1st Day on the Road with the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride

by Sunsara Taylor | July 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From the blog at stoppatriarchy.org:


Today is mostly packing, getting all our materials together, driving… driving… driving… stopping to go pee… driving… driving… driving… getting gas… So, I won’t bore you with all of that. Instead, I’ll share a bit about what happened yesterday at our kick-off rally in New York City.

From what I have heard about SF’s kick-off and from what I saw first hand in NYC, our launch was a serious beginning that drew together an important core of beginning support, that tapped into and unleashed deep sentiments and commitment, and that lays a good foundation to build off of. In NYC there was powerful testimony from women about their abortions. This included a woman who was moved to take the stage and tell of a dear friend who found herself pregnant in Biloxi, Miss back before Roe v. Wade when she was only 16 years old – she was so terrified she went home and shot herself dead! The woman shared this with tears in her eyes and brought alive how much is at stake for women’s lives and her hopes for what this Abortion Rights Freedom Ride will contribute to.

There were moving readings from Dr. Wicklund’s book, This Common Secret, about what it was like before abortion was legal and why she has risked so much to provide women with abortions. Dr. Linda Prine spoke first hand of how difficult even for those doctors who go out of their way to get trained in abortion care and want to provide the services to their patients to do so in huge swaths of the country, either because of restrictions where they practice (legal or just administrative in some medical settings) or because of the threats and harassment. She also spoke with great medical authority about how all the restrictions being passed in states like North Carolina and Texas and around the country are totally medically unnecessary and only designed to prevent women from making their own reproductive decisions. She unapologetically stated that when women choose abortion it is not only their decision, it is their responsible decision because you should only ever have a child when you want one and are ready to care for one. Even though the crowd was smaller when she spoke (having recently dwindled under a heavy, if short-lived, downpour), new people were drawn by her words. She finished by appreciating that the people going on the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride are seeking to change the terms in the struggle around abortion, to get off the defense and go on the political offensive.

Statements of support from Eve Ensler and people who have written in through StopPatriarchy.org were read from the stage. There was a wonderful stand-up routine done by a young woman who got everyone disarmed and loosened up through a hilarious bit lampooning Rick Perry for all his outrageous and invasive anti-woman, anti-science politics. Then, she went deep into people’s hearts – moving some to tears – as she shared a true story of helping a friend get an abortion when they were both just 15 years old and Catholic. She did this in spite of a heavy downfall that temporarily cut out the sound-system, in fact, she made everyone laugh about this as well. Sonia Ossario, President of NYC NOW, spoke about the failed attempts recently to get legislation passed in New York State that would safeguard women’s rights, including the right to abortion, and she urged people to support getting this through in the next session. She also spoke strongly in support of abortion rights and called on everyone to enthusiastically support the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride and its mission.

Carl Dix, of the Revolutionary Communist Party, together with Noche Diaz and Jamel Mims, took the stage to speak about the courage and importance of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride at a time of utter emergency for women’s rights. They rooted this war on women in the system of capitalism-imperialism we live under and connected it up with the other struggles against the crimes of this system, like the recent acquittal of George Zimmerman and the slow genocide of mass incarceration and the tremendous hunger strike going on among prisoners in California against torture in the prisons.

Guerrilla Girls Broadband took the stage and spoke, through their guerrilla masks, about the marginalization of women in the arts and about the importance of abortion rights. They explained that they had already been planning to produce a map online of the attacks on women’s abortion rights but that they were speeding up the production of this map so that they include updates from the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride (like this one, perhaps).

I spoke near the very end and brought people back to why we are launching the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. I tied the attacks on abortion rights together with the many other fronts of assault on women’s rights and lives – from the epidemic of rape to the constant domestic abuse, from the trafficking of women as sex slaves to the increasingly violent and degrading and cruel nature of pornography even as it becomes more mainstream, to the way women are ridiculed and insulted in every sphere and all the time – and to the way that men are trained to view women as nothing more than objects to be used, humiliated, abused and discarded. But, I emphasized, this is not just “human nature,” this is the nature of the system and how it trains people. This system has patriarchy woven into its foundation, just like every class divided society before it. Systems of exploitation and oppression need patriarchy, they need to control women and their reproduction, they need to train men to view women as objects, in order to maintain their divisions from one generation to the next and the functioning of their system. Through revolution, we can get rid of this system and not only liberate women but emancipate all humanity and people should get into this revolution, get into the new synthesis of communist revolution brought forward by BA and get into the movement that is hastening and preparing politically for this revolution right now. And all of us need to come together now to take a stand and repolarize all of society in a different way around abortion rights. We need to stand up and support this freedom ride as it goes out and launches a counter-offensive against the seemingly endless assaults. We need to tell people the truth, that there is not going to be some savior politician or magical court ruling that will protect women’s rights. This is going to take massive political struggle.

I described some of the deep reservoir of support for this fight that has already been stepping forward as they hear about this Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, some of what stepped forward in Texas recently, and how much more of this is needed. Then I challenged everyone in the audience to be part of the Freedom Ride – to either literally get in a car or caravan or a plane and join us at our stops or, if they can’t do that, to become a “virtual freedom rider” by following and spreading the word and supporting through twitter, Facebook, email and joining a support team.

When I told people I was about to bring up the NYC Abortion Rights Freedom Riders and asked the crowd if they would have our backs, people shouted back enthusiastically. Then, each of them gave a very heartfelt and moving statement as to why they are taking time out of their lives to be part of this Abortion Rights Freedom Ride.

One of them began by saying she walks through the world every day thinking of herself as a full human being, but inevitably at some point during every single day someone steps forward to remind her that this society sees her only as a woman and therefore less than human. One spoke about how important it is for young people from the new generation to step up and fight for women’s liberation. One told of countless friends and family sexually assaulted and raped and how she’s been with women to get their abortions and she can’t sit on the sidelines. One promised that we would boldly spread the message of abortion on demand and without apology all across the country because without this basic right women cannot be free. One spoke of how many she has known who’ve needed abortions and how lucky they have been not to be in the states where it is so difficult to find and how she was going on the freedom ride for them and for all the women she will never meet but who need this right just as badly.

The crowd was riveted and truly had a sense of the courage and commitment and potential of this effort. Then many people gathered to have their photo taken with a huge banner that reads, “Abortion Providers Are Heroes.”

I don’t know as much about what happened on the West Coast – hoping they will blog very soon and I can read all about it.

(Written on the road, somewhere between New York City and Cleveland.)


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