Women’s struggle for choice continues

By Julie Fry


Jan. 22 is the 37th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that guaranteed the constitutional right of women to have abortions. The decision came after decades of struggle by women in the U.S. for access to birth control and safe abortions. Roe was decided during the height of the modern women’s movement when millions of women were demanding liberation from all forms of patriarchy and sexism, including the crucial right to decide if and when to bear children.

Roe v. Wade was an incredible victory for women. No longer would women in the U.S. have to suffer through medically unsafe abortions, from which thousands of women died or were seriously injured every year. Women at last had won the right to control their own bodies, opening up an enormous array of freedoms for women who could at last control their destiny in a significant way.

This freedom for women was a tremendous blow to the sexist structure of this country, and the ruling class recognized this fact immediately. From the day Roe v. Wade was decided, it has been under attack. One of the two major bourgeois political parties, the Republican Party, made defeating Roe v. Wade one of the pillars of its political platform. Misogynists everywhere have targeted abortion clinics across the country, subjecting women and their doctors to the most heinous violence and threats. These murderers, aided and protected by the state, have closed clinics all over the country. Today, 88 percent of counties in the United States have no identifiable abortion provider. In non-urban areas, the figure increases to 97 percent.

Just taking a look back at the past year alone, it is clear that the right to safe and legal abortion is still under attack from all sides.

Health care reform targets abortion

The health care reform legislation that appears to be close to being finalized in Congress sells out workers of all genders, but so far still contains a particularly low blow to women. Both the House and Senate versions of the health care bill contain amendments that would all but eliminate women’s access to pay for abortion, even through private insurance that women are paying for themselves.

The Stupak amendment, named for the Democratic congressperson who proposed it, is a part of the House health care bill. The amendment mandates that anyone who receives one of the new proposed federal subsidies to purchase private insurance is prohibited from purchasing a health care insurance policy that covers abortion. Further, any employer who buys “exchange” coverage for her or his employees under one of these subsidies, also being referred to as an “exchange,” would be barred from purchasing a policy that includes abortion coverage. This mechanism of federal subsidies for the purchase of private health insurance is the primary way the new legislation promises to expand health insurance coverage, flawed as that may be. Women who receive abortion coverage through their employer would lose their coverage if their boss decides to participate in the exchange.

Women on Medicaid have already been banned from receiving abortion coverage. The Stupak amendment adds millions of women to the category of those who will be denied access to abortion. Similar language in the Senate version of the legislation, proposed by yet another Democrat, Ben Nelson, would have a similar effect in barring access.

The success of these two amendments in the legislation so far is evidence of the complete abandonment of women’s rights by the Democratic Party. Democrats currently control both houses of Congress and the executive branch. Yet this Democratic legislation includes one of the worst attacks on women’s right to abortion since Roe v.Wade was decided.

Justice for Dr. Tiller

This betrayal comes right after one of the worst attacks on abortion in years: the assassination of Dr. George Tiller last spring. Dr. Tiller was one of the true heroes of the pro-choice struggle. He literally risked his life every day to provide critical, life-saving later-term abortions for women. After years of threats and murders of doctors, he was one of only a handful of doctors in the country who still provided this critical medical service.

Dr. Tiller wore a bulletproof vest every day. He traveled in an armored car. He survived a previous assassination attempt and rebuilt his clinic after it was bombed several years earlier. On May 31, Tiller was gunned down in broad daylight at his church by a notorious anti-choice bigot named Scott Roeder.

Roeder’s murder trial began mid-January. The presiding judge, who has received campaign contributions from anti-choice groups, is allowing the defense to put on a political case and argue that Roeder was acting in defense of “unborn babies.” If successful, this could lead to Roeder’s conviction on only a lesser manslaughter charge and would give the green light to anti-choice activists everywhere who want to kill doctors.

The battle to defeat the Stupak/Nelson language continues and heroic doctors are continuing Dr. Tiller’s work. Dr. LeRoy Carhart has recently become the main target of anti-choice forces, after he pledged to continue the work of Dr. Tiller and expanded the type of abortions he provides at his clinic. Women’s groups are mounting campaigns to defend his clinic.

But the right to safe and legal abortions for all women is still far from won. If anything, this past year has shown that the ruling class is mobilizing to defeat abortion rights and that a new militant women’s movement is necessary to defeat them.


1 Comment

  1. nice info and keep news updated always

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