Reflections and Lessons from the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride—Respondent #1

October 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Week of Defiance, Abortion Rights Freedom Ride

August 25 – September 1 was a nationwide WEEK OF DEFIANCE: Abortion on Demand and Without Apology! Image: Special to

The Abortion Rights Freedom Ride was a six-week project this past summer that brought dozens of volunteers from around the country to Texas, the front line of the nationwide battle over abortion rights. Riders' ages spanned from 17 to 71. They held People's Hearings, conducted protests, braved arrest, reached out to thousands on the ground and millions through the media with the basic truth: Forced Motherhood Is Female Enslavement. Women need: Abortion On Demand and Without Apology! They fought to prevent the closure of more than a dozen abortion clinics scheduled for September 1, and at the eleventh hour a federal judge halted those closures. However, on October 2, a higher court overturned that decision and immediately closed all but eight abortion clinics in Texas (down from 46 in 2011).

It is more critical than ever that the lessons and the accomplishments of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride be built upon and that truly mass independent political resistance be built to STOP this war on women. In this light, Stop Patriarchy is sharing excerpts from the questionnaires that the Riders filled out reflecting on their experiences.

Going forward, Stop Patriarchy is mobilizing mass protests on both coasts for the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, January 22, under the slogan: Abortion On Demand and Without Apology!

Abortion Rights Freedom Ride 2014 Questionnaire: Respondent #1

1. Please share a few stories or experiences of going out to the broad public to talk about abortion. Pick whichever you want, but here are some ideas to spur you. What were the most common responses you got and how did you react to them? What was the most challenging response(s) you got? What responses taught you something or made you think about this struggle in a new way? What most surprised you?

My experience talking to two young women at San Antonio College really stood out in particular. (Key: SP=Stop Patriarchy, CS=college student, CSF=college student's friend).

CS: Hold up; are you for abortion or against abortion?

SP: We are for abortion.

They both looked taken aback and CSF shook her head, and proceeded to walk away. But CS, who was two months pregnant, stayed to battle it out.

CS: Abortion is just wrong, getting an abortion is murdering a baby, and a woman who gets one is a murderer but I wouldn't judge a woman who gets one.

SP: A fetus is not a baby. When abortion was illegal in the U.S. an average of 5,000 women died per year.

CS: Well if you lay with a man you should realize that you might have to carry a baby to term.

SP: Sex is not a punishment, just because someone has sex doesn't mean they are ready to carry to term a baby.

CS: What about adoption?

SP: Carrying a baby to term impacts a woman's body, plus the psychological impact of it—being forced to be an incubator for nine months and give birth simply because this fetus is being placed above her life and well-being.

CS: If a woman is raped she should be able to get one, I guess.

SP: So it is OK if a woman, according to your logic, is a so-called murderer for a good reason. Who is to decide which woman deserves an abortion and which woman does not? Nobody but her. Look, all of your arguments are arguments I've heard, not only once before, but repeatedly. Your ideas are not original, they have not come out of thin air, or some innate morality you think the pro-life people have. You have been denied facts, you have been systematically mis-educated. You have never even heard this side because the pro-life side has been so loud with their pictures of fetuses, and the pro-choice side has been so quiet... compromising women's lives. Look, 47,000 women die around the world per year from unsafe and illegal abortions; you didn't know that, did you?

She finally stopped throwing questions at me and looked like she was thinking deeply.

CSF: You are still here!?

Another Rider stated to engage with her friend, who had just recently given birth.

SP: Women are full human beings and forced motherhood is female enslavement.

CSF: Where are you all from?

SP: All over the country.

CS: Wait, you don't go to this school.

CSF: I can't believe you all are doing this and not getting paid.

SP: We are doing this for women's lives.

CS and CSF: We are going to watch the People's Hearings.

SP: That's awesome! It's important that these women's stories are heard. Women have been shamed for far too long.

CSF: Nobody cares about this; people are just into their own business here.

SP: No, actually, a lot of people care about women's lives and don't want to see women slammed back. This isn't about babies; this is about control over women. After all, the pro-life agenda consists of not just getting rid of abortion but also getting rid of birth control, and contraceptives. Women are oppressed here and all over the world. We live in a world where one in three women will be raped or sexually assaulted in her lifetime.

CS: Wow. I didn't know that. Women have to avoid walking around at night.

SP: That's not right.

CS and CSF: No it shouldn't be that way. OK, we will watch the People's Hearings. We admire you guys for doing this. We lost our group. We have to go.

I gave them the compendium sampler, Break ALL the Chains! Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution.

SP: We need to get rid of this system to get rid of the oppression of women. It's important you all read it.


I found this argument challenging, because the woman I predominately spoke with was so set on the idea that abortion is murder and women who get abortions are murderers. I had to reset the terms of the argument and expose that fetuses are not babies and that her calling abortion murder was contributing to the shame and stigma that the one in three women who get abortions are put through. Calling out her argument, and explaining that her ideas were not original but she had in fact been systematically mis-educated, changed the terms of the argument. It was surprising to witness someone who is super pro-life stop making the argument that abortion is murder and actually wanting to hear these women's stories. There was a lot of struggle with these two young women, and I realized the importance of calling out their method and approach was what got them to stop and think of women instead of the babies they thought were being murdered.

*I have left some particularities out of the dialogue, focusing instead on the "meat" of our conversation.

2. What, if anything, has changed in your understanding of the fight over abortion?

You CANNOT tail the issue at hand, especially if women's lives, futures, and dreams are at stake. I used to see through the lens of the pro-choice side. What I mean by that is, I understood why they wouldn't use the words "abortion," "patriarchy," or go so far as to say abortion should be "ON DEMAND AND WITHOUT APOLOGY." I was thinking within the confines of the system and believed that if you are too radical you would turn people off to the extent that you wouldn't get any rights whether it be abortion rights, gay rights, or any rights for that matter. Now I see that this view is not just wrong, but poisonous. The pro-choice camp being so obedient and not proceeding from the reality that when abortion is illegal women die, has actually granted the moral high ground to the pro-life camp. I realized that although it may sound counter-intuitive, the pro-choice side is contributing to the oppression of women. I now realize the complexity of the fight for women's right to abortion.

3. How do you sum up our progress on the three goals of the Ride: to forge a national counter-offensive to the war on women, to change the terms of this fight (making clear it is a fight over women's liberation or women's enslavement), and to bring forward mass independent political resistance (rather than reliance on the courts and politicians)?

Goal 1: Our protests and media coverage really brought to light that this was a war on women and not merely a local issue. I think getting the compendium [Break ALL the Chains! Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution] out helped me expose that women are oppressed nationally and internationally and how we can only get rid of patriarchy by having a revolution. I spent a lot of time talking to people about the "Postcards of the Hanging"1 and why was it that you can get away with doing to women that you can't get away with doing to any other class of people without a huge outcry. The compendium helped forge that national counter-offensive but only a small number of us were really taking it up, so I think if more of us took it up and there was media coverage on the compendium maybe that would also help forge the national counter-offensive.

Goal 2: We accomplished this goal more successfully than goal number one. We brought the woman back into the picture literally with our signs and ideologically, by proceeding from the reality that when abortion is illegal women die. We emphasized that it is not an exaggeration to say that women are enslaved if their bodies are property of the state.

Goal 3: We gave an alternative to the looking up to political figures for them to solve this war on women. History has proven that looking out and resisting on a massive scale changed the terms of things, not compromising Democratic leaders. Stop Patriarchy (SP) modeled the way in which women's liberation and the liberation of all people should be modeled.

4. Any reflections on the People's Hearings?

The People's Hearings were so important because they showed that women's lives and futures have been compromised for far too long. They also sounded the alarm on how oppressed women are. Not only have these women been shamed and silenced for their entire lives, many of them were brutalized and raped by people who supposedly loved them. They were oppressed simply because they were born female in this world.

This contributed to resetting the terms of Abortion Rights and gave women a platform to speak.

5. How do you evaluate the media coverage, the involvement of influential people, the impact we may have had on the broader public opinion?

The media coverage was substantial. Without SP's presence I don't know who would have stood up for women and made society realize that this is about the liberation or the enslavement of women. The influential people, Eve Ensler and Gloria Steinem, gave us more credibility and made it harder for people to dismiss us for being so in people's face and refusing to compromise women's lives. The public saw us, saw the women who died from illegal abortions, forcing people from all walks of life to confront the reality and not just see abortion as "killing babies."

6. How do you evaluate the protests, including the two protests where people were arrested?

Extremely impactful, they made people realize that the battle over whether women are going to be enslaved or liberated is worth people putting their lives and bodies on the line for.

7. What do you sum up about the challenges of involving new people—both on the ground and through social media, around the country, and in going forward?

It was a challenge to get more people to stand with us. We are helping to create a situation where people cannot ignore the oppression of women but the fury of women has yet to be fully unleashed.

8. What do you make of the haters [people who spread slander and attacked the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride and the Revolutionary Communist Party, Sunsara Taylor, and Bob Avakian rather than joining the fight to stop the closure of abortion clinics]? How did they affect you? How do you think they impacted others? How do you understand what motivated them? How do you think we did in responding to them? Do you have any ideas about further responses going forward?

Sunsara Taylor's claim that we were hated by some and loved by others for the same reason—our refusal to compromise women's lives—concentrates our principled method and approach during the Ride. The fact that proponents of abortion despised us caught me by surprise. The slander, which consisted of unprincipled attacks on BA, accusations of racism—even sexism, ad hominem attacks on Sunsara, and even calling us "little bitches" for not asking the "women of Texas" before we came to fight for the lives of women, encapsulates that the phrase "War on Women" is no hyperbole. These attacks really brought to light the great NEED to link everything up, to go after patriarchy as an institution and fight not just for abortion to be readily available, but to break the chains that enslave women, and to break with the culture that perpetuates the oppression and degradation of women. They think they can by getting a good Democrat in office and that our bold, brutally honest tactics are detrimental to their "on the ground work."

9. On the Ride, we strove to live and embody the kind of morality and relations between people that reflect the world we are fighting for—how do you think we did, what did this mean to you, how can we spread this further?

We did this by bringing the woman back into the picture: Women forced into motherhood, chained to a child they didn't want and a man they so desired to leave, women forced to self induce, risking their lives to achieve the autonomy that every full human being is entitled to, women forced, thousands of women forced, to prematurely die, bloody coat hanger in hand. Not to mention all of these horrors thrust upon women would be packaged so tightly by shame and stigma; who would hear these women's voices, see these women's blood, smell this grotesque immorality, and feel these women's agony.

We did this by making people realize the objective necessity of Abortion Rights: I urge people everywhere to put their bodies—their lives, on the line, as it is OBJECTIVELY necessary, even if it means tarnishing the dreams others had for you and the dreams you originally had for yourself. After all, my body, my life, your body, your life, is subordinate to the millions of women who are losing their rights as I write this report.

We did this by calling on people to join up: If you know what will happen to women in Texas and how this will impact the nation if HB2 [the Texas anti-abortion law] is passed you have a responsibility to take action because the anti's [anti-abortion movement] have been loud for too long while the pro-choice side has been obedient for far too long, granting the undeserved moral high ground to the pro-lifers. To remind you if you don't make your voice heard just think of the signs of those fetuses they hold as if they are autonomous individuals, and ask yourself, "Where is the woman?" She is not present in these photographs which is why we must literally not just bring her back into the picture, but remind humanity that she is a full human being, and her life and dreams are worth more than blastocysts, embryos, and fetuses.

We did this by changing the conversation society is having: The Ride modeled what breaking away from patriarchy looks like. There were discussions of the essential importance of unleashing the fury of women and what it will take to end this degradation, which manifests itself throughout the entire globe. These conversations are the conversations we should be having in society. This is what our culture should consist of—people getting together, wrangling with theory, and discussing BA.

10. The courts are still weighing whether the Texas clinics will stay open and across the country the assault on abortion is escalating. The Advisory Board is proposing major mobilizations for Abortion On Demand and Without Apology for the anniversary of Roe v. Wade (January 22). What do you think of this? What ideas do you have to make this powerful as well as other ideas you have for going forward?

I think mobilizing Abortion On Demand and Without Apology is a great idea for the anniversary of Roe v. Wade! I think students who participated in the Ride need to send their experience in Texas to all their campus newspapers and share their experience in the classroom, calling on people to join up and be part of fundraising.

11. How did we do at fundraising? Anything to learn from who gave and why people gave? Ideas for further fundraising going forward?

I contacted like everyone in the gender studies department at my school. I have no idea how much was donated by them. One of my friends donated $30. I wasn't a huge contributor to getting the Ride fundraised. I think having our reasons for going on the Ride read by masses of people got much of the Ride funded.

12. I never got a chance to tell this story at the People's Hearings, so here it is:

At the age of 14, my mother was forced to give birth. It wasn't until last month that she told me about the living nightmare of being impregnated, sent away, and shamed by her community upon her return. My mom confided that while she was in labor, the nurses gave her a bell and told her to ring it if she needed assistance. When the pain grew excruciating, she rang it, but instead of alleviating the pain, a nurse came in and took the bell away. Left alone in agony, it was as if my mom's pregnant belly masked her face, taking away her humanity as she lay on the hospital bed. Even after she gave birth to a ten-pound baby girl who was praised and adored by the hospital's staff, my mother was treated like "a whore" for not having a husband. Now a strong proponent of abortion, my mom says that no woman should have to go through what she went through, that instead, every woman should be given the choice she never had. The reason I want to go on the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride is because this is not an anecdote to be read as an individual narrative but a reality that helps encapsulate that forced motherhood is female enslavement and that abortion must be "on demand and without apology." The fact that the right to abortion is being ripped away from women proves that the phrase "War on Women" is no hyperbole. If more laws to take away a woman's right to control her own body are passed, female genocide will ensue. If I do not go on the Freedom Ride I will be legitimizing the oppression of women by failing to fight back against injustice. By going, on the other hand, I will expose the patriarchal threads so tightly woven into the capitalist-imperialist system—threads removed only once the entire system is uprooted, liberating not just half of humanity, but ALL of humanity.


1. "It is a striking fact—which is starkly evident in the U.S. now—that, in comparison to what is done to women, there is no other group in society that is so systematically reviled and defiled in a way that has become acceptable (or widely accepted in any case) as a significant part of 'mainstream' life and culture, as happens in a concentrated way through pornography and the extremely demeaning and degrading images and messages about women it massively and pervasively purveys (with the Internet a major focus and vehicle for this), including pornography's extensive portrayal of sadistic and violent sexual domination of women...

"I began the 'Revolution' talk with 'They're Selling Postcards of the Hanging,' reviewing the ugly history of the lynching of Black people in America and the way in which celebration of this became a cultural phenomenon in the U.S., with the selling of picture postcards of these lynchings a major expression of this—often including smiling and leering crowds of white people surrounding the murdered and mutilated body of a Black man. In a recent exchange, a comrade emphasized this profoundly important and compelling point: Today, the way in which pornography depicts women—the displaying of women in a degraded state for the titillation of viewers—including the grotesque brutality and violence against women which is involved in much of this, is the equivalent of those 'Postcards of the Hanging.' It is a means through which all women are demeaned and degraded."

Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
from Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution



Volunteers Needed... for and Revolution

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.