June 27, 2016

ABCs of abortion rights

In a huge victory, the Supreme Court has ruled that Texas restrictions on clinics that perform abortions are a barrier to women’s health and violate their constitutional rights. The Texas law required doctors who perform abortions to have hospital-admitting privileges and imposed impossible physical requirements on the outpatient clinics where most abortions are performed. It would have eliminated three-quarters of the state's abortion clinics, forcing an estimated 900,000 women of child-bearing age to drive more than 300 miles round-trip to reach a facility that provided abortions. The 5-3 decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt will have a tremendous impact nationally by challenging undue restrictions (known as TRAP laws)on physicians and clinics in 24 states.

But the struggle's far from over. Every aspect of reproductive justice is under attack. The enemies of women are undermining access to abortion and birth control, affordable childcare, social services for needy families, quality medical care, prenatal support, and much more. Low-income women, women of color and immigrants face the most severe consequences, compounded by the criminalization of poverty and racist attacks. Unreasonable regulations of clinics, outright violence, and systematic intimidation are targeting the courageous medical providers who help women carry out their reproductive choices.

One huge barrier to reproductive justice is the miseducation about this simple, safe, legal procedure. Here are some talking points to help combat misconceptions.

Abortion is safe

Complications from abortion are lower than the rate for wisdom tooth extraction, tonsillectomy, or colonoscopy.

Women are about 14 times more likely to die during or after giving birth than from complications of an abortion. The most common side effects of pregnancy -- including high blood pressure, urinary tract infections and mental health conditions -- happen more often in women who have a live birth than those who get an abortion.

The main effects of abortion are mild to strong cramps – something most women experience monthly. Aspiration (or surgical) abortions are over in a few minutes and result in only minor bleeding. Drug-induced abortions cause heavy bleeding and cramps for only a few hours and are safely done at home.

Inflammatory lies about fetal pain, post-abortion regret and links to cancer are inventions by a rightwing movement willing to stop at nothing to prevent female autonomy.

Birth control cannot resolve the furor over abortion

From a medical viewpoint, birth control does not end the need for abortion. Condoms have an 18% failure rate. Birth control pills fail about 9% of the time, mostly due to human error. From a political perspective, many opponents of abortion denounce birth control as well, falsely claiming it causes abortions and leads to “promiscuity.”

The conflict over abortion is not really about health. It's about whether women or moralistic patriarchs will control sexuality and reproductive decisions. Most anti-choicers are also against LGBTQ rights, sexual freedom, artificial insemination, and queer parenting. Many are anti-immigrant, pro-war and pro-death penalty. Their whole agenda must be opposed.

Come together for a bold, grassroots fight!

Abortion rights were won by a massive revolt that paired civil disobedience with education, protests, legislative action, and court challenges. Working women of color have been strong leaders in the fight, consistently showing the need for a multi-pronged reproductive justice approach that opposes forced sterilization and racist eugenics, while demanding access to safe, free abortion and birth control, social services and full equality. In Washington State, Black women from the anti-poverty program worked with Radical Women to mobilize a historic 1969 march on the capitol for legalized abortion. In March 2006, Cecilia Fire Thunder, then president of the Oglala Sioux, defiantly announced she would flout South Dakota’s abortion ban by inviting a Planned Parenthood clinic to operate on tribal land.

Here are some things you can do to help ensure that access to abortion continues:

    * Speak out about how reproductive justice and the full array of issues it encompasses are necessary for the quality of life of the majority of women, particularly those most marginalized.

    * Stay tuned for ways to support counter-organizing in Kansas against the July 16-23 onslaught of hundreds of anti-choicers for a so-called “Wichita Summer of Mercy” near the clinic of murdered abortion provider George Tiller.

    * Join the many groups fighting for women’s equality and reproductive justice – especially those interested in mobilizing women in their own defense rather than relying on establishment politicians who are inherently prone to compromise. Work with feminist veterans, do your own thing, rally a new group, show a video, say the forbidden words. Get involved with Radical Women, which works to eradicate all the interconnected forms of inequality – by gender, race, sexuality, class – at their root in the patriarchal capitalist system. Ultimately, the fight for reproductive justice will not be permanently won until the world now run by and for the 1% is replaced with a socialist society where human needs are paramount.

Holding on to reproductive rights requires a militant, multi-racial united front of grassroots feminists of all genders. Control over our bodies and lives is too important to put in the hands of anyone else.