Eyes Opened and Silence Broken in Nationally Webcast Abortion Rights Speakout

January 20, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


The evening opened with a live phone-call from Paris.  Eve Ensler, the Obie award-winning author of The Vagina Monologues and initiator of VDay and One Billion Rising to end violence against women, had called in: “I really want to thank Stop Patriarchy for its incredible efforts this last year in standing up against the people who are trying to push us back to the Dark Ages... to push women’s rights back in every sector and on every front, but particularly in terms of abortion rights... Whether it is domestic violence, whether it is sexual violence,whether it's the violence of control over our bodies by the state determining when and if we have children, it is all the same origin, it is patriarchy.”

It was January 17; about fifty people gathered in New York for an Abortion Rights Speakout organized by StopPatriarchy.org.  In at least seven other places around the country—including many Revolution Books stores—people gathered to view together the event live via webcast and elsewhere people tuned in on their own.

From there, eyes were opened wide, and some were wet, as intimate and terrifying stories were shared from women about when abortion was illegal.  A woman from Mexico was gang raped and impregnated as a teenager, then forced to drop out of school and to prostitute herself to support the son born of that rape.  For thirty years she couldn't meet his gaze when he asked, “Who is my father?”  An American woman was raped as an exchange student in Europe and contemplated suicide daily as her stomach grew and she could not figure out how to find an abortion.  A former president of the National Organization for Women-New York State already had four children under the age of five when she found herself pregnant again.  The back-alley abortion she found was terrifying and unclean and she feared for her children should she not survive, but she feared even more what her—and their—lives would be like if she had yet another set of twins.

“Forced motherhood is female enslavement,” declared the emcees, Mary Lou Greenberg, a longtime revolutionary and fighter for women's liberation, and Adrienne Luendo, a member of StopPatriarchy.org and a veteran of last summer's Abortion Rights Freedom Ride through Texas.  The truth of this statement came alive.  Real women, millions of real women, have had their lives foreclosed and their dreams extinguished in this way; countless have died around the world—at least 47,000 each year—for lack of safe abortions.

At the same time, the tremendous liberation of being able to control one's own body and reproduction was made clear.  Testimony was shared from women across the country who had written in to the StopPatriarchy.org website.  One declared her abortion had been the “most responsible decision of her life,” another simply wrote, “I had an abortion and I am thriving!”

Carl Dix Calls Out the LIE that Abortion is "Black Genocide"

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Several powerful short videos were shown throughout the event.  One was a poem written by a thirteen-year-old African-American girl called, “Society Rapes,” about the violence that surrounds women.  Two videos featured the spirited, in-your-face actions and street theater of StopPatriarchy.org.  And two took on the poisonous lie which is promoted by some reactionary Black preachers that abortion among Black women is a form of “Black genocide.”  In one, Carl Dix, of the Revolutionary Communist Party, calls out the woman-hating behind this lie, pointing out that the view these reactionary Black preachers have towards Black women is no different than that of the slavemasters; both see Black women as nothing more than breeders.  In the other, Sister Mama Sonya, a social worker, minister and performance artist from Texas who connected with StopPatriarchy.org during last summer's Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, tells the story of Black women who were raped and treated as “breeders” during slavery and upholds the right to abortion for all women today.  She had written and recorded this performance specially for this Speakout, by the end of the video most of the room was reciting with her the refrain, “Abortion On Demand and Without Apology!”

Sunsara Taylor directly called on people to get on the bus to get down to DC to confront the women-haters, and to do the same in San Francisco and Austin and elsewhere.  She also pulled back the lens, revealing how the war on abortion rights in this country is part of a larger global assault on the fundamental humanity of women, from Saudi Arabia to Congo to Bangladesh to El Salvador and beyond and demolishing the notion that it is just “human nature” for men to oppress women.  “It will take an actual revolution to liberate women and emancipate humanity,” she argued, and urged people to get organized for an actual revolution and to dig into the pamphlet, Break ALL the Chains! Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution, even as we go all out in the next few days to bring everyone possible to confront the woman-haters at the upcoming protests.

Diane Derzis, owner of the last abortion clinic in Mississippi, sent a message in which she described how pro-choice people have relied on the courts for too long and that it is time to get back in the streets and fight.  She underscored many of the themes of the Speakout, most of all that the attack on abortion is an attack on women.  Some chuckled in agreement when she said, “As much as this country likes to talk about how it is un-Godly and un-Christian, that is absolutely not true. I feel like I do the Lord’s work.”

Answering the call from the emcees to step forward with stories, a woman from Harlem stepped to the front.  She was embarrassed, she said, because up until not that long ago she had opposed abortion and it was only recently, only through meeting people involved in the movement for revolution, that she came to see things differently.  She understands now that abortion is really about women, whether women will be controlled by others or be able to control their own lives.  She spoke of the hardship that can come to both the woman and the child if she is not ready or able to care for a child and she called on people in the room to make a point of reaching out to others like herself.  There are so many just like her who have been lied to, they need others to reach them with the truth.

The formal program was closed out with a speech by Riley Ruiz, a leader in StopPatriarchy.org and a veteran of both Abortion Rights Freedom Rides.  She laid out the mission of Stop Patriarchy, whose full title is—as she pointed out—End Pornography and Patriarchy; The Enslavement and Degradation of Women, from the ever-expanding porn industry and rape culture to the Christian fascist assault on abortion, birth control, and scientific sex education.  She shared experiences and lessons from the two Abortion Rights Freedom Rides, including the need to change the terms in the fight around abortion so it focuses on women.  She insisted that the war on women must be fought and resisted, not accommodated to or ignored, and she urged people to get involved on the spot.

Afterwards, the room was heavy with the weight of what had been shared, but also buzzing with excitement for the upcoming trip to DC and the new connections that were being made.  A young Black woman in the audience described how she had always “sort of” known that abortion is opposed by some, but never thought about what it is like for women in Mississippi or elsewhere and now she feels more responsible to do something.  A grandmother shared a story she hadn't told in perhaps fifty years: after getting married at age 15 she had two miscarriages before her first child.  “I was terrified,” she said, as she explained that her father-in-law had told her that if she couldn't produce a child he would get rid of her.  “Just like a tree that doesn't bear fruit, you cut it off at the base,” he said.  Tears welled up in her eyes as she spoke and her granddaughter and daughter, who were also present, took all this in for the first time.  A young white woman who had met Stop Patriarchy the day before when they were doing street theater said she had just moved to the city and was looking for a group to get active with for women's rights and she was very excited about finding one.

Many people stuck around for quite some time, mingling and sharing stories, helping clean up the space and make plans to get to DC.  Even in the last few days before the upcoming protests of hundreds of thousands against abortion and birth control, it is important that people take what they learned through this speakout and act on it.  Change your plans if necessary to be at the protests and call on everyone you know to join you in doing the same.

The anti-abortion fascists have been allowed to claim the high moral ground and political stage uncontested for far too long, and this has gotten us all into a very dangerous place.  This year, instead, will millions see this being powerfully challenged by a new force that is emerging that has huge spirit and huge aims, to really STOP this assault on the fundamental humanity of women?  Its up to us.  Be there!




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