The Urgent Fight for Abortion Rights and the Revolution Needed to Emancipate Humanity

Michael Slate Interviews Sunsara Taylor

January 12, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |

On January 8, Michael Slate interviewed Sunsara Taylor about the upcoming mobilizations for abortion rights, the need for massive resistance to defeat the war on women and the urgent need for people to take up the leadership of Bob Avakian and join the fight for a revolution that can emancipate all of humanity. This interview has been edited for publication.
The Michael Slate Show airs on KPFK 90.7 FM, Friday, 10-11 a.m. PT, online at

Michael Slate: This week, we’re talking about the battle for abortion—the major mobilizations for abortion rights coming up January 22 and 23 on both coasts, and the revolution that is needed to fully liberate women. Our guest is Sunsara Taylor, a writer for Revolution newspaper and initiator of End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women. Hey Sunsara, welcome to the show.

Sunsara Taylor: Hey, Michael! It’s great to be with you.

MS: This year it seems sharper than usual, the abortion clinics closing, the pending court cases, all that’s going on. That guy that shot up Planned Parenthood. All of this that’s happening. It’s clear the anti-abortion fascists are clear on what’s at stake here. But I'm not so sure about people who support abortion rights. Why is it important that people don’t just ho-hum these upcoming demonstrations for abortion rights you are organizing for the anniversary of Roe v. Wade? Why should people get into this and fight it out?

ST: Abortion rights are in an extreme state of emergency—and it’s largely an invisible emergency. It’s felt by millions and millions of women, but it’s not acknowledged in society. Abortion clinics have been forced to close because of medically unnecessary fascist anti-women laws. 100,000 women in Texas alone have attempted to self-induce their own abortions because over half the clinics have closed in the last several years. The Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado was shot up, three people murdered. And, of course, the media treated that like it was just another shooting spree. This was anti-abortion terrorism. Half the clinics in the country have staff who have experienced targeted harassment, stalking and terrorism. That means they’ve been followed home or their children have been harassed at school. They’ve been hunted, they’ve been sent hate mail, their parents in nursing homes have been harassed. Targeted harassment against abortion providers has doubled in the last five years.

Then you have things like the case of Anna Yocca, from Tennessee. Tennessee, like many states, has a mandatory waiting period for abortions. So you have to go to the clinic, you have to wait two days, you have to go again. You have to take the time off of work twice. A lot of women have to travel great distances. If you have a child you have to find childcare. If you are in an abusive relationship, you have to figure out how to get out of the house. You have to come up with the money to make the trip. And you have to make the trip twice. For some women it’s not possible.

So Anna Yocca allegedly attempted to self-induce an abortion. With a coat-hanger. This was recently. With a coat hanger. This was not forty years ago. This was not sixty years ago. This was very recently. She ended up bleeding profusely, was scared for her life and went to the hospital. But, instead of completing the abortion she clearly needed and wanted, the hospital removed the fetus from her body and forced Anna Yocca to become a mother against her will. Then Anna Yocca was charged with first degree attempted murder. She’s sitting in jail. It’s like an honor killing, you kill one woman in a very public way and you send a chill to every other woman. In this case, everyone woman is being sent the message that if you can’t find a safe legal abortion and you take matters into your own hands, you better not show up at the hospital, even if you’re bleeding to death, cause you could end up in prison for life. This is what’s being done right now.

In many ways, and particularly for men, the woman question and whether you seek to completely abolish or to preserve the existing property and social relations and corresponding ideology that enslave women (or maybe “just a little bit” of them) is a touchstone question among the oppressed themselves. It is a dividing line between “wanting in” and really “wanting out”: between fighting to end all oppression and exploitation—and the very division of society into classes—and seeking in the final analysis to get your part in this.

Bob Avakian, BAsics 5:18

And then there is the mountain of shame that sits on women everywhere—about their bodies, about their sexuality, about their desire or decision to get an abortion. Thousands of years of tradition's chains, of religious authority, of male-supremacist authority and culture tells them they are “selfish” and “dirty.” All this is horrible oppression, it is outrageous and cruel.

Bob Avakian really gets to the essence of what is at stake here when he says, “Unbelievable as it may seem, in the 21st century there are still people—including people in positions of power and authority—who are determined to force women to bear children, regardless of the situation, the feelings, and the better judgment of those women themselves. That is a way of enslaving women to the dictates of an oppressive male supremacist, patriarchal system; and that is what the cruel fanatics who are determined to deny women the right to abortion are really all about.”

MS: That is different than a lot of people see it. Many people see these anti-abortion fanatics and fascist Republicans and think it's just sort of a wacky leftover from a previous era, and they think, “We'd never allow that to win.”

ST: To those people I say: Wake up! You are allowing it. Women are being slammed backwards—we are currently losing this fight. So, get off the sidelines and get out in the streets on January 22 in DC and January 23 in San Francisco, stand up for abortion rights, and be part of really not allowing this.

It’s also not true that—aside from a few attacks on abortion—women are “otherwise equal and liberated.” No! Women are stalked, beaten, and raped at phenomenal levels. Domestic abuse is rampant. Women are demeaned and degraded in the culture—the mainstream culture. Women are called bitches, ho’s, treated like punching bags and sex objects. People bop their heads to it. The whole culture is saturated with violent, degrading, cruel pornography that’s training boys and men to see the torture and humiliation of women as sexually titillating. All this is coloring the real way that real men treat real women. These are not minor phenomenon. These are cornerstones of the culture. And it goes along with the brutality. It goes along with the way that women are trafficked around the world, including girls in this country being pimped out at the age of 12 and 13 years old. Again, not a minor phenomenon, a major phenomenon.

So it’s all that and just the way that girls and women are bombarded with the message that their value should be derived from being some kind of a prized sex object, or the best catch for a man. This gets in their heads, they internalize this hatred for women. They starve themselves, they hate themselves, they learn to play dumb so they won't “intimidate a man,” they cut themselves. This is the world we live in. And there is a body count. It has a psychic toll. It has a trauma toll. And it affects all women, including the women who are told they’ve “made it.”

We don’t live in a liberated society. We live in a society that is based on exploitation and oppression—here and all around the world—and this includes rampant male-domination over women. This oppression of women—the level of degradation, disrespect, and harm—is completely unnecessary! It is one of the many reasons, but it alone is reason enough, that this whole system has to be done away with through an actual revolution. We need a revolution, we need a different society, we need a different world and we need it now.

MS: You’re advocating revolution. I think we gotta get into it and explain some of that. Why is revolution necessary, and what are you talking about here.

ST: By revolution...people need to look at Go and check out the leadership of Bob Avakian. He’s somebody who’s been fighting for revolution and creating a new framework for revolution, for real and lasting emancipation for all of humanity all over the world.

One of the things he is hammering at, and this is important and very true and this is at the foundation of a lot of the problems that he’s put himself to... as you have the economic system of capitalism-imperialism, the culture that flows from that, and the state that governs and enforces all that, humanity can never truly get free. We can fight—and we must fight—to beat back the attacks on the people, but until we make revolution even the greatest advances will eventually be pushed back and undermined. And we see that. Everything the sixties accomplished—for Black liberation, for women's liberation, against unjust imperialist wars, and more—has been viciously pushed back. Reversed—and with revenge involved. And Bob Avakian—BA—has never lost sight of the need for an actual revolution. There is a need to bring the system down, when the conditions open up where it can be defeated, when millions can be led to go—all out—to rise up against it, to clear it off the stage of history. Then, the need to go on to build a new revolutionary state power. A socialist state, heading toward a communist world. This is materially possible. And it’s much more realistic than reforming the system to be something it cannot be.

The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the RCP is written with the future in mind. It is intended to set forth a basic model, and fundamental principles and guidelines, for the nature and functioning of a vastly different society and government than now exists: the New Socialist Republic in North America, a socialist state which would embody, institutionalize and promote radically different relations and values among people; a socialist state whose final and fundamental aim would be to achieve, together with the revolutionary struggle throughout the world, the emancipation of humanity as a whole and the opening of a whole new epoch in human history–communism–with the final abolition of all exploitative and oppressive relations among human beings and the destructive antagonistic conflicts to which these relations give rise.

Read the entire Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the RCP at

Now, if that’s true—and it is—then you need to put yourself to the problems involved in making that kind of revolution. How do we prepare people? How do we prepare the ground? How do we bring forth and hasten the development of a situation where millions can be led to go all out to fight to bring this system down and build a new society and a new state? How would such a struggle be won? What would a new society and new state power look like? What outlook and ideology, what method and approach, is needed to lead all of this so that you don't end up—even inadvertently—recreating some of the very things you were fighting to end? These are questions that Bob Avakian has taken responsibility for. And he's developed path-breaking answers.

The scope of what all of that means goes beyond what we can get into in a short interview. But it’s at and BA has done the work, including leading in developing the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America that lays out, starting Day 1, how we could actually build an economy, a state, and culture, that is working for real emancipation. And this is something everybody, if you really want to end slavery in every form, if you want a different world, you have to get into this leadership.

MS: This is important—and I want to go at that further in a minute. But, first, I want to go a bit further at the morality of abortion. I know many people, even people who support abortion rights, still feel that there is something immoral or undesirable about it. They still think its somehow killing. Can we talk about that a little bit?

ST: First of all, fetuses are not babies. They’re part of a woman’s body. They have the potential to become a person, but they’re not people. Terminating a pregnancy is terminating a potential life. That’s not murder. It’s not killing a person. Because a woman should only have a baby if she wants to have a baby. If there’s something developing in her body that’s going in the direction of becoming a child, but she doesn’t want to have a child she should terminate it. She should get an abortion. There’s nothing wrong with it. There’s no shame in that. There’s no immorality in that.

But, when the morality of abortion gets discussed, it always gets posed up around the supposed “immorality” of killing a fetus. What’s always erased is the woman. Why does anyone accept that? Women are human beings, they shouldn't be erased.

The fact is that when it comes to abortion, there is only one moral question: Are women going to be forced to have children against their will, or will women be treated as full human beings who can make their own decisions about when and whether they will have children? Forcing women to have children against their will is completely immoral! It treats women as if their lives do not matter, that their dreams do not matter, that their choice about what to do with their bodies doesn't matter. It is a form of enslavement and no one should tolerate it and everyone should fight against it.

MS: Then, of course, many people have been taught—particularly by the church—that abortion is wrong and they feel a lot of guilt and shame over this.

Available now as an eBook!

Purchase from these vendors:, iTunes, Barnes & Noble,, IPG, Kobo

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Publisher: Insight Press

Excerpts from the book:

Religious Fundamentalism, Imperialism and "The War on Terror"

Why Is Religious Fundamentalism Growing in Today's World

ST: Yeah, religion... this is important. Religion is a heavy weight on the masses of people. This is something that Bob Avakian has really identified, and written and spoken a lot about. He points out—and people have to confront this—that the anti-abortion movement is driven by fanatical biblical literalism. He describes—and I have seen this personally—anti-abortion fanatics praying, “Oh, Lord, please break this curse of independence that has afflicted women.” See, access to abortion has undermined women’s subordinate role in the family. And they want women enslaved to men, just like it says in the Bible. In Corinthians, it says: “Woman should submit to the husband as the husband submits to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church.”

They are driven by the view that women supposedly caused original sin and ate from the “tree of knowledge” and tempted Adam and got humanity cast out of the so-called “Garden of Eden.” Which is a myth. It’s a fable. It’s a harmful myth. It’s made up. It’s not true. But, because of this myth, as the story goes on, humans supposedly have a “fallen nature.” We’re all bad—and we can only redeem ourselves by accepting this Jesus Christ figure, who is not really as wonderful as he usually portrayed. Jesus is a product of his time—so he upheld patriarchy and slavery, he was completely against science... Bob Avakian has a whole section called “Seeing Jesus in a True Light,” in his book, Away With All Gods! which people should read, because most people give Jesus a pass, but BA really shows the truly oppressive character of what Jesus preaches in the Bible.

But, back to the myth about Eve—an additional curse is put on women. In the second book of Timothy it says that because of Eve, women can only redeem themselves by obeying their husbands and having children. The anti-abortion movement has really grabbed hold of that. They want to reassert violently and revengefully that kind of open male supremacy where the husband literally rules over the wife like a god and women's duty is to be a virgin before marriage, then bear him children and obey him. That’s why they’re fighting against abortion. And that needs to be taken on. That is a nightmare. It’s every bit as reactionary as the ISIS view of women.

MS: I was gonna say, you’re talking about, right? What about Christians? Hmmm?

ST: It’s the same. It’s the exact same. It’s the exact same. The scripture in the Bible and the scripture in the Qur’an is very similar—and equally barbaric if taken literally—when it comes to women. And the end result, in both cases, is the open enslavement of women.

So, again: This needs to be politically resisted and fought. People need to get into the streets. They need to mobilize everyone they know: family, friends, co-workers, fellow congregants. If you’re religious, get out there and fight against this. Be in the streets for these demonstrations on January 22 and 23 for Abortion on Demand and Without Apology.

You cannot break all the chains, except one. You cannot say you want to be free of exploitation and oppression, except you want to keep the oppression of women by men. You can't say you want to liberate humanity yet keep one half of the people enslaved to the other half. The oppression of women is completely bound up with the division of society into masters and slaves, exploiters and exploited, and the ending of all such conditions is impossible without the complete liberation of women. All this is why women have a tremendous role to play not only in making revolution but in making sure there is all-the-way revolution. The fury of women can and must be fully unleashed as a mighty force for proletarian revolution.

Bob Avakian, BAsics 3:22

And at the same time, we need to challenge those who are indoctrinated in this biblical literal worldview. We need to take on the foundations of that. The Bible taken literally is a horror! And it’s not true. It was written by human beings, not by god. It was written by human beings in agrarian, patriarchal, slave-owning societies that stoned women to death who were not virgins when they got married, that killed children when they were disobedient, that killed gays and lesbians. It enforced slavery. All of this is in the scriptures, okay? Nobody should want to live that way.

And we should challenge people to confront what is actually in their so-called holy book. And we should break them out of this. Bob Avakian goes into this deeply in his book, Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, and he provides a lot of tools for people to take up in waging this fight. He hammers at the foundations of the scriptures, and really fights for people to take up critical thinking and a scientific approach to understanding the world and acting in the interests of emancipating humanity. We should not side-step religion. We should take it on head-on and break people out of it, even as we unite with people who are progressive or religious people coming from a place where they want to stand up against oppression. We should unite with them in this fight, but they should join us in saying that the Bible should not be taken literally. All these dark ages scripture should not be enforced.

MS: You reference and you encourage people to get into BA. One question that comes up, especially from feminists and others interested in women's liberation, is: “Look, BA is a man. And it’s not really possible for a man to deeply understand, let alone lead a fight against, something that impacts women so deeply.” Is Bob Avakian really capable of really understanding this and leading a fight against it ?

ST: Well, first I have to say, we are lucky to be on the planet at the same time as Bob Avakian. He is a rare kind of revolutionary leader. He is the architect of a new framework for human emancipation. A framework which, among other things—for the first time in human history—really fully grasps and has an approach to the complete liberation of women as a core and driving force in the revolution to emancipate all of humanity. This theory and this framework stands up. Dig into it.

At the same time he has a very deep, visceral feeling for the conditions—and outrage at the oppression—that women face. I defy you to find anybody who speaks with greater passion, with greater substance, or greater sweep about the liberation of women and about the emancipation of all oppressed humanity. He’s somebody whose heart and whose head is fully in this. He’s somebody who’s developed answers as a communist leader. As somebody who is looking honestly at the contradictions that we have to traverse to make an actual revolution, to get to human emancipation. And he’s developed answers and filled a great need. He has not done this “as a man” or “as a white man.” He has done this as a communist. And people need to get into that.

If you have had a chance to see the world as it really is, there are profoundly different roads you can take with your life. You can just get into the dog-eat-dog, and most likely get swallowed up by that while trying to get ahead in it. You can put your snout into the trough and try to scarf up as much as you can, while scrambling desperately to get more than others. Or you can try to do something that would change the whole direction of society and the whole way the world is. When you put those things alongside each other, which one has any meaning, which one really contributes to anything worthwhile? Your life is going to be about something—or it's going to be about nothing. And there is nothing greater your life can be about than contributing whatever you can to the revolutionary transformation of society and the world, to put an end to all systems and relations of oppression and exploitation and all the unnecessary suffering and destruction that goes along with them. I have learned that more and more deeply through all the twists and turns and even the great setbacks, as well as the great achievements, of the communist revolution so far, in what are really still its early stages historically.

Bob Avakian, BAsics 5:23

Look at the compendium, Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution. Study the major new work he just released, The Science, The Strategy, The Leadership for an Actual Revolution, And a Radically New Society on the Road to Real Emancipation. Dig into the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America.

I’ll make this distinction. No, he’s never had the experience of being female. But just being female does not mean that you understand where your oppression comes from or even that you are oppressed or what the solution is, any more than having an illness makes you better qualified to cure that illness than a doctor does who has worked their whole life studying it and developing a cure. So if you really want humanity to get free, you owe it not only to yourself, but to all of humanity to really engage, and deeply engage the work that BA has done on this.

MS: Let’s keep digging into this. Some people are gonna say, and especially AS we are going full throttle into the election season, there's a lot of feeling that even if you want some kind of revolution at some point, and even if you see problems with the Democrats, right now you have to support the Democrats because Trump and Cruz and the likes would be so much worse.

ST: It’s not true. The fascists are really terrifying. Trump is a Nazi. So is Cruz. I don’t think anybody can rival me in finding them detestable, and horrifying, and their social base, and the fact that they get so much play is deeply, deeply dangerous. But the Democrats are not an answer. They’re not an answer. They’re part of the problem! And supporting the Democrats “to fight this” is worse. It’s allowing yourself to be channeled into the killing embrace of the very system that is generating a Donald Trump and all these other horrors.

Some people want Bernie because he’s so-called “socialist.” But he’s not. He’s an American chauvinist, an empire-hungry, re-brander of capitalism. He is not a socialist.

Other people want Hillary— they say, “Oh, we can have a woman. Especially when it comes to abortion, she'll take a stand.” But Hillary and the Democrats have been the worst thing that has ever happened to the women’s movement. They have tied people who want women’s liberation to the system of imperialism that terrorizes the globe and oppresses women worldwide. Plus, Hillary is a war criminal, okay? The drones, the rendition and torture, the unjust invasions and occupations throughout the Middle East. She has been a big part in carrying out crimes against humanity. “What a victory for women—our very own war criminal.” No thanks. As for abortion—she and the Democratic Party have been capitulating and conciliating with, over and over again, the whole fascist assault on abortion. This should not be supported.

Bob Avakian has made the point, “If you try to make the Democrats be what they are not and never will be, you will end up being more like what the Democrats actually are.” By supporting Hillary and the Democrats people have allowed themselves to be lulled to sleep through this mounting emergency, and then to limit their sights to trying to shave the edge off this mounting fascism while it continues to gain ground. People need to step outside of these very, very harmful channels and, instead, be part of actively resisting and fighting back—and, yes, getting into the kind of revolution that can end these horrors once and for all.

MS: This brings us back to the upcoming chance for people to do just that, the 22nd and 23rd demonstrations on both coasts which are going up against the anti-abortion fanatics and fighting for abortion on demand and without apology. Why don't we end by you going just a bit further on why that is so important. And I want to also link that with this idea that people think they’re doing really good things, and they’re taking up the fight, if they’re supporting Planned Parenthood, they’re supporting abortion funds that help poor women travel to the clinics, etc. What do you think of that?

ST: Giving your money to the Democrats is harmful. It’s bad. People should stop doing that. They should give their resources to the people who are fighting this, to the revolution. They should give it to BA Everywhere Campaign to help get Bob Avakian’s leadership known all over society and the world. They should give it to that is leading the fight to stand up in the streets.

As for Planned Parenthood, look they’re a service provider. They provide services to a lot of women and that is important. But they are not going to spearhead the political fight that is needed to stop the war on women. They are very tied into the Democratic Party, and getting along, and going along, and accepting the terms of the anti-abortion war, frankly. They’re not propagating anti-abortion, but they’re conciliating with it. Again, they are a service provider. But what is needed right now is a fight. What is needed right now is a resistance. Abortion funds? It’s no good to restrict yourself to trying to help a few women today on ever shrinking ground. We need to wage the necessary fight so that the future is not the back alleys. We need to wage a massive fight to get off the trajectory where ever more clinics are closing, ever more stigma and shame is mounting, ever more restrictions are being imposed... if you want to get off that trajectory, you need to join the fight, you need to stand up, you need to join Stop Patriarchy. You need to get your organization involved. You need to get your community group involved and come out in the streets on January 22 in DC and January 23 in SF. Wherever you are, caravan to get there. Bring your friends or come by yourself and meet some new people. Meet the other freedom fighters. You’ll have an amazing time—it feels really good to stand up for women. You’ll learn how to find your anger. A lot of women, especially young women, are afraid to say the word abortion out loud, are afraid to stand up for themselves, are told it is selfish to stand up for women. Come be with others and unleash the fury that’s pent up in women throughout this society. Men need to be there too. People of all genders, all sexualities, need to be there together in the face of the fascists, in the eyes of the world, making it known to millions that there’s a force stepping forth to fight this.

MS: Thank you Sunsara Taylor, very much for joining us today. Hell of a program.

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