US: Build a movement to defend and expand abortion rights

On 2 May, a draft opinion from the Supreme Court case Dobbs v Jackson was leaked, suggesting that the ruling in this case will overturn the precedent set by Roe v. Wade. If this happens, it will result in millions of women in the United States losing access to abortion.

At the moment, 13 states have ‘trigger laws’ which would automatically ban abortion if Roe v Wade is overturned, and many more states would likely use it as an opportunity to pass similar bans. The leak has already led to a number of protests around the country.

While all women will be hurt by a return to pre-Roe days, working-class women will be hit the hardest. Many working-class women are already prevented from accessing abortion due to the cost of the procedure, the amount of time necessary to schedule and attend medically unnecessary but legally mandated appointments before their abortion, and the inability to travel to the nearest abortion clinic.

Women in many states, especially in rural areas, are hundreds of miles away from the nearest abortion clinic. 27 states currently require women seeking an abortion to attend a mandatory counselling session 24 hours before their abortion takes place. This means that women who have to travel long distances to get an abortion are forced to stay overnight wherever the abortion clinic is located.

This latest attack comes on the back of a host of oppressive laws aimed at women and the LGBTQ+ community pushed by the Republican Party in state legislatures across the country. While condemning it in words, the Democrats, who present themselves as the pro-choice party, have consistently refused to mobilise any mass protests or movements that could have offered a real opposition to this assault.

Biden has failed to deliver on his promise to make Roe v. Wade the “law of the land”, despite the Democratic Party currently controlling the legislative and executive branches. Biden himself supported a constitutional amendment in 1981 that would have allowed states to overturn Roe v Wade.

Nancy Pelosi, one of the most prominent Democrats and the speaker of the House of Representatives, said as recently as 2017 that “of course” people could be anti-abortion and a Democrat. Even earlier in 2009, when the Democratic Party had a supermajority in Congress and Barack Obama in the White House, it still failed to make access to abortion a legal right, despite Obama’s campaign promises.

The Democratic Party cannot be counted on to defend any of our civil rights, least of all access to abortion, which is already effectively banned for millions of women in the US. An independent working-class party, accountable to and controlled by workers, is needed to effectively lead the charge against these attacks on our rights.

Almost 60% of people in the US believe that abortion should be legal. That five unelected judges can make a decision which flies in the face of public opinion has rightly shaken many people’s faith in the Supreme Court.

Access to abortion under capitalism is not just an issue for women, but for the entire working class. Many LGBTQ+ workers who are not women rely on and utilise other reproductive health services, including abortion. As well, the ability of female workers to plan their families helps the entire working class, including working-class men. It is in the interest of all workers to come out and struggle against these restrictions on women’s reproductive rights, and to fight against women’s oppression in general.

Roe v Wade wasn’t handed to workers out of the kindness of the Supreme Court. It was a concession given during the conservative Nixon regime, at a time when the combined pressure of the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, the LGBTQ+ rights movement, and others put the capitalists on the defensive.

Now we need a similar movement. It’s not enough to just defend Roe v. Wade. Even if Roe v Wade isn’t overturned, the current right-wing attack on women, LGBTQ+ people, and workers in general will continue. We must unite the movement for women’s rights with the environmental, anti-racist, immigrant, LGBTQ+, and labour movements to win affordable and easily accessible healthcare, including reproductive healthcare and abortion.

The time to build a fightback against all of these attacks against women and reproductive rights is not after Roe v Wade is overturned, but right now!

ISG says:

  • Build a movement independent of the Democratic Party to fight to defend Roe v Wade, and expand access to abortion. This must draw in sections of the labour movement, and utilise union power to win its demands.
  • Replace the broken for-profit health care system with free and universal health care  that protects women’s and LGBTQ+ people’s access to non-discriminatory healthcare.
  • Create good union jobs building and staffing new reproductive health clinics all around the country. Ensure that those who need the clinics are able to reach them by greatly expanding public transportation, especially to rural or isolated areas.
  • Build a new party based in the working class that will actually fight for the interests of the working class, including defending and expanding abortion rights, universal healthcare, universal childcare, fully funded and staffed schools, and a future free from harmful climate change.
  • Replace the Supreme Court with a judicial body that is directly elected by workers in the U.S, with judges being directly accountable to the people.

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May 2022