New Frontal Attack on Abortion

By Barry Sheppard

The “leak” of the draft decision by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to overturn Roe vs Wade, the 1973 Court Decision legalizing women’s right to abortion, signals that the Court’s reactionary wing will probably do so in its final decision.

The May 4 New York Times front page headline read “Draft Abortion Ruling Signals Seismic Political Shift.”

Previous Court decisions have upheld state regulations (with bipartisan support) that have chipped away at this right in the decades since 1973.

Protesters at University of Missouri demonstrate in 2015 in support of women’s right to abortion, demanding university hospital executives reverse decision to cut off admitting privileges for doctors who perform abortions at Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia, Missouri.

This Court has already upheld recent state laws overturning Roe. It is such a law passed by the Mississippi state legislature, that is now before the Court, which Alioto’s draft decision addresses.

But most people, who do not follow the Court’s rulings in detail, were shocked by Alioto’s draft decision that made clear that the Court wants to overturn Roe, striking down what has become a Constitutional right for half a century.

That the Republican Party shaped by Trump is now the reactionary spearhead of the drive against all the gains of “The Sixties” is indicated by the fact that all the Republican politicians in Congress with a few exceptions have expressed support for Alioto’s draft.

The reaction was immediate, with mass demonstrations in major cities defending the right to abortion.

Without women having the right to control their own bodies, women cannot be equal to men.

This is a blow to the unfinished struggle for women’s complete liberation against this patriarchal society, which will probably only be achieved by a socialist revolution.

The origin of patriarchy coincided and was part of the rise of class divided society. This was “the world historical defeat of the female sex”, wrote Frederick Engels in his ground-breaking work, The Origins of the Family Private Property and the State, written in 1884.

Roe did not affirm a woman’s right to control her own body, but instead restricted its argument to a woman’s right to privacy. Since then, the right to privacy has been seen as a Constitutional right and been cited as part of the legal basis for same-sex marriage. It also underlines the right to contraception.

Alioto’s draft decision expressly denies any right to privacy.

Democracy Now reports that “Legal experts are warning the overturning of Roe could pave the way for the conservative justices to also end same-sex marriage and access to contraceptives.”

The article quotes Congress member Pramila Jayapal [a “progressive” Democrat] from a pro-choice protest in Seattle:

“There is a straight line from upending abortion rights to getting rid of access to contraception, to banning gay marriage. And our low-income communities, our Black and Brown communities, our LGBTQ communities will be the ones who pay the steepest price, because abortion won’t go away, but safe and legal abortion will, endangering millions of people.”

Republican legislatures in 13 states have already passed stand-by laws immediately outlawing abortion if Roe is overturned and it is likely that number will grow to 26 states.

As Jayapal said, there will still be abortions in those states, illegal and unsafe ones, like before the 1973 ruling. There will be deaths, jailing of women and doctors.

Well-off women will fly to states where abortion will still be legal to get them (or pay their private doctors big bucks), but lower income working women, especially Black and Brown, will not be able to take time off work or afford to travel.

In any case, even if Roe is not directly overturned, the Court has made it clear that abortion will be de facto outlawed in these 26 states, and there will be a state-by-state hodgepodge of laws in the remaining 24.

The so called “Right to life” campaign and the Democrats

Already the anti-abortion “right to life” movement is gearing up to fight to impose more restrictions on abortion in the remaining states.

The anti-abortion forces are also setting their sights on Republicans taking back control of Congress beginning in this year’s November elections and the presidency in 2024, and outlaw abortion nationwide.

“Right to life” is a misnomer. No one denies that a fertilized egg or fetus is alive, and under the right conditions can develop into a living baby. But so is an unfertilized egg or free sperm. Under the right conditions these too can develop into a human being.

[That there is no campaign for free sperm to all be utilised to create human babies(!) reveals the absurdity, hypocrisy and anti-woman character of the anti-abortion forces that claim all fertilised eggs should be treated in this way. The double standard reveals their real goal is the re-assertion of greater control over women’s lives and to restrict their sexual freedom. – ed]

Democrats are seeking to divert the opposition to the attack on abortion rights into voting for them in 2022 and 2024.

[The Democratic Party already controls both houses of Congress which have the power to write legislation that the Supreme Court then interprets. If Democrats wished to guarantee a women’s right to choose, they could introduce legislation to guarantee that nationally – ed].

The only effective way to fight back is to continue mass actions and to make them more powerful. That’s how a very reluctant Supreme Court in 1973 was forced to adopt Roe — by the mass women’s liberation movement back then which was part of a larger mass radicalization in the streets.

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