Chicago–On June 8 about 30 determined activists for reproductive justice faced off around 800 anti-abortion, anti-birth control fanatics. The fanatics acted like thugs, sending people to our demonstration with their signs to try and block us from view and to start arguments, or try to record pro-choice demonstrators. Many times police had to order them back across the street.
The antis, organized primarily by the Catholic hierarchy, tried to hide their anti-reproductive justice stance under the lie that freedom of religion is under attack. It was laughable as, clearly, they were there with a huge picture of Christ harassing us. Their rights are safe but ours are not. As the director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual put it, “In so far as there is a War on Women, the Catholic bishops are among the generals.”
‘RELIGIOUS FREEDOM’ = CATHOLIC DOGMA
The attack on birth control is now out in the open. Hundreds of printed signs called for an end to the Health and Human Services mandate requiring insurance companies to provide free birth control. To them, “religious freedom” means women have to adhere to Catholic dogma!
Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats in the U.S. Congress and state houses across the nation are all taking shots at women and destroying lives in the process. Stunning is not only the breadth and depth of the attacks–against access to birth control, defunding Titles IX and X, shutting down legal and safe abortion clinics, gutting the Violence Against Women Act, allowing pharmacists to decide what drugs they want to dispense and to whom, attacking equal pay for women–it is also the nasty, petty, and inhuman way the battle is being fought.
‘VAGINA’–NOW A FIGHTING WORD
A case in point is Michigan Democratic Representative Lisa Brown, who was speaking against a horrific anti-abortion bill in the Michigan State House that would, among a slew of other outrageous things, force a woman to carry a dead fetus to term. She spoke of being Jewish and that under Jewish law, if the health of the mother is in jeopardy because of pregnancy, an abortion is mandatory. She ended saying: “I have not asked you to adopt and adhere to my religious beliefs. Why are you asking me to adopt yours? And finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.”
For this she was banned from speaking in the House for two days, supposedly because what she said was “disrespectful.” No, the bill was disrespectful. But the message to Lisa Brown–and any woman who speaks her mind–is that if she isn’t going to toe the line we’ll shut her up.
Considering the anti-woman, undemocratic, thuggish behavior of so many in the anti-abortion movement, and especially those across the street from us, it was shocking to read a letter from the Chicago-based March 19 Anti-War Coalition gushing about their participation “with a big Right to Life rally at Federal Plaza.” As they reduced the situation in every country from Syria to Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, and Mexico, among others, to U.S. warmongering, they waxed enthusiastic over “this positive response to our work, with 750 leaflets distributed in a little over an hour.”
LEFT SUPPORT FOR RIGHT-WING THUGS
Clearly, this group is not about freedom, and is willing to throw women and our right to control our own bodies under the bus for their 750 leaflets and a $10 donation from “Maureen from Hickory Hills [who] not only praised our stand, but said to call on her for future support…and gave us a big god bless you. Another fellow, carrying a big religious flag of some sort, also said the same thing.”
So besotted were they with the fanatics that they failed to see that “big religious flag” was the flag of the Vatican! While they oppose U.S. intervention even in Syria–which the U.S. has made sure to stay far away from–evidently it is fine for government to invade women’s bodies, mandate invasive, painful, expensive and unnecessary medical procedures, as well as force doctors to lie to women. While most of the Left just stay away from the struggle for reproductive justice as too “divisive,” few go as far as the March 19 Anti-War Coalition and actually support those whose activism consists of destroying women’s freedom.
WOMEN FIGHT IN CREATIVE WAYS
None of this has stopped women from fighting back in creative ways. For example, Eve Ensler performed her Vagina Monologuestogether with Lisa Brown and State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol on June 18 to a crowd of 5,000. Billed as “Vaginas Take Back the Capitol!” the audience was also protesting: carrying pro-women signs and chanting “Vagina! Vagina!” A week before, hundreds of Michigan women and men, taking their cue from labor demonstrators in Wisconsin, stormed into the State Capitol to protest the proposed law, chanting and pounding on the banister ringing the Capitol balcony.
Women are all over the internet and in the streets, including Unite Against the War on Women whose participants held protests in almost all 50 states on April 28. Over 50 women’s organizations formed a new coalition, HERVotes, to try to influence elections and educate the public on the War on Women. A lot of the real work is done by small groups of women, escorting at abortion clinics, and demonstrating against the Right wing. It’s clear to us that this is a very well funded war against women, and we are determined to defeat it.