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May 2001 • Vol 1, No. 1 •


Right to Life, That’s a Lie
—They Don’t Care If Women Die!

By Sylvia Weinstein

Abortion rights are in trouble. They have been in trouble since the very beginning of the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision in January 1973, which concluded that abortion was a private matter between a woman and her doctor. Ever since then, extreme right wing religious fanatics have been on a campaign to shut down women’s health clinics; sometimes with their bodies; other times with bombs and bullets.

When bomb threats failed to close a clinic, they would try to blockade the clinics by sit-downs and other illegal methods. The Catholic Church always played a central role but the fundamentalist churches also mobilized hundreds of militant anti-abortionists.to blockade clinics and prevent women from getting the care they needed.

The women’s movement came to the rescue to protect their right to choose. In Boston, a huge mobilization by pro-choice forces chased the “right to lifers” out of the state on Oct. 29, 1988. That was the beginning of a massive mobilization across the nation, of both women and men, to protect the clincs. At dawn’s early light thousands of pro-choicers gathered in organized defense, in city after city, to keep the anti-choice fanatics away from our clinics. Needless to say, we kicked ass as far as clinic defense was concerned.

The anti-abortionists then began a systematic terrorist campaign against the clinics. Fire bombings, chemical bombings and the murder of doctors and clinic workers was regularly reported in the newspapers.

Then both Democrats and Republicans began their attacks in Congress. The first setback to accessible abortion came in 1977 when Congress enacted the Hyde Amendment. This law cut off federal Medicaid funding for low-income women seeking an abortion. President Jimmy Carter, a liberal Democrat, supported the Hyde Admendment.

On July 3, 1989, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision in favor of Webster v Reproductive Health Services of Missouri. The Webster decision upholds the state of Missouri’s right to restrict access to abortion by:

One, prohibiting public funding (“not one penny”) to facilities, and employees involved in performing abortions except to save a woman’s life.

Two, mandating tests for “fetal viability” after 20 weeks of pregnancy, even if the tests endanger women’s lives. 3.

And three, prohibiting public funds for anyone who counsels a pregnant women about the option of abortion—unless her life is in danger.

The Webster decision set off a flood of “states rights” laws to restrict abortion even further. Parental consent laws became the norm. Young women under the age of 18 were required to have the consent of at least one parent before she could have an abortion.

This law resulted in the death of Becky Bell, a high school student who was too embarrassed to tell her parents she was having sex. She used a knitting needle to induce a miscarriage and died. Her parents now travel the country speaking against parental consent laws. They know that if Becky had been able to walk into a clinic by herself she would be alive today.

After the Webster decision, the national women’s organizations decided to put their effort into electing “good” Democrats to protect women’s right to choose. But that abortive campaign—no pun intended—failed with a fatal crash. More and more laws are enacted to prevent women from making their rightful choice. Without massive mobilizations in the streets, and independent of both political parties, Roe v Wade will go the way of the Equal Rights Admendment—into the trash can.

Mass demonstrations and massive defense of abortion clinics are inseparable tasks. The only way to counter the “one-two punch” of the government and the anti-choice terrorists is to fight them on both fronts.

These two tasks, if carried out by NOW and all supporters of a woman’s right to choose, will have a big impact on the legislatures and the courts.

Women will never accept going back to the days when their choices were bearing children against their will or facing serious risks—possibly death—from illegal, back-alley abortions.

Both capitalist parties have played a treacherous role in opposing women’s rights. There is no fundamental differences between the Republican and the Democrats. And because this is an undeniable fact of American politics, the stakes in the struggle to defend Roe v Wade have risen dramatically. To paraphrase an axiom of the workers’ movement, “An injury to one-half of the human race is an injury to the entire human race!”

The National Organization for Women (NOW) has called for an EMERGENCY ACTION FOR WOMEN’S LIVES on April 22, 2001, in Washington, D.C. This is an emergency. Assemble at 11:00a.m. at Senate Park (Constitution & Delaware, N.E. and begin the march at 12 Noon for a Rally at 1 PM in Washington Monument Grounds! March for your lives, your daughters’ lives and for human lives.

Sylvia Weinstein is a longtime activist in both the women’s liberation and socialist movements.





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