From the July-August 2022 issue of News & Letters
What the Supreme Court’s decision to make abortion illegal in the U.S. clearly shows is that individual freedom has been destroyed. Pundits are right to say this is only the beginning—although it is more truthful to say the middle, because workers, Black people and other people of color’s freedom has been in the process of destruction for decades. Now, by declaring that citizens no longer have a right to privacy, which is what Roe v. Wade was based on, the government and its police enforcers have been given the green light to trample freedom in ways U.S. citizens haven’t seen since the 1950s.
THE MEANING OF CIVIL RIGHTS
It is rare for a Supreme Court to take away a human right—and this one has stripped bodily autonomy from half the population. It is a giant step towards fascism.
U.S. citizens no longer have the freedoms that help make life beautiful—and bearable—the right to love whom we choose, control over our own bodies including abortion and birth control, the right to be safe walking the streets as a person of color, the right to go shopping, to the supermarket, to church or to school without being gunned down by some maniac or a man with a grudge.
In these times with a Supreme Court out to gut human and civil rights, and the whole country one election away from losing them altogether, it’s worth remembering what civil rights mean: “a class of rights that protect individuals’ freedom from infringement by governments, social organizations, and private individuals. They ensure one’s entitlement to participate in the civil and political life of society and the state without discrimination or repression.”
What we are facing is a ruling class that does not want the people they rule to have such rights, to have such power over their own lives. They’ve used racism, sexism, anti-LGBTQ+ attacks, and barrages of lies to get what they want. And with this Supreme Court and the other U.S. courts they’ve packed with right-wing neofascist judges, they are on their way to get it.
WE ARE THE ANSWER
There is lots of talk about what can be done to ensure that women and any gender diverse person who may want or need an abortion can still get one. None of that—from availability of abortion pills to other states pitching in, to abortion funds, as vital as they are—will reach all the women and others who need abortions, especially poor women and women of color. Nor will energized anti-abortion fanatics and their enablers in Congress and the courts stop at anything short of a national ban on all abortions with no exceptions for rape, incest, fetal deformity, non-viability after birth, or the life of the mother.
In order to enforce such a draconian policy, women’s lives will be policed, miscarriages criminalized, pregnancy tracked from the moment of conception, birth control outlawed. We know this, not because we are sages who can foresee the future, but because all these things have happened and most are happening now someplace in the world.
The Democratic Party is not the answer. If they were, we wouldn’t be here in the first place. Since Roe v. Wade was made into law—because there was a thriving, demanding, militant Women’s Liberation Movement—the Democratic Party has done the barest minimum to ensure that we keep that right and widen it. After all, we still have the heinous Hyde Amendment which in 1976 banned federal funds from paying for an abortion for poor women. Now the Supreme Court has ruled that federal funds have to prop up religious institutions that discriminate against women and LGBTQ+ people and plot to take away our rights.
We—those of us who rail against the impoverishment of what life could be, who have a vision of the future where human beings are free to develop all their skills and talents—we are the only answer. What we have to aid us is that vision of the future and the knowledge that we have the power, not only in numbers, but in ideas.
Karl Marx had a vision too, of a revolution in permanence that didn’t stop with the overthrow of the current tyrants and capitalists, but continued until there was a new society grounded in new human relationships; and even then it would continue. What the recent Supreme Court decision makes clear is how that is still our task.
—June 24, 2022