Editorial: Freedom=control of our own bodies

From the July-August 2019 issue of News & Letters

Republicans want to make abortion illegal by declaring a fetus a human being and women baby-making things. That is explicit in the language of a new Alabama bill that makes all abortions illegal once a fertilized egg is “in utero.” “In utero,” not “implanted in a woman’s womb.” The only exception is for a “serious health risk” “to the unborn child’s mother.” Here, a woman is a “child’s mother,” not a human being who happens to be pregnant. The child is the human being, the woman is the “vessel,” as one Congressman put it.

There are no exceptions for rape or incest because the question the bill’s sponsor wants the U.S. Supreme Court to decide is: “‘Is the baby in the womb a person?’ Any amendment would contradict that point.” The U.S. is now in the same place Ireland was before the Irish voted out its abortion ban, when those running a hospital murdered Savita Halappanavar, who at 31 years of age died from septicemia, because she was denied an abortion while hospital administrators waited for her fetus to die. Who is going to decide if the risk to the woman is “serious,” especially if the doctor who gives her an abortion can face a 99-year prison sentence?

Donald Trump’s supporters want the U.S. to be like El Salvador, where women are jailed for miscarriages as well as abortions. They are fanatics that want to give what is clearly not a person—a group of cells with no brain or heart—every human right while stripping those rights from women. They are close to getting what they want, despite the fact that most people in the U.S. want abortion to be legal.

Fanatics don’t care about that, and Trump only cares about gorging his evangelical base with every morsel of misogynist, anti-trans, anti-gay, anti-human, racist scrap of poisonous politics, feeding them what they want in hopes they will excrete four more years for him to perfect his fascist view of the future.

May 23, 2019, rally in Chicago against new abortion bans. Photo: News & Letters.

ILLUSIONS WON’T HELP US

There are a lot of illusions about what will happen when Roe v. Wade is overturned. Some think it won’t be—it will and, in many ways, already has been; or that women will be able to self-abort, or that the “abortion pills,” mifepristone and misoprostol, will be available so that they can be gotten to women who need abortions—they won’t.

Now self-abortion is illegal in six or seven states; women are having children they did not want, are being jailed for self-aborting, for having natural miscarriages; for taking half a valium or postponing a cesarean.

WHERE IS THE LEFT?

Now almost all the left does give lip service to the right of women to control our bodies. But abortion rights are something the left had to be brought to over decades and it still is not up there with doing something about U.S. imperialism, even though there is the U.S. imperialism of the global gag rule that was expanded by Trump, and is guaranteed to kill even more women.

Many of these leftists support Vladimir Putin, Iran’s rulers, and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, whose country after revolution retained one of the most destructive abortion laws in the world. At best, most of the left treat the fight for abortion rights as an opportunity to recruit women to their vanguard organizations so women can understand that first they have to get rid of capitalism and then “the Party” will grant women our rights.

SOCIALISM MEANS WE CONTROL OUR BODIES

Today there’s a lot of talk about socialism, but who (besides us) has always said that it must mean that women have control of their own bodies? A socialist society would be one where workers control what they actually do with their bodies in the factory, in the office, in the home. It is one where Blacks and other people of color can walk the streets, drive cars, and live their lives feeling safe in their skins.

The left would do well to remember that one of Karl Marx’s most devastating critiques was that under capitalism “social relations…appear as what they are…as material relations between persons and social relations between things” (Capital, Chapter 1, p. 166). That is why revolutions must be total from the start, explicitly so, because they must be so deep and thorough that all human relationships are transformed and actually become human.

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