From the May-June 2022 issue of News & Letters
Freedom is no longer an abstraction when it’s gone. Having control over what happens to your own body is the difference between fascism and freedom. Black Americans know this in their bones because to walk out into a racist U.S. is to take your life in your hands, to have what happens to your body—especially in the hands of the police—be completely out of your own control. Now all women, except—for now—women of means, will experience this lack of control of what happens in and to our bodies.
U.S. WOMEN CAN NO LONGER BE CALLED FREE
It is fascism when women or anyone who experiences a pregnancy are forced to carry that pregnancy to term. As Moira Donegan put it in The Guardian:
“In making abortion illegal, the [U.S. Supreme Court] is imposing a legal status that is so cruel, so personal and so life-altering on half its population, that those subject to this imposition cannot be called free. Is there any condition more essential to democratic citizenship than a person’s control over her own body? Can we call ourselves a free country without it?”
One of the things that makes this defeat so staggeringly bitter is the lie that this misogynist action is being perpetrated on women because of concern for “pre-born children.” That lie has long been discredited by Republicans’ deadly disregard for children once they are actually born and actually children—especially if those children are Black, Brown or poor.
Another bitter pill is what is revealed by the avalanche of forced pregnancy laws: a deep anger and hatred of women and a neofascist hoped-for reassertion of men’s “right” to control every aspect of our lives. That hatred was recently mouthed by a woman, Kelli Stargel, a sponsor of Florida’s new 15-week abortion ban bill, when she argued against any exceptions for survivors of rape. Her words dripped with contempt: “I fear for the men who are going to be accused of a rape so that the woman could have an abortion,” she snarled. “A woman is going to say she was raped so she could have the abortion.”
We know that it isn’t only women that these Republican fanatics hate, and the attacks won’t stop when abortion is illegal and women and providers are being jailed. It isn’t only that they will deepen their attack on birth control, as U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn did at the confirmation hearing for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. There Blackburn outright attacked the 1965 Supreme Court decision that decreed that contraception was legal. She blathered: “Constitutionally unsound rulings like Griswold vs. Connecticut…confused Tennesseans and left Congress wondering who gave the court permission to bypass our system of checks and balances.”
Contempt and hate have worked so well for Republicans that they will come down harder on LGBTQ+ people, especially Trans people who so clearly trample every notion Republicans have of how things are supposed to be. Gay marriage as well as the legality of consensual sex between adults of the same sex may soon be illegal again using the same reasoning that overturned Roe. And this Court has never seen suppression of voters’ rights or workers’ rights that it didn’t endorse.
TRASHING ROE IS ONLY THE BEGINNING
While the hacks on the Court claim that all this wreckage is simply adhering to the U.S. Constitution, that too is a lie, shown by their disregard for that same Constitution as soon as it goes against their own agenda. The separation of church and state, a principle embodied in the Constitution, has been so thoroughly destroyed by this Court as to become meaningless.
This is not going to end when abortion is illegal. The power rush of fascism experienced by the right-wingers on the Court is so heady, so addictive, that now with their taste of victory in pushing women’s struggle for freedom back by half a century, they aim to push us all back to when propertied white men ran the whole shebang. Then they didn’t have to worry about losing their power to all the less-than-them. All of us are their next target: women, youth, workers, LGBTQ+, Black and Brown, immigrant or poor. Anyone who has questioned the status quo is in their sights—anyone who has rejected or even questioned what this society has told us about what it means to be a human being, because it doesn’t speak to who we are or want to become.
Karl Marx wrote that no one combats freedom; at most they combat the freedom of others. We are not only fighting for the vital right to control our bodies. This is inherently a fight for a universal freedom. Now is the time to take seriously how our sisters in Ireland, Argentina, Mexico, and Poland have fought their governments over this very issue because it is so vital to the reality of freedom. Our time shows clearer than any previous one how that revolutionary struggle must be so deep that all human relationships are transformed.