An Open Letter in Response to Hillary Clinton

by Osage Bell

Revolutionary Worker #1270, March 13, 2005, posted at

During your campaign to become Senator of New York, you spoke against forces who were seeking to "turn back the clock" on women, and now, as you start to consider your next big political move, you are saying that abortions are a "sad and even tragic choice" for women. Well, what's the truth? You can't play both sides.

It's simply not true that abortions are sad or tragic--I have heard stories from scores of women from your generation who fought for the legalization of abortion who can remember, after that victory, walking into clinics with feelings of great relief. After years of homes for "unwed mothers" and back-alley abortions where women ended up dead or maimed--years of fear and humiliation--they were finally able to deal with unwanted pregnancies with safe, scientific means, and with dignity.

But subsequent generations, including mine, have been conditioned and trained to feel quite the opposite. Not because of abortions themselves, but because of the moral and political maneuvering of the religious right and their allies. Young women have been trained to feel shame, remorse, selfish, guilty and cold. And what for? What is an abortion, really? It is the surgical extraction of a fetus. And what is a fetus? It is what exists within a woman's body, from the time she becomes pregnant until that pregnancy ends. It is not a full-blown "baby" or a "child" but a developing fetus, which is in effect an integral part of the woman's body and physical functioning--which has the potential to become a separate full-blown human being but is not yet that. It is "life," of course, but it is not yet an independent human being.

And there are forces who want to reduce a woman's worth--and re-define us--to less than that developing potential, in opposition to what was achieved by your generation in the '60s and '70s as beginning to break through to defining women as independent, thinking people who can make their own decisions with their lives.

In addition to this, you have been calling on the pro-choice community to "find common ground" with abortion opponents. You assume that, "we all want to limit and reduce abortions, right?"

But the reality is, there is no common ground. And it says a lot--and it is very dangerous--that you think there is.

And how do you see that common ground? Recently, you also said that "There is no reason why government cannot do more to educate and inform and provide assistance so that the choice guaranteed under our constitution either does not ever have to be exercised or only in very rare circumstances." So, the common ground is seeking to eliminate the need for abortions when you should know very well that is impossible.


You've said you respect those who "believe with all their hearts and conscience that there are no circumstances under which any abortion should ever be available." Do you hear how revolting you sound? As long as there is sex between men and women, there will be a need for abortions, so that no woman's life is ever dictated by her reproduction. That is an objective fact that can be dealt with in (basically) two ways, because every society has to figure out how to deal with unwanted pregnancies. You can choose to do it by enforcing traditional morality, creating feelings of guilt and shame where there doesn't need to be any, or you can choose to unleash and rely on women, breaking with all traditional morality and bringing forward a morality that values the emancipation of women. Abortion should always be available.

Even the education you speak of--where women understand their bodies and how to care for them--is being opposed and silenced throughout this society by forces who want to institute a fascist theocracy, where everything is dictated by biblical values. You may not want to support this program, but that's who you're starting to align yourself with. Why would you want to subject women even further to this grotesque morality?

Science has become a dirty word; people who talk about reality and being scientific are being forced onto the defensive--so do we give into this and promote the same lunacy as the "vast right-wing conspiracy" you once derided?

No. There is an alternative.


Neither our starting point--nor the common ground we build with others--can be based on "how to limit abortions," but on the full emancipation of women--and all of humanity--and how to achieve it.

These right wingers act like women are selfish brats, running around, having sex and getting abortions without any serious thought.

This is more than insulting--it is just a thin cover for imposing religious dogma and male domination on women. And the reality of what women have to go through to get abortions proves how ludicrous this thinking is.

I wish we were in a place where women could have abortions freely, where there are clinics on every corner and they are free to every woman, at any time in her life, for any reason! But the truth is, some states have only one abortion clinic and many hospitals refuse to provide them. In Kansas, two important clinics are being targeted and investigated by federal agents for abortions provided in later terms and to teenage women. Doctors are stalked, too many have been killed, clinics have been fire-bombed; most states have some kind of legislation making it difficult for women to access abortions, either because of parental-notification laws, 24-hour waiting periods, unscientific and scary "lectures"--not to mention all the anti-abortion "pregnancy centers" that are federally funded to intimidate women into keep unwanted pregnancies and the obstacles that are being thrown up to prevent women from having access to birth control methods like RU486, while the Bush administration simultaneously withholds funding from international family planning organizations! That is how you "limit abortions" and that is how you chain 50% of the population to their bodies, to the church, and to government intervention in their most personal decisions! And the Bush administration wants to go FURTHER with this!

And why? Partly because Bush and many of his allies are guided by a morality--a Christian fascist morality--that wants to enforce on society a literal interpretation of the Bible in all aspects of our life. They already have established institutions and people placed in key government offices embedding that morality--from faith-based initiatives to abstinence education to debates about eliminating the separation of church and state (ten commandments in courthouses--Hello?!) These Christian fascists, you're conciliating with have a full and complete program; you may think you're easing tensions and trying to bring two warring sides together, but these Christian fascists would just as soon eat you for breakfast. They won't let you say, "let's limit abortions by increasing contraceptives"; they won't be appeased so easily.

And, in the face of the pressure from this right-wing morality, you and some of your colleagues are pushing harder with the idea that those of us who uphold the right of women to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy or not need to be welcoming of this hideous unscientific and oppressive morality since according to you, we don't have one of our own.

Right-wing pundit Andrew Sullivan recently said (in response to what you have been up to), "Something very unusual is happening to some Democrats and pro-choice abortion activists, They're getting smarter about their strategy. For years, they've harped on and on about a woman's right to choose, while failing to capture in any meaningful way, the moral qualms so many of us have about abortion itself. So they often seem strident, ideological, and morally obtuse. They talked about abortion as if it were as morally trivial as a tooth extraction--not a profound moral choice that no woman would ever want to make if she could avoid it."

Well, think about the anti-abortion movement's morality first: what kind of morality seeks to instill in women a sense of worthlessness, guilt and shame, especially when it comes to making decisions about the most intimate parts of their lives? What kind of morality says that instead of promoting a scientific and critical understanding of our bodies and sexuality, "religious and moral values" should be advanced as "antidotes to teenage sex"? What kind of morality says women who choose to have sex should be punished?

And yet, some say that "abortion is so ugly nobody who supports it can look moral." Well, take a look here.

We don't lack morality--we simply refuse to discuss the moral questions on these terms, using the morality of traditional values which are being fervently promoted by people who are not merely praying for, but organizing and legislating for reproductive slavery.

And the morality I uphold is one that is actually in the interests of all of humanity. It holds firmly that women are equal to men, that people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and that all people should be free from the oppression and exploitation that keeps them from being able to participate fully in society. And communist morality is one that gives expression to and serves the struggle to abolish all social inequality and oppression. In accordance with these principles, as RCP Chairman Bob Avakian has said, communism rejects pragmatic rationalization and the notion that "the ends justify the means"--it demands that, in the struggle for the final aim, the methods, the ends and means, that are adopted at every point along the way toward that final aim must be in fundamental unity with that final aim of doing away with oppression.

So, one part of that is understanding that abortion saves women's lives. And the doctors who provide them literally "on the front lines" are heroes. If you think that's extreme, then your opposition to patriarchal oppression is, at best, incomplete and inconsistent. So, take your "safe, legal and rare" mantra and stop trying to give leadership to women if that's the best you can do--how dare you equivocate on the value of any woman's life which I will say, without apology, is more valuable than any clump of cells that grows within her--wanted or unwanted. No moral qualms here.

My moral view of abortion--a communist morality--starts from the emancipation of women, which is rooted in the radical liberation of all humanity from traditional property relations and ideas--and we start nowhere short of that. This morality says we must look critically at the world as we determine what's necessary and possible, and to base everything on that future; because only then can you really determine what needs to be done today. It's not about political expediency, but about people's lives.

And, by the way, even though I am an atheist, I don't see drawing the line at this point in history between religion vs. no religion--we have to draw the line about women being able to freely engage with and participate in the world as complete human beings. If a woman can't do that, what is she worth?

As has been said many times before, the right of women to determine when and if to have children--their right not to be forced to bear children against their will--is the same kind of fundamental question as the right of Black people not to be slaves. As Bob Avakian has said, "Calls for reconciliation over questions and rights as fundamental as this can only serve those who would enforce enslavement and deny such fundamental rights."

So if we don't start with what's possible, if we don't start with a vision of a radically different world, then we will forever be stuck in the deadly cycle of finding what's acceptable to Christian fascists. And let's not be fooled, for that's what they are.

In fact, the Bible doesn't take a stand against killing actual babies, or raping actual women, so why would we base our morality on it? Well, for the Christian fascists, it's because they want to bring about all those horrors from the Bible as well. It's not "life" they are about, but the subjugation of women as an intrinsic part of their worldview.

These people (the same ones you are promoting "common ground" with) have the momentum, and the political power, to keep moving that ground further and further to the right, until you end up where you may never have thought you would; doing things you may only imagine in nightmares. And when you finally realize it, it may be too late. Because it doesn't take a lot of conciliation before you are either crushed or become one of them.

You know damn well there IS a right-wing conspiracy--do you think your husband is the only target!?!

Luckily, the slippery road of conciliation is not the only one before us. Like I said, there is another morality, which can lead us down a very different road, to a radically different future.

So the point then, is to passionately, proudly, and aggressively fight for and uphold a radically different morality that is a part of, and stems from, a radically different view of society that, at its heart, seeks to shatter all of tradition's chains and liberate humanity, as Bob Avakian has envisioned. We can't start from an eye-level look at where we are-- we need a far-sighted view from above; from the highest heights humanity can achieve, and start there. It's only idealistic if we're not actively grappling and fighting to understand it and comparing it to reality and breaking through the obstacles in front of us today. Which is why picking the "nicer" parts out of an oppressive morality will lead us nowhere but backwards--which, in this current world situation, is a deadly, brutally ugly place.


So not only does another morality exist, it must be urgently fought for and lived by. This morality's starting point is in looking at what is needed to free women from the chains of oppression which are being increasingly tightened around our necks.

Look at the world and see beyond the surface. See the layers there. See, on the one hand, the horrors hidden from too many of us; the way this world functions on the literal backs of millions worldwide, and cannot function without degrading their existence; the fact that patriarchy is far from an extinct reality, even if the word isn't known to all. (Of course I know you are familiar with the term--or have you forgotten the paper you wrote about how the origins of the word family come from the Latin familia meaning a man's household, including his furniture, his children and his wife?)

Sexual slavery, domestic violence, enforced marriages, rape, child brides, etc.--those things aren't going to disappear without getting rid of the very causes of them.

And then look even closer--there are people here and around the world who have no desire, and no interest, in keeping the world going the way that it is. See the potential in them, to understand and change the world? I can see the seeds of that different future, can you? Is your desire to hem them in, tie them up, keep them from ever being able to realize that future? I see the potential in unleashing them, and with that, heating up, not minimizing the tensions and contradictions; exposing these literal Bible-thumpers for who they are, not conciliating with them.

Tell me, Senator Clinton, what do you dream about at night? Do you see the faces of all the women who died from back-alley abortions when safe ones were illegal? Do blurred images of submissive women weighed down by unwanted pregnancies cry out to you? Or does your new found morality not allow you to even think about them--the actual human beings those fetuses inhabit?

I'll tell you what I dream about; what my morality allows for: I see a future where women walk with their heads held high, women who can't even conceive of a time when abortion was a government-sanctioned "right," never mind the logic of "safe, legal, rare"--because the ability for women to decide these crucial questions is a part of the fabric of the society. They will be beyond a society where such things are decided by the state, in fact they will be beyond states altogether in this communist future. Men and women of every kind of ethnicity will be able to freely engage with the world, interact with each other, and feel a common responsibility to understand everything that's going on in the world. And when they look back at the current moment in 21st-century American politics they will shake their heads at your foolish speech--if they can find a footnote on it in the vast library of human knowledge.