A new, vicious right-wing attack has been launched on access to abortion in the U.S.
The Alabama State Legislature passed the most punitive and restrictive law in the United States on May 14, placing a total ban on abortions in the state, even in cases of rape or incest. The only possible exemption, very difficult to obtain, is if a pregnancy endangers the physical or mental health of a woman. The bill makes performing or attempting to perform an abortion a felony.
Alabama joins seven other states — so far — in passing laws that defiantly flout the Constitutional protection to abortion guaranteed in the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. Roe limits abortion only after a fetus is “viable” — at about 20 weeks into pregnancy.
Some of the new laws actually outlaw abortion at four weeks — earlier than most people could even suspect they were pregnant.
There has been an outpouring of outrage, protest and analysis about these violent legislative attacks. Some mainstream pundits see the campaign as a Republican ramp-up to the coming 2020 national elections.
But the reasons go far deeper — centuries deep into the foundation of power and exploitation in the U.S.
The laws are being passed to strengthen misogyny, white supremacy and hatred of LGBTQ people and people with disabilities.
Most of all, the laws are being passed as a brutal weapon in the ongoing and renewed attack on U.S. workers and on the growing solidarity rising in the multinational, multigender and multigenerational working class.
It is no accident that the attack on abortion access is happening as women and gender nonconforming people are leading mass, militant, rank-and-file worker actions. Over the past couple of years, millions of U.S. teachers, nurses, tech workers and fast food workers, often headed by women of color, walked out in strike actions from schools, hospitals, Google offices and McDonald’s restaurants.
These workers took gender and reproductive justice issues to the picket line as work issues — from sexual harassment to access to contraceptives in health coverage, to family leave, to equal pay. And they tied these issues to the need for ending oppression based on race and national origin.
Dejuana Thompson, founder of Woke Vote Birmingham, exposed the deep racism in the recent laws, saying to the Birmingham News May 19: “The [Birmingham Southern] College Republicans released a statement equating the  bombing of the four little [Black] girls at historic 16th Street Baptist Church with the sentencing of medical professionals who would perform abortions. … We, as organizers, will not be silent about this kind of revisionist history and the attempted erasure of the Black woman’s experience in this country. … [the fact that] Black women’s bodies were used as breeders and then discarded as tools.”
Since Congress ended the use of federal money for abortions in the 1976 Hyde Amendment, ongoing limits placed on abortion access have hit poor people of color, and Black, Brown and Indigenous women, extra hard. The struggle to survive financially as family has intensified, while the new anti-abortion laws actually threaten criminal penalties for efforts to obtain relief.
Though abortion access is often phrased as an issue of women’s rights, the attack affects any person with a uterus. Devin Cole of Social Trans Initiative, on their way to a May 19 protest in Mobile, Ala., clarified this on Facebook: “Not everyone who gets pregnant is a woman, not everyone with a uterus is a woman and not every woman has a uterus. [We must] call for reproductive justice for all — women, trans men, non-binary people with a uterus and intersex people.”
Fighting for abortion access is one part of the struggle for reproductive and gender justice, for the right of people to choose when, where or whether to bear children — and also for the right to have the resources to shelter, feed, clothe, educate and nurture their children.
The fight for abortion access is also another link in the ongoing struggle against capitalism’s treatment of people as property. As Jenny Arras said to the Birmingham News: “This law is dangerous. … It says: ‘We will make your bodies and what they carry inside — our property.’”
As communists, we struggle always against the deadly claws of capitalism that reach into our lives. We fight for the right of workers and oppressed people to dignity, joy and self-determination, especially for people of color.
To counter the hate-filled campaign on access to abortion, we fiercely struggle for reproductive and gender justice.
Now is the chance to be part of working-class actions by organizing International Workers’ Solidarity Days (workersolidarity.net) to fight back with protests, rallies and calls for “Reproductive and gender justice now!”