, no matter if these girls are neglected,
abused or victimized by incest. Many states already have parental notification
or parental consent laws that make choosing and getting an abortion an option
filled with many difficult obstacles for young women to overcome.
Obama has already pledged to use his executive authority to rescind the global
“gag rule” that prohibits aid funding to hundreds of health clinics
around the world if abortion is even mentioned as an option for women. This
policy, which Bush implemented, has had severe detrimental effects, such as
unsafe abortion being the main cause of death for 55 percent of the women who
die in Ethiopia.
Many hope that Obama will appoint justices to the U.S. Supreme Court who will
affirm Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision–after years of militant
struggle–that legalized women’s right to choose abortion.
If women rely on the Democratic Congress, however, to initiate pro-reproductive
rights legislation–such as to overturn the Hyde Amendment that denies
Medicaid funding to millions of poor women for abortions–we need to think
Only 42 percent of all House members in the new Congress are abortion rights
supporters. The U.S. Senate now has only 38 members, an increase of three,
committed to reproductive rights. Women, especially working-class women, are a
distinct minority in both houses of Congress.
The anti-woman, right-wing agenda to turn back the clock for women’s
rights and women’s health is not going to abate, whether it’s on a
state-by-state basis or nationally. There will be many battles ahead.
As revolutionaries we need to give our full solidarity to every struggle to
restore and expand reproductive rights and justice for all women, especially
poor women and women of color, along with demanding free universal health care
We need to continue to fight for housing, education, health care, jobs at
living wages, childcare, transportation, nutritious affordable food, and
everything else that’s a prerequisite for a decent, quality life.
The capitalist meltdown will increasingly propel working-class and oppressed
women into these struggles. The great hopes and expectations of working-class
women will be realized in the epic battles against capitalism.
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