Last Abortion Clinic in Mississippi - and a spill of thoughts
Revolution #023, November 20, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Last nights PBS special on the last abortion clinic in Mississippi was harrowing. Over and over, abortion rights advocates and providers talked of conditions for women that already are comparable to those before Roe v. Wade was passed: women unable to access abortions, forced to leave the state, uneducated about birth control, unable to afford services, forced to have children they do not want.
About 75% of children born in the Delta region there are to single women. Girls are required to get permission not just from one parent, but from two. The last standing clinic is besieged daily by the throngs of praying/preying zombies.
I am sick of the notion that its not "politically correct" to compare what is happening in this country to what happened in Nazi Germany. I am sorry--when they showed the clip of Bush announcing the ban on "partial birth abortion" all I could think of was Hitler--of his posture of moral superiority at the cost of millions of lives, of the fanfare, of the populace that acquiesced with evil. And, Hitler DID outlaw abortion.
Recently the owner of the womens clinic I used to work at died. He was a wonderful and fiery man--motivated by a very vivid memory of what women went through before they had access to safe abortions. He was a fighter. He hated the war on Iraq. He hated the fanatical Catholics who protested every single day outside his clinic. And he loved the women who would get in their face. He gave me an award the first week I was there because I made off with the pair of baby-shoes that hung on the anti-women protesters gruesome display each day.
As much as he will be missed, he is but one part of a greater hole being left unfilled. There are all too few doctors. There are all too many legal restrictions. There is altogether too much momentum, too much power, too high-level a position of the fanatical fascists who would permanently remove abortion and birth control from this society and around the world and punish those who dared provide these services.
In light of all this, I want to speak to three things I have heard WAY TOO OFTEN from people who should know better:
1. I was told last week, while doing an interview on a feminist radio show, that, "Of course, abortion is not the only issue that affects women."
2. At a party a few days ago a young woman explained to me that "Feminism really did go too far, was too extreme, because I remember when my older sister felt guilty for wanting to stay home with her baby."
3. And, again in the last week, I got emails from the major pro-choice groups promising that if I just emailed "my" senators, we could protect "choice" in the face of the new Supreme Court pick.
So, here goes:
1. Of course, there are many things which affect women. Most things do, we are half of humanity.
But there are some things which are central and defining to the role women will play and mostly they center up around that which makes us distinct from the other half of humanity--our role in reproduction.
Of course war, poverty, discrimination all disproportionately impact women, but while we should definitely concern ourselves with all of these issues and more, they impact women disproportionately because women are oppressed, not because they are central and defining to the role women play in society. For instance, even when countries are not at war women are still oppressed and even in wealthy homes women are beaten.
And, no, the widespread horrors of battery and rape are not lost on me. But ending all this is exactly bound up with the overall struggle to liberate women, including by fighting for our fundamental right to control our own bodies and reproduction.
In reality, saying that abortion is not the only womens issue is making the argument that we shouldnt focus so much attention on this issue. It is based on either the illusion that you can make progress for women without preserving and destigmatizing abortion and birth control or based on willful ignorance. Take your pick--neither is worth doing.
2. Okay, let's start with the basics: NO. Feminism did not go too far.
Sorry, to the woman I met at this party, pull back the lens just a little bit, would ya? I know this society teaches people to think only about themselves, but look around you for a minute.
When were women EVER on a societal level told that they should not make staying home with kids their number one aspiration? When has that model EVER let up? Sure, maybe you lived in a somewhat "enlightened" enclave. Maybe your parents and those immediately around you didnt tell you that your biggest priority should be kids--but this in no way was enforced by the state, legislated, propagated by the major means of communication and culture. And for most women, this message never reached.
I am not infatuated with everything the womens liberation movement ever did, either, not because it went too far, but because in the main it did not go far enough. We still live in a patriarchal society because we still live in a class society--and that wont change short of revolution.
So, yes, women do have undue burdens and double standards put on us--but get over this notion of how you were oppressed by the womens movement because you want the right to stay home and raise kids. That has always remained not only an option for those who can afford it, but it is the main promoted and upheld option for most women in society--which probably has a lot to do with why you and your sister have been conditioned to long for that role.
Kids are great and we need a society that doesnt pit living a full life as part of larger society against the ability to raise critically thinking, happy, healthy kids--but doing so requires going further: ending job discrimination, breaking down gender divisions around housework and child-rearing, achieving affordable and collective child-care, transforming social attitudes. All of this--and much more--has been done in socialist societies and much more waits to be done. You want to get out of a lose-lose situation--then, as the Revolutionary Communist Party says, "Break the Chains! Unleash the Fury of Women as a Mighty Force for Revolution!" Dont piss and whine about the good aspects of what our parents generation struggled so hard for.
3. Okay, sorry NARAL, I am going to call you out by name. Your letter-writing campaign wasnt going to and didnt stop Judge Roberts. It is not going to stop Alito. And living in a society with its laws retooled along those theocratic lines is NOT something I am sitting around sending emails and waiting for.
Recognizing the irony, I wrote an email to NARAL complaining about their insistence that their base be politically passive in the face of the remaking of the Supreme Court by only sending emails instead of pouring into the streets to turn things around. In it I said, "Look, even you arent going to be moved by an email I send, I doubt you'll even respond. So, why should I expect more from someone who doesnt even claim to be a fighter for abortion rights like those you want me to email?" Of course, I heard nothing from them.
SO, WHAT TO DO?
I happen to know that there still are millions and millions of women and men in this society who would be willing to fight to prevent us from going backwards for women--and on all the other fronts society is being dragged backwards on (prayer in school, torture, napalm, anti-gay legislation, attacks on evolution, etc).
At last weeks launch of a movement to Drive Out the Bush Regime I was impressed by how deep a response I got from the young Black and Latina high school students when I spoke about the dangers of losing abortion rights. I told the truth--that the threat to women and abortion rights alone is reason enough to drive out the Bush regime and nothing short of this would do, and they went wild.
Ive heard people say it is unrealistic or unspecific to want to drive out the Bush regime--but it is absurd and unrealistic and willfully ignorant to think that anything short of that, and the major social struggle and upheaval that will require, and the major impact on peoples thinking that that will bring along with it, will even come close to doing what is needed.
As the Call for the World Cant Wait--Drive Out the Bush Regime says, "That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn--or be forced--to accept."
This is true. And most people who used to know better are learning to accept a count-down to the end of Roe-v.-Wade.
Drive Out the Bush Regime.
This article was originally posted at the worldcantwait.org web site, and was edited by the author for Revolution.
The Frontline episode "The Last Abortion Clinic" can be viewed online at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/clinic/