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The Right to Abortion: The New York Times Rationale for Surrender and Why There Can Be No Compromise—and No Going Back 

September was a tipping point in the fight over whether women will be able to control their own bodies and reproduction. The Texas abortion ban tore up 50 years of Constitutional precedent, effectively nullifying the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion.  Even more ominously, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving a 15-week abortion ban out of Mississippi, a case that could overturn—or radically undercut—Roe v. Wade outright. 

This cannot be allowed to stand. It needs to be met with a massive response by people refusing to let this go down. People need to hit the streets and be doing all they can to have the October 2 march being called by the Women’s March be enormous, uncompromising and militant—and not just a symbolic one-day act where everyone goes back to normal the day after—because normal is over!

The shock of this, the deliberate cruelty of it, the theocratic intentions of it which has people rightly comparing this to the Taliban, is raising existential questions.

What are women who are about to lose reproductive freedom to do? What should everybody who cares about a society where there is any justice do?


Deadly Advice from the New York Times and Too Many Pro-choice Voices

According to the New York Times, we should accept that abortion rights are gone and prepare for the long patient slog of winning elections to eventually reverse this.

The editorial board for the Times put this in a nutshell:

For the majority of Americans who support a woman’s right to comprehensive reproductive health, the Supreme Court is now an adversary. Any long-term success will mean fighting the same way anti-abortion campaigners have for decades—in the political realm, by winning elections at the state and federal levels and changing laws as a result. Unlike justices, elected leaders can be voted out if they don’t listen to their constituents. It is a long and difficult road, but it’s the one all lasting reforms in a democracy must take.

Kathryn Kolbert, reproductive rights attorney and co-author of Controlling Women: What We Must Do Now To Save Reproductive Freedom, argued the same in an NPR interview on September 3:

The federal courts in particular are not our friends. And we need to return to the legislative process to restore the rights that will be taken away probably in the Mississippi case that will be heard sometime this fall.

The interviewer challenged her, posing: “But abortion rights supporters have lost ground in state legislatures, which is what led to laws like the one in Texas and the one in Mississippi. It seems like if that's your strategy, things are going in the opposite direction of where you would like to see them go.”

Kolbert replied:

Exactly. The anti-abortion movement had a 40-year strategy. We need to have a long-term one as well.

How Many Women Are You Willing to Sacrifice?

40 years! First, telling people they should resign themselves to this—as if this is a legitimate, if undesirable, part of the process—is an act of capitulation that has to be measured in its cost to the lives of people here and around the world. This cost began mounting  the day after the Texas law went into effect when a woman lucky enough to have a sonogram showing she was only five weeks pregnant tested positive for COVID and was turned away. Where clinic staff had to hold back their own tears as a woman about to go to jail with three kids at home who did not want to carry another pregnancy to term dropped to her knees begging them for help.

What will be the cost for  the entire half of humanity that is born female and to all LGBTQ people who are now in the crosshairs of a fanatical Christian fundamentalist war that aims to outlaw birth control and lock in discrimination against LGBTQ people? For all who oppose the fascist nightmare that this assault on abortion is a linchpin of—with its open white supremacy, science-denial, accelerated climate destruction, and the hatred being stoked against immigrants—we do not have 40 years to wait!

This approach of leaving it to the long process of elections, and conceding ground to the anti-abortion movement time and again to “get elected” has tied the hands of the reproductive rights movement for decades. It has paved the way to the very dangerous place we stand now. To continue the same thing is the textbook definition of insanity.

Not How These Rights Were Won, Not What Is Driving This Attack

Second, the New York Times's insistence that the “long and difficult road” of winning elections is the “one all lasting reforms in a Democracy must take” is fundamentally wrong. This flies in the face of demonstrable history.

The rights now being taken away were concessions made to the great social upheavals of the 1960s. They were not a result of work over decades to elect legislators, but of a generation  fighting outside the confines of the system and increasingly against it—students burning draft cards and willing to go to jail for draft evasion, urban uprisings and university shutdowns, women taking over the suites of major magazines until they were hired as journalists, not resigned to clerical work. These rights were the result of upheaval creating the kind of multi-front political crisis that had the ruling class worried their system was losing its international standing as “the greatest Democracy in the world” and its legitimacy at home.

In reaction to these concessions, and accelerated by the globalization of capitalist exploitation that has resulted in changes in the economy and social composition of the country,1 a fascist movement has been built up over decades led by very powerful sections of the ruling class who are intent on changing the form of rule to an undisguised dictatorship and naked brutality. They hate and want to reverse abortion rights because of what it has opened up in terms of women's ability to participate fully in society... and because opposition to abortion has long been a gateway  to a broader program to violently reverse all the social gains since the 1960s.

As the revolutionary leader Bob Avakian has written in a recent article, THIS IS A RARE TIME WHEN REVOLUTION BECOMES POSSIBLE – WHY THAT IS SO, AND HOW TO SEIZE ON THIS RARE OPPORTUNITY, which everyone trying to figure out why this is happening should read:

[A] section of the ruling capitalist class, represented by the Republican Party, has all along resisted even these partial concessions to the fight against oppression, and has become convinced that these changes have now gone too far, that they threaten to destroy what has held this country together and enabled it to dominate the world.

The Fascists Are Blowing Up the Institutions the Times Wants You to Rely On

Third, the New York Times's strategy is a losing one that will completely fail to stop the slide towards a nonfiction Gilead.2 But, persisting in this losing approach now—when the Republicans have purged their ranks, hardened and become what is now a fascist party—is a fast track to catastrophe!

While the New York Times and Biden are playing by the rules and telling people they have 40 years to slowly bend the arc of history towards justice,  the fascist GOP is  tearing up the rules and ripping the country apart. Trampling over people’s rights and any pretense of “democracy for all,” this fascist party is openly telling you  that if they lose the next election they will not fail at having Republican legislators decide the election instead. Even this Texas ban is an example of this—open defiance of the rule of law.

Those who have ruled over us, with their Democratic and Republican parties, are in bitter conflict over how to hold this country and their capitalist system together. This conflict has not been put to bed by Biden’s election or his futile attempts to “unify the country.” It’s intensifying.

As Bob Avakian, confronting the actual reality of this, has analyzed:

The Republicans have certain significant advantages over the Democrats in this conflict.

The Democrats are committed to “playing by the rules” and “relying on the norms” of “democratic” capitalist dictatorship, while the Republicans are moving to tear up those norms and rule through an open, undisguised capitalist dictatorship.

The peculiar nature of this country—with its history of genocide, slavery, and continuing white supremacy, and repeated “compromises” that have given disproportionate power (power greater than what is represented by their populations) to southern states of the former Confederacy, and other states with significant rural populations of “conservative-leaning” people—this is another advantage that the fascist Republicans have.

If this battle remains on the terms of this system, not only will there be horrific consequences overall, but this could very likely lead to a triumph for the Republican fascists, which would accentuate and accelerate the looming disaster, for humanity as a whole.

Only a Real Revolution Can Fundamentally Resolve This

The hard but liberating truth is that under this system, elections and the “proper” institutions you are supposed to exert your political will through are built to thwart any fundamental change. These institutions serve the system of capitalism imperialism. Because this system depends on exploitation and inequalities, its institutions are NOT bringing and CAN NOT bring real or lasting justice. And the New York Times’ honeyed words about electing representatives who will “listen to their constituents” as the real road to lasting change is bullshit.

But the full emancipation of women is possible through a real revolution—overthrowing this system and replacing it with a radically new system and new institutions

So, what should people do now, when the Supreme Court is controlled by theocratic fascists?

Not going back will require fighting outside the terms of this system as is laid out by the editorial board of the New York Times. It will take refusing counsel to lay your rights down. Even more than that, it will take heroism, sacrifice and daring based on not just what is right but is actually possible.

Unjust laws should not be accepted but defied and fought. We should take inspiration not from those who have kept us passive, demobilized and blinded, but from the literally millions of women all over the world who have taken to the streets from Poland and India to Latin America against femicide and rape and attempts to take away birth control and abortion. Ask yourself why, just as we are looking at the reality that women could lose the right to abortion in the U.S., women in Mexico and Argentina who have been unrelenting in the streets and taking on the major institutions ruling society are winning advances in these rights.

At the same time, and urgently, we must work towards a real revolution. A revolution possible now, even in a powerful country like this, because of the unprecedented extremity of the circumstances we now confront where those who rule this country can no longer do so in the way things have been held together under the rule of a more or less united capitalist class. So to all the sisters and brothers who must now rise in relentless struggle—as you do—you need to seriously look into why a revolution is needed, what this revolution involves, and what kind of society it is aiming for and get actively organized into the revolution that is needed to move humanity to a far better world.



1. There have been profound changes in the situation and social position of large numbers of women, both within this country and internationally, that are analyzed in New Year’s Statement from Bob Avakian: A New Year, The Urgent Need For A Radically New World—For The Emancipation Of All Humanity, January, 2021. The volatile implication of these changes were pointed to in a statement by Avakian 30 years ago. The full assessment of this in 2021 is included in the New Year’s statement under point 3:

With these economic changes have come significant changes in attitudes and expectations—and very significant strains not only on the fabric of the family but of social relations more broadly.... The whole question of the position and role of women in society is more and more acutely posing itself in today’s extreme circumstances—this is a powderkeg in the U.S. today. It is not conceivable that all this will find any resolution other than in the most radical terms and through extremely violent means. The question yet to be determined is: will it be a radical reactionary or a radical revolutionary resolution, will it mean the reinforcing of the chains of enslavement or the shattering of the most decisive links in those chains and the opening up of the possibility of realizing the complete elimination of all forms of such enslavement.


2. In the novel The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and the TV series based on it, the "Republic of Gilead" is Christian fascist society in which biblical law and patriarchal values—as updated and interpreted by the new rulers—are increasingly imposed. [back]

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