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Women’s fight for justice and equality

Published Dec 6, 2008 8:28 PM

Kris Hamel
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 oppression.

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 ways.

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 initiatives.

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 again.

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 for all.

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.