Reflections from Abortion Rights Freedom Riders

September 15, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


From Stop Patriarchy: The Abortion Rights Freedom Riders are now back after an extraordinary month on the road, fighting for Abortion On Demand and Without Apology. We are now in the process of summing up this whole effort and want to share with everyone what we learned, what we transformed, and what we think we need to be doing next. For now, we are sharing with readers reflections from two young people who were part of the Freedom Ride.

"I love telling people the truth, and I am so happy to have gone on this ride."

From B.G.

After getting back home and thinking about all of this, like really thinking about it... what we learned, what we changed, and how we changed, I realized that there are people that are thirsting for a revolution and for groups that stand up and against all of this system's bullshit.

While on the road, I noticed we did find those people that wouldn't stop thanking us for what we were doing, and women who would openly tell their stories. While you are on the road you can't really look at what we did as a whole and really reflect on it, but once back I did see how much of an emergency abortion rights are in. With every state we went to, there was some sort of restriction on abortion. And to be honest, I didn't realize how big of an emergency it was until we were down south in Wichita. So many people didn't know what was happening in the U.S. with all of these new laws being passed... Not just that they didn't know, they didn't even know there were groups like us out there that were fighting for abortion rights, and that people in these states that were on the right side, the side of truth, weren't alone in this fight and that it truly is a national issue and can't just be localized.

That is one thing I noticed while traveling to different cities, that people would say "it's not happening to me, or here, what does it matter?" People don't realize that what happens in one state can influence another, and that it isn't just about the women in your single state, it is about women everywhere; how they are being oppressed, being forced into motherhood, and that if abortion clinics are to be shut down in their state, women's lives are at stake.

Not only were people just thinking about this on a local level, but while in Wichita I realized that so many women just think about themselves only as mothers, because that is all they have been told their whole life. "Well, you need to find a good man when you are older so then you can be a mother and raise a family." And it makes me sick that so many women just see their future as being mothers and being just a stay-at-home mom. Sure if that is what you want, that is cool, but the fact that so many women just instantly consider that their future is totally insane. And you see this whole ideology getting into the heads of the youth, with them seeing it on TV shows nowadays, 16 and Pregnant for example. This makes having a child and getting pregnant at 16 seem so amazing; that you can have a TV show about you if you get pregnant. This is so totally fucked up about how they beautify this. This shows how this gets into the heads of young girls. For example, when we were down in Wichita and went to the mall, and we came across those girls that said they weren't ready at 14 to have a child... but now that they were 16, they were "mature enough to have a child and raise one" and they wouldn't get an abortion.

In terms of changing people's thinking, I think we really showed them that it is okay to say "abortion" and there is in no way anything wrong with getting an abortion. So many women were still scared to say "abortion," but I could see how we really changed some women with letting them feel comfortable enough to tell their abortion stories. When we were doing outreach, at some point during that day a woman will openly tell you about her abortion and you could see in her eyes how proud she was to say that and the relief that we provided for so many women. When I was just folding T-shirts one day while in Fargo at the coffee house that became our hangout, this lady asked me what I was doing, or what we were about. I told her about the ride and what we were setting out to do, and she was like, "You know I got an abortion when I was 18 and for so many years I felt guilty and shamed that I killed a baby, but thank you for not shaming me and letting me tell my story."

Another example: my friend who came to our program in one city, she never talked about how her dad worked at and owned an abortion clinic in her hometown because she was harassed because of it. But then when she saw what we were doing she told me later that night that she was "proud of [her] dad and the work he did." It was totally awesome seeing her take pride in what her dad did and not be scared to talk about it.

This was one of the things that most surprised me. I was not expecting how many women came up and would just tell their abortion stories. All of that was really heavy, because a lot of women have felt shamed for so long and then they finally are able to tell their story, and I can't even imagine holding that in for so long and not being able to talk about it with people. And I mean I realized that the South was backwards, but I never realized how alone a lot of these people felt about their thoughts and that they felt they could never really talk about any of this because it is such a controversial subject. I could tell that over the course of our whole trip we really did change people's thinking about abortion... Even if it was few in each state, you could tell we really got people to think about what we were doing.

The thing that we did struggle with the most was actually getting people to join us, and really stand up against this and resist. It was because people are terrified of what others think and what will happen to them because of their views. This is when we need people to realize that the anti-abortion people aren't fucking scared of getting in your face and they are all united and they are gaining people and power, but how the fuck are they doing this? They have no truth to what they are saying and they terrorize and kill people. We need to gain the masses of people and have people stand up against this because we can't lose this fight. We can't go back in time after everything that has already been fought for.

In terms of building an organized movement, we are totally kicking ass, after getting so much coverage and having so many people on the ride coming from all over, we are really just getting this going and getting this started. I know since I have been back home, every day I have brought up the ride and Stop Patriarchy and almost every person I talk to wants to sign up and be a part of what we are doing. With all of the places we went, we need to keep in touch with the people we met. We need to help these places start their own chapters and really keep everyone involved in any way that we can. We need to make sure that when a new law is passed in one state, or there might be new restrictions against clinics, we need to have rallies all over the country supporting that state and that clinic and really be united nationwide.

I can't even begin to describe how I think I have changed over the course of the ride. When I joined the ride, I knew what I was getting into but I didn't know nearly as much as I know now about the state of emergency and what is happening in every state and just all over the country in general with abortion rights... and what this means for women and how it shows the role of women in society. I learned how women are really viewed in society, and how so many people don't even realize the degrading shit that is put out every day. It is something that people are so used to by now that they don't even find it disgusting anymore. I never really realized the harassment and shame that clinics go through on the daily and how threatened they are. This makes me sick; the fact that these "pro-lifers" can even sleep at night with knowing what they are supporting and saying to women makes no sense to me. I knew the anti-abortion movement was crazy, I just never experienced them. Really I'm happy I did because they would make me laugh, but it was also great to see their faces when we would be supporting abortion and us showing them the truth rather than the bullshit they put out.

I have always loved going to rallies and showing the world the truth behind this fucked up system, but I also really learned how truly fucked up this whole system is. How we live on the oppression, exploitation and lives of other people, this is what fuels this system. I was into BA [Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party] and would read Revolution and read about BA's new synthesis for communism but now this is all I ever want to read about and keep looking into, and thinking of ways on how I can get this out to everyone in my city, and not just my city but all of my state, and then just not my state but this whole country. I mean, I have always loved helping people, and giving them all that I had because I could see that they needed it more than I did at the moment. And I mean this is my passion, and seeing how greatly this would help all people, how people wouldn't be above or below another human being, how people won't be oppressed or exploited, how we won't murder others to just gain power...

I love telling people the truth, and I am so happy to have gone on this ride, because it really opened up for me what I want to do with my life. I mean I always had these ideas and whatnot but it is super fucking clear now and I love it. I just have so many ideas on what I can do locally for now with getting revolution out there. I do know for sure that we all are doing something amazing and we have a kickass group of people that are leading this up.

I think we need to transform the thinking of people about women; people see women as just sex objects and as breeders. People don't really see women as anything other than that, this is why we are having to fight for abortion rights. ....this isn't about the baby, it is about control over women and with men being the dominating force in this system. People need to realize if women, Blacks, Latinos, and LGBTQ [Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Questioning] are oppressed and aren't considered as full human beings and if they aren't free no one can be free.

And we need to transform people's thinking about abortion. Rather than there being this shame put around people that are getting abortions, there should be shame around the people that are harassing, shaming, and oppressing women... And we need people to realize that "voting for the right person" is not the answer; when has that ever worked? Politicians are not going to change this; they will only fuck over people more and more. We need a revolution, we need to change this system and we need people to realize why we need a revolution and why this system should be changed.

I enjoyed doing outreach and talking to people about the ride and about having a revolution, but it was still always so hard to really engage people and get people interested in what we were doing and getting them to want to join and stand up. People are always hesitant when joining movements like this and actually joining and continuing to do work. I have met a lot of people at the local Revolution Books here, but you don't see a lot of them after one meeting because they aren't driven or interested in really joining. And this is what we need to try and get into people's heads, that it is so important every person that comes to the bookstore or to a rally needs to really stay in touch and continue in this struggle. People need to find it in themselves to continue in this effort... And I also still struggle with how to talk to people and engage them myself, I mean all of this is a learning process and every day you learn more information.

This whole ride had a huge impact on me, and meeting everyone who was so fucking passionate about all this was a huge impact on me. I mean everyone on this trip was so knowledgeable, and each person had a different view on things that added to the whole ride and really added to how to go about everything and I loved that. But I would say one of the biggest memories I have was at the Moral Monday protest in North Carolina. I didn't really talk with this woman for long but I noticed her friend had a sign that said "End the war on women" and I went over to give her a palm card. And then her friend saw what I was about and was listening in on our conversation and I gave her a palm card as well. I could see that this woman was starting to tear up from what I was telling her, and she was just thanking me for what we were doing... that she fought for this already and she can't believe that our generation has to go through this as well. And then she gave me a hug and was just thanking me, and I could tell that I made a big impact—not just on this woman but on so many women and men all over the country with what we were doing and we really inspired so many people and showed that we won't back down. It wasn't a long interaction, but for some reason this really stuck with me. I think it was just her emotions and her body language that really affected me—it made me so proud of all of us for what we were doing.

How the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride Changed Me as a Man

From P.H.

As a man, I stand behind women to have this basic right. I stand beside women who have had an abortion, and I will continue to STAND UP so women will continue to have this basic right. Women I know have disclosed to me their abortion stories. I validated their experiences and told them it was the right thing to do and they should not have to feel bad. That is why I decided to join the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. I saw that there was a need for people to join a movement to remove the stigma, hate, and shame cast upon women. We are heading backwards toward a dangerous time for women, as it already is a dangerous time to BE A WOMAN.

We heard stories about why women get abortions. This is something I would never have to face as a man because of my reproductive anatomy. I learned so much from the women on this ride about the days of illegal and botched abortions and women who died. I intended to be a support person on the ride by being present, but I soon realized I can say something—I can say that when a woman is not ready to have a baby and is made to believe she needs to have one, THAT IS FORCED MOTHERHOOD—just because a woman is pregnant, it doesn't mean she needs to have a child. WE CAN ALL SAY THIS.

The Abortion Rights Freedom Ride has traveled around the country saying "Abortion On Demand" so women can decide if and when they will have a child. Without this basic right, women are slaves. We say "Without Apology" because, really—WHICH WOMEN SHOULD APOLOGIZE? Why should a woman have to apologize for having an abortion or having more than one abortion? Why should she have to explain? WOMEN ARE FULL HUMAN BEINGS capable of determining whether and when they will have a child. Just because a young woman says she wants to be a mother one day doesn't mean she has to be a mother the day she gets pregnant. Being pregnant is not a good reason to become a mother. If a woman is not yet ready or prepared or wants to be a mother and has a child against her will, that is forced motherhood. That is like someone forced or coerced or coaxed to have sex—that is rape! This is all a part of the global patriarchal culture of rape. A woman should not have to be punished for being pregnant. Having an abortion is a responsible thing a woman can do if she does not want to have a child. It can be positive and liberating and provide a feeling of great relief.

As someone who has worked with victims and survivors of rape, I have offered the words: "It wasn't your fault," "You are not alone," and "I'm here for you." It doesn't matter what a woman was wearing or how much she was drinking or how late at night she stayed out or what she is doing with her body or how she was behaving. She should not have to apologize or blame herself. We can all say it wasn't your fault because that is the truth! With having an abortion, we can ALL say "You shouldn't apologize" and "You have NO REASON TO BE SORRY." The scientific truth is that FETUSES ARE NOT BABIES and the moral truth is that WOMEN ARE NOT INCUBATORS FOR MEN OR BREEDERS OF SOCIETY. The life of the fetus is not worth more than your life or your future, just like the life of a man's sperm or your ovaries are not worth more than you. ABORTION IS NOT MURDER! The decision is up to you and only you if you want to have a child or not. We can encourage victims to not blame themselves, although we can understand why they do and where it comes from—IT COMES FROM PATRIARCHY which constantly shames and blames victims, particularly women who are further beaten, intimidated and killed every 10 seconds around the world just for NOT BEING A MAN. Just because a woman blames herself and internalizes the shame and the pain doesn't mean that is correct and should be left at that. We can all struggle with that.

It took a small group of people to lead a change in the right direction, and that's what we are doing. This Abortion Rights Freedom Ride is sparking and unleashing the fury of women toward the full liberation of women and the emancipation of all of humanity. Joining this movement transforms people as they take action. Many have thanked us for what we do, and we have to thank the women who are breaking the silence by telling their stories of having abortions so others could rise up in telling theirs. Many have thanked me for coming on this ride, and I have to thank them for allowing me to stand up and for me to realize—those of us who are just beginning and those who are still fighting for this—WE ARE ABOUT LIFE by protecting women's futures and lives.

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