Aid and Abet Abortion:
The People Must Exercise Countervailing Power
by Michael Novick, Anti-Racist Action-L.A.
Like the Dred Scott decision, which made it clear that Black people had no rights that a white person (or the state) were bound to respect and made the Civil War inevitable, recent decisions by the Supreme Court, not only the Dobbs ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, but also others stripping the “Miranda” warning of Constitutional status, authorizing state subsidies to religious schools, upholding “qualified immunity” for abusive cops, and unleashing the Border Patrol, may finally have stripped away the illusions of “democracy” that allow this system to perpetuate itself. It’s not just the last few nominees appointed by Trump with the connivance of Mitch McConnell that are the problem, but every aspect of a political, social and economic system designed to empower privileged elites and minorities and deny rights to the majority.
The ugly response of the LAPD to street protests against the overturning of Roe v. Wade must be overcome. But we also need direct action and direct exercise of our rights, as some of these resources make possible: https://shoutyourabortion.com/ and https://www.wizd-az.com/blog/abortion-zines-resources. We need to be clear that reproductive rights are also a racial justice issue and that leadership comes from Black, Indigenous and other women of color, as Sistersong https://www.sistersong.net/ has been making clear for a quarter of a century.
Black women are far more likely to experience adverse health reactions and deaths in pregnancy, childbirth and after. According to Sistersong, they created the national Trust Black Women partnership in 2010, “when racist and sexist anti-abortion billboards actually accused black women of genocide for obtaining abortions – as if the oppression of black people should relegate black women to breeding machines with no right to make personal choices about family creation.” SisterSong responded by convening a partnership of black-women-led organizations to form Trust Black Women, and in their first year, defeated both the billboards and a concomitant bill to restrict abortion. Learn more at https://trustblackwomen.org/
The Dobbs decision is the latest outcome of a 50-year process that began with the infamous Powell memorandum to the US Chamber of Commerce, [see https://reclaimdemocracy.org/powell_memo_lewis/%5D advocating the use of corporate power to reverse the gains of decades of reform and expanded recognition of rights within the US political and economic system. Greater resistance against all the steps along the way that led to this point — the upholding of ‘qualified immunity’ to protect abusive police, the gutting of the Voting Rights Act that unleashed a wave of racist and biased voting restrictions and gerrymandering, the Citizens United ruling that opened the spigots of unrestrained corporate cash to control the political system — might have produced a different outcome.
Overturning Roe v. Wade is not the first time the court has taken away rights of long standing. The Voting Rights Act was passed at the height of the civil rights struggle and in the wake of the Kennedy assassination even before the courts recognized a right for a woman to decide to terminate a pregnancy. Not just a court decision but a legislative action signed into law and twice reauthorized, yet Justice Department pre-approval of substantive changes in election law was thrown out by SCOTUS with hardly a protest.
Be that as it may, the outpouring of outrage now is a good thing, and must be extended, deepened and intensified. The Supreme Court is even less “legitimate” or democratic than the presidents who named the members or the US Senate that approved them. It’s time for the whole rotten mess, and the system of economic exploitation and expropriation that the courts, the Congress and the cops enforce, to be abolished.
Action must also be taken on many fronts to defend women’s right to choose. The wholesale authorization of state action to criminalize women’s reproductive choice, in addition to immediate efforts to call for a federal ban on abortion, has also exposed corporate complicity and right-wing efforts. For example, faux clinic “crisis pregnancy centers” are targeting teens, and storing potentially incriminating data. As reported by Bloomberg News, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-06-27/anti-abortion-centers-find-pregnant-teens-online-then-save-their-data, they are designed to pop up on search engines, offer free pregnancy tests, and then hit teens who respond with anti-abortion propaganda.
As Bloomberg reported, “The consultation room was filled with posters depicting fetuses with speech bubbles, as if they were asking to be born. Lisa sobbed as one of the women running the clinic confirmed she was pregnant; they had refused to let her take a test home. Lisa needed to return for an ultrasound in four weeks to be certain, and then they could discuss options. But until then, they told her, she absolutely should not go to an abortion clinic. “Maybe you’ll miscarry and then you won’t have any problems,” the woman suggested.
“As Lisa started to realize it wasn’t a medical facility, she became terrified for her privacy. “This information can’t go anywhere, right?” she begged a receptionist on her way out the door. “No one is gonna know that I was here?” The answer wasn’t reassuring. “I remember her saying: ‘Well, honey, this is what happens when you have sex.’”
Meanwhile Big Tech also refuses to say they will protect abortion-related data. As reported by vice,
https://www.vice.com/en/article/v7vmm4/tech-companies-wont-say-abortion-data-roe-v-wade, many of the biggest tech and social media companies in the world, including Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, and Snapchat, have refused to clarify whether they would fulfill or deny law enforcement requests for data that related to investigations involving those seeking or providing abortions.
Women are being urged to delete their menstrual apps and must now worry about the privacy of digitized health data, as reproductive choices and outcomes are criminalized. And the reactionary right, including its elements on the Supreme Court and within the federal and state legislatures, are clearly targeting contraception, same-sex marriage, and other issues like falling dominoes.
You can read an extensive research report on the links between the Christian and racist right and their joint engagement in anti-abortion violence in the 1980s and 1990s, that laid the groundwork for the legislative and judicial attack on women’s rights here: https://antiracist.org/links-between-the-racist-and-christian-right-in-the-anti-abortion-movement/