On September 1, as the country was waking up to the most draconian, punitive, fascist abortion ban in the nearly 50 years since abortion became legal, different people began putting forward their best understanding of what we are facing... and what must be done. In this extraordinarily dangerous and fraught time, it is crucially important that this discussion get opened up and sorted through.
In this sense, a writer out of Texas named Andrea Grimes did us all a favor with an article published that day titled “Stop It With the Fucking Coat Hangers.” By “favor” I don’t mean that she accurately assessed the danger we face or what must be done. Rather, her article concentrates a logic which is being taken up by far too many, but which—regardless of her intentions—can only accelerate the disaster we now confront. It is for this reason that it must be taken on.
Grimes’s main argument, as concentrated in her title, is that because of the existence of abortion pills that can be used safely outside a professional medical environment, things really won’t be as bad as they were before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion. She tells people: “[S]top the fear-mongering around coat hangers and instead share good information about medically safe self-managed abortion care with pills.”
As her argument is laced with legitimate disdain for the legal system of this country—one that is infused with white supremacy and patriarchy and is now promising bounties to sue anyone who assists a woman with an abortion—Grimes’s approach might strike some as “radical.” In reality, it is the farthest thing from it.
Is It “Fear-Mongering” to Warn of Coat Hangers and Worse?
It is true that we are not facing a return to the ugly days before Roe. What we face now is immeasurably worse.
First, there is no way that self-managed abortion care could possibly help more than a tiny fraction of women who need an abortion. Medication works well only relatively early in pregnancy and itself will carry increasing legal risk if this trajectory is not stopped. Further, a great many women don’t have mailing addresses (say they live in their car)—or ones that can be used safely (say they live with their abuser or fundamentalist parent). For a multitude of reasons, focusing only—or even mainly—on promoting medication abortion will condemn the great majority to forced motherhood, unsafe options, possible imprisonment, and lives of stunted suffocation.
The cold reality is that the Christian fascists behind this law, the fascist majority Supreme Court who gave it official sanction to go into effect in violation of their own “super-precedent,” and the armies of woman-hating, deranged fanatics harassing women at every clinic in this country who have already assassinated 11 people involved in abortion care and are right now taking down license plate numbers outside abortion clinics in hopes of collecting a $10,000 bounty, are just getting started. This Christian fascist movement is—like the Taliban in Afghanistan—driven by a fanatical belief in a Dark Ages religion that views women as property of men and breeders of children and will not stop until this is given the full force of the law and all opposition is violently and viciously crushed.
But even that is not the full picture. This war on women is but one cornerstone of an all-around fascist remaking of society that is rapidly advancing. Do you recall the January 6th violent insurrection with their noose for Mike Pence and likely Nancy Pelosi and others, their brazen white supremacist Confederate flags, and their theocratic crosses hoisted high? Since then, the Republican Party has purged itself. NOT of those who supported and fueled the insurrection, but of those who did not. They’ve packed the courts and legislatures with fascists and have a base of millions hardened around their determination to use violence if necessary to lock in their vengefully white supremacist, male supremacist, theocratic, anti-scientific fascist nightmare.
Here, it is worth quoting extensively from a recent piece from the revolutionary leader Bob Avakian titled THIS IS A RARE TIME WHEN REVOLUTION BECOMES POSSIBLE—WHY THAT IS SO, AND HOW TO SEIZE ON THIS RARE OPPORTUNITY:
The Republicans have become a fascist party—a party based on open and aggressive white supremacy, male supremacy, and other oppressive relations—a party convinced that only it deserves to rule, moving to manipulate elections and suppress votes in order to gain and hold onto power, refusing to accept the outcome of elections it does not win, determined to gut and pervert “the rule of law,” trample on people’s rights, and adopt what amounts to an undisguised capitalist dictatorship, ready to use violence not only against masses of people but also against its rivals in the ruling class.
These Republicans have mobilized a significant section of people who believe, with an intense, irrational passion, that white supremacy, male supremacy, and other oppressive relations (as well as unrestrained plunder of the environment) must be firmly upheld and enforced. They have been driven to a state of vicious insanity, embracing all kinds of lunatic conspiracy theories, along with a crazed Christian fundamentalism, as a response to the threat they see to their entitled (or “god-ordained”) position and their insistence that further concessions to the struggle against oppression will destroy what has “made America great.”
As it is put in A Declaration, A Call to Get Organized Now for a Real Revolution that was recently issued by the Revcoms:
[T]he crisis and deep divisions in society now can only be resolved through radical means, of one kind or another—either radically reactionary, murderously oppressive and destructive means or radically emancipating revolutionary means.
The Legality of Abortion Matters! (Do We Really Have to Make This Argument?)
Grimes goes to great length explaining that “safe” and “legal” are not the same thing:
Abortion care needn’t be “legal” to be safe. And abortion care that is “illegal” is not necessarily unsafe. When we conflate “safe” with “legal,”—by saying, for example, that “your donation to Planned Parenthood helps protect safe, legal abortion”—we perpetuate a white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal legal system that was built to serve the most privileged among us... We are saying that we will let the state determine what is good and safe for us, even when the state itself is the one saying: go collect a $10,000 bounty for reporting your neighbor’s abortion.
Not to get too semantical, but the reason both words—“safe” and “legal”—are used is precisely because they are not the same. (No one is going around saying “keep abortion safe and un-dangerous.”) But, the safety—and availability—of abortion is closely linked to its legality.
Do we really need to be making the argument that when abortion is illegal—when the full power of the state is put behind preventing and punishing those who participate in abortion—it becomes unsafe for the vast majority of women? Unsafe in that not all medication abortions work. Unsafe in that even when they do work, it is only up until about 10 or 11 weeks into pregnancy. Unsafe in that it could soon become illegal to receive abortion pills through the mail1. Unsafe in that criminal elements who give zero fucks about women will seek to dominate this market, as they did before Roe and do to most underground markets. Unsafe in that anyone who dares to help a woman could be financially and socially ruined for doing so. Unsafe in that as abortion is increasingly criminalized and even more shamed, the vast majority of women won’t know how to access the pill and will resort to even more desperate means—yes, hangers, but also drinking bleach and Purell, throwing themselves down stairs, and worse. Unsafe in that forcing women and girls to live in fear and silence and shame, to have their dreams foreclosed by forced motherhood, to risk isolation and imprisonment, is... fundamentally unsafe.
You End a “White Supremacist, Capitalist, Patriarchal Legal System” by Overthrowing It, Not by Ignoring It
The deeper absurdity and harm of Grimes’s argument is her implication that if we refuse to acknowledge the importance of what the state does, we can keep it from determining our lives. Tell it to the two-plus million people languishing in prison right now. Tell it to the families of those whose loved ones have been killed by police. Could all these people have been spared this state repression and violence had they simply remembered not to perpetuate the system by acknowledging that its laws mattered? Give me a break! The state has real teeth, whether you acknowledge it or not.
If you want to stop unjust laws from determining people’s lives... you have to fight and defeat them. You have to mobilize the outrage of those whose lives will be ruined by it and all those who can be won to stand with them. You have to sound the alarm, shake people up with the full shocking truth, call them into the streets, not calm them down with delusional fairytales about how it “won’t be that bad.”
Even more fundamentally, if you want to put an end to what Grimes accurately describes as a “white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal legal system,” you have to recognize that it was NOT “built to serve the most privileged among us” as she very wrongly claims. The “white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal legal system” we live under was built to reflect and serve the underlying system of capitalism-imperialism. Sure, this system gives rise to relative pockets of privilege (large pockets in an imperialist country like this), but the system serves the capitalist-imperialist class. Capitalism-imperialism functions—and can only function—through ruthlessly exploiting hundreds of millions in global networks of sweatshops and fields and mines and supply chains around the world. This system has patriarchy, white supremacy, environmental destruction, wars of empire, and terror against immigrants woven into its fabric.
If you want all that to end—and end it we must—there is only one way: The system must be overthrown through an actual revolution that brings into being a radically different system with a new economic foundation, a new culture, new social relations, and a radically different legal system set up to serve that. This is what the revolutionary leader and architect of the new communism, Bob Avakian, has developed a strategy to make real. He has also forged a scientific approach that everyone can take up to be part of and advance this process and a Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America for how we’d do different and far better. And he has identified how this question—breaking the chains that bind women and all oppression based on gender and sexual orientation—is a key part of driving this revolution forward. Everyone who wants to see this needs to get into his work and take up his leadership. It is notable—and not incidental—that Bob Avakian also stands out in having analyzed and warned for decades about the danger of Christian fascism that has always been bound up with the assault on women’s right to abortion.
WHAT IS URGENTLY NEEDED NOW
As the shock of the Texas Abortion Ban, with its green light from the Supreme Court and its fascist vigilante bounties, is crashing into people’s consciousness around the country, the alarm that is starting to spread needs to be deepened. Not with empty hysteria, but with a scientific understanding of the full depth and direction of what we are confronting and the negative stakes that will come by “playing it safe” or just operating within the ever-shrinking ground that is (for now) left to help a few women, and instead acting with a firm grasp of the positive stakes if we dare to fight it and for the future we want.
In the face of this, what people like Grimes advocate is capitulating to a future in which abortion is outlawed in large parts of the country and, at minimum, under assault everywhere else.
As part of deepening and fueling the necessary awakening—two things are urgently needed:
The outrage of millions must be called forth and mobilized to STOP this assault on abortion rights and everything it concentrates. A line must be drawn. Artists, academics, writers, doctors, and everyone with a public platform should be using it to not only decry this assault on the lives of half of humanity, but to call on people to get out in the streets to make “good trouble.” Everyone who remembers the dark days before Roe should be speaking and warning of what it meant. Students and young people need to be filling the streets, along with others of all ages, relentlessly (not just once, symbolically) refusing to let this go down.
At the same time, and even more importantly, people from every walk of life who are being jolted by this and the other shocks pulsing throughout society need to dig seriously into why a revolution is needed, what this revolution involves, and what kind of society it is aiming for. Thousands now, and millions soon, need to lift their sights to and get actively organized into the revolution that is needed, and imminently possible especially as society is being increasingly ripped apart, to move humanity to a far better epoch, to a world that truly is free of white supremacy, patriarchy, and exploitation of every kind.