Revolution Online Edition, August 17, 2009
From a staff member of Revolution Books, Cleveland
The situation at the Akron Women's Medical Center has escalated since the murder of Dr. George Tiller, the doctor from Wichita, Kansas who was one of the few doctors who did late-term abortions. Every Saturday, women come to this clinic for abortions, but on their way in, they have to confront a gauntlet of loud and threatening anti-abortion protestors.
On July 18, the anti’s were right up in the face of people, yelling and waving their phony fetus posters. Before anyone knew it, one of them hit Charles Wright, a long time women's rights advocate, so hard on the side of the head that he knocked him out. Charles was rushed to the hospital, where doctors discovered that he had 6 broken ribs. He remains in intense pain, can barely sleep, and ended up with a hospital bill totaling $38,000.
As soon as we heard about this, we hooked up with a Revolution subscriber from Akron and went to see Charles, who told us that in the wake of this attack many people were fearful of going back to the clinic. We all agreed that we had to make it clear to friend and foe that we will not back down in the face of this attack. We decided to put out a broad call for people all over Northeast Ohio to come to the clinic for a rally on Saturday, August 1, under the slogan, Women are not incubators! Fetuses are not babies! Abortion is not murder!
This was a challenge because we were just beginning the campaign to take out the statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA: "The Revolution We Need...The Leadership We Have." But the call itself states: "It is up to us: to wake up... to shake off the ways they put on us, the ways they have us thinking so they can keep us down and trapped in the same old rat-race... to rise up, as conscious Emancipators of Humanity. The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world... when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness... those days must be GONE. And they CAN be."
With this orientation, we got the word out – We posted on Facebook, sent out massive emails, got it up on our website, made lots of phone calls, contacted the media, and talked with people in the pro-choice and women's movements. The Akron Beacon Journal and the Cleveland Scene Magazine published articles on the attack on Charles and the call for the rally. The word was getting out!
At the heart of our message was the quote from Sunsara Taylor, "When it comes to abortion, there is ONLY ONE moral question: Will women be fully emancipated human beings in control of their lives and reproduction OR will we be forced to submit to patriarchal male authority and to breed against our will? A woman who cannot decide for herself, without any shame, judgment or restrictions, when and whether she chooses to have a child, has no more freedom than a slave. The movement to forcibly deny women the right to abortion and to birth control is a movement to enslave women. With its aims, its methods, and its morality, there can be no compromise".
The rally was very controversial. Some of the Akron folks initially said they were too scared to return to the clinic. Others in the mainstream pro-choice movement argued against the protest, sometimes in ways that weren't so honest. Emails got sent claiming that the rally was cancelled, some tried to downplay the seriousness of the attack on Charles, others said that we should rely on the police, and that our protest would hinder the police investigation, and that the clinic didn't want us to be there anyway.
The response from some in the pro choice movement reminded us of the article by Andy Zee in Revolution, "In the Era of Obama: The Collapse of 'The Movement'; the Resistance and the Revolutionary Movement We Need"
“A grievous, shameful and dangerous state of affairs permeates the movements of opposition in the U.S. Their outlook and politics have collapsed into passive acquiescence and even overt criminal complicity with the policies and actions of the ruling class, and are doing so by promoting the deadly illusion that the election of Barack Obama is bringing progressive change.
This is bullshit, it’s knowable, and it must change.”
On the day of the rally, we unfurled a huge banner reading, "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology," marched up to the police station, right across the street from the clinic. There were already people there waiting for us! All told, about 25 people gathered, outnumbering the anti-choice thugs!
From the moment we arrived, there was a feeling of newfound strength and a spirit of determination and boldness to get our message “Abortion on demand, without apology” out there. One clinic activist told us, “I could cry right now because of all the support here and the fact that so many people came out."
Moments later, an antiabortion nut came across the street and tried to block our banner with their sign. We responded by blocking his sign with one that read "Dr. Tiller HERO", and kept moving our banner to get in front of his. The same guy called the police more than once during the day to complain about us stepping into the street or about our bull horn. At one point, the police came and ordered one our crew to bring the bullhorn to the police car, but we all said, “No way he is going with you.”
Right after this we noticed a young man yelling at the anti abortion crowd, so one of us went to talk to him. He said how hard it was for him and his girlfriend to go through with an abortion and then to hear these people made him furious. We got him a leaflet and copy of Revolution #158, "A Declaration for Women’s Liberation and the Emancipation of Humanity."
After that, the women heading up the clinic told us to bring the banner and all the people over to their side of the street. From that point on, the anti-abortion forces were on the defensive and the guy who tried to block our banner backed off. Almost everyone coming in and out of the clinic took a flier, and thanked us for being there.
Throughout the day, we got out Revolution #158 and #171 to almost everyone there. Some people we talked to were interested in revolutionary solutions to horrors like the attack on abortion rights to the horrors of imperialist wars as in Iraq and Afghanistan. We also got out several of the Revolution #170, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have.”
We talked to people about how we need resistance, like what we were doing today, and we need to build it stronger as part of a revolutionary movement that could lead to getting rid of capitalism/imperialism that has the women and oppressed people throughout the world in unnecessary chains. It doesn’t have to be this way.
People were full of passion about the need to fight to keep these clinics open. Charles, still bruised and in pain, proudly showed up at the rally, and said, "I got hurt for doing this, for protesting for abortion rights. You have to fight for what's right! I believe in a woman's rights over her own body. A fetus is exactly that...a fetus. And it's not a child until it's born. I love women and I respect them, and I respect their decisions."
There was NO talk of how we have to find common ground with the anti-abortion forces, and this struck us as significant because of the prevalence of this line of thinking in society more broadly (and clearly promoted by Obama), and also within the pro-choice movement nationally. While people didn't buy into the “common ground” position itself, we did struggle with many who were defensive about making the choice of abortion. Most disagreed with patriarchy, but Revolution #158 was a great resource because people didn't really understand where it comes from and why it is being forcefully escalated, and what to do about it. Many people were openly unapologetic about not believing in the Bible, and not using religious arguments to defend abortion, or feeling the need to be “soft” on the horrors of religion.
Here is some of what people had to say about how they saw things and why they came out:
"I'm old enough to remember when abortion wasn't legal, and the ugly things that happened. I've been here before, not often, but in the light of things that have been happening in this country, I feel the need to come down here more often and not let these protesters walk over this clinic."
"Abortion is not, not, murder. It is a basic women's right. It's about the women."
"There aren't many abortion providers left in Ohio. And especially with Dr. Tiller getting assassinated, the escalation of violence at the clinic has gone up. Before it was just verbal, and now it's physical. They used to just occasionally trespass."
"I haven't been on the streets much (to protest) since I had a little one. I became a mother by choice, but parenthood isn't for everyone. I feel very fortunate to have grown up with (access to and education about) birth control and abortion. And I want my daughter to have the same. If we're not out here doing this, it's not going to happen. I never understood how they stand out here with their signs but never want to do anything about the massive inequalities in society. They're the same people voting against affordable health care and child care. It just doesn't make any sense."
On the slogan, Abortion on Demand and Without Apology: "I think it's perfect. I don't believe we should make lists -- if you were raped...if it was incest...Fuck that! If you don't want to be a parent for whatever reason, you don't have to be."
"You can just feel the love. We have been run over by these people for months. They hurt people, and they don't care. And their religion tells them it's ok. And if that's religion, I don't want any part of it."
After the rally some of us got together to talk.. For some, including Charles, it took a lot of courage to be there and this added to the significance of the moment. Our bold presence at the rally was a shock to the anti-abortion forces, who were more subdued than anyone can remember. One woman described how in the past the anti’s were so aggressive that they would dog the women all the way up the steps to the second floor door of the clinic, ranting in their ears the whole way. But the rally that day had been a dramatic turn of events. Someone said it was such a relief to see our response in coming to the support of the boyfriend of a woman who was getting an abortion—when the anti’s surrounded him and started their shit and he went off on them, we were right there by his side.
Looking ahead, we talked about how this was an opportunity to develop a network to continue and strengthen a movement in support of Abortion on Demand and Without Apology. The “Chain of Life” anti-abortion onslaught in October is something that people were aware of and wanted to be able to bring people to action around in the future, in addition to ongoing support at the clinic. There was a tremendous amount of concern and anger about the presence of Christian fundamentalism pervading society, uneven understanding about how they are increasingly backed by the state, and about the toll taken on women who need abortions, because of the ever more repressive laws being imposed.
We proposed that people organize a reading group around Revolution newspaper, to be able to put this question into perspective of what’s going on in the world and learn more about the nature of this system of imperialism and how a revolution can happen. One guy nearly fell out of his chair. “You guys are for revolution, you mean a real one...?!?” The conversation turned to “what kind of revolution?” One person said he had heard that in 2010 Russia would collapse and this would lead to a general world crisis that might bring these powers down. One woman was critical of NOW—they do nothing—why aren’t they raising hell right now? Why aren’t people in the streets? Why do people continually see all these outrages and turn again and again to hopes for changing some law or another? She said she cares about the whole world, everyone should – and thought a big problem is that people don't look at the big picture.
We showed Part 4 of the DVD "Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What it's All About." People heard about the ongoing oppression of Blacks since the end of the Civil War, why immigrants come here from around the world, the oppression of women and homosexuals—and all the while they say, “this is the greatest country in the world...” People laughed at Avakian's biting sarcasm, saying “thank you!!” to his sharp exposure, and repeating along with him the fact of a woman being beaten every 15 seconds in this country.
At the end, we all had a hard time saying goodbye. We left with some beginning plans for a reading circle of Bob Avakian's "Away With All Gods," and more.
The next day, the Akron Beacon Journal ran another article on the protest itself. Included in the article was a quote from a staff member of Revolution Books:
"Lee Thompson, an abortion advocate from Cleveland who writes for Revolution, the newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party U.S.A., said she helped to get others out on the protest line because of the escalation of violence.
''We are here to say that we will not allow threats, intimidation and violence at women's clinics,'' she said. ''We are here today to stand up for the right to abortion on demand and without apology.''
Off of these 2 articles in the Akron Beacon Journal, there have been posted over 50 pages (!) of comments on their website. These comments include many spirited and unapologetic defenses of the right to abortion, along with a lot of fascistic rantings – against women, against abortion, for the bible. And within this, some have openly called for more physical attacks on clinic defenders and on the Revolutionary Communist Party.
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