Some Thoughts on Our Time in Mississippi, on the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, and Looking Forward

By Sunsara Taylor | August 17, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


August 16—Today, as many of the Abortion Rights Freedom Riders escorted patients and hula-hooped outside the clinic, I sat down with the director of Jackson Women's Health Organization. I told her about the threefold mission of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride: to launch a national counter-offensive to the nation-wide attacks on abortion, to change the terms of this fight so that millions become clear it is about women's liberation or women's enslavement (NOT about “babies”), and to break free of relying on politicians and the courts and instead build a mass independent political movement of resistance to defeat the whole war on women.

She told me about her patients. About 80% of them are Black women, many of them travel from long distances, only about a third of them have a partner with them (some have a relative or friend, others come alone), and many of them are very young. Her voice filled with emotion when she told me about the 14-year-old who was brought in recently by her 27-year-old mother. The mother had only been 13 when she had her child and was determined not to see her daughter put through the same hardship. The director told of other women who have to bus in from the surrounding area, of all the degradation they have to go through to come up with the funds not only for the abortion but also for travel. She told of the mandatory waiting period of 24 hours and how many women cannot afford even a cheap motel and don't have anywhere to spend the night.

She got visibly, and quite righteously, angry when discussing the anti-abortion protesters who surround her clinic and harass her patients every single day. We had experienced this ourselves in the past 24 hours, being told that we don't “deserve to have children,” that we “should have our uteruses ripped out,” that “women should not be allowed to vote,” and, of course, called all sorts of vicious and woman-hating epithets.

But then her face completely lit up when I asked her why she did the job she does every day, even knowing the risks involved and the hatred and harassment she receives. She smiled and said with full enthusiasm, “I love my job!” She described what a difference she is able to make for the women she serves every day. She told of what it means to be her patient's last resort. She said with other jobs in her past, her “life” was everything that took place when she clocked out. Here, her job is a huge part of her passion, her love, and her life. She radiated this.

We discussed the similarity between the legal restrictions facing her clinic and those facing the last clinic in North Dakota and we talked about the horrible hole that was left in Wichita after Dr. Tiller's assassination. Through this, and in other ways, we got into the national dimension of the fight that is being waged against abortion rights and women everywhere—and the necessity for a national counter-offensive that changes the terms everywhere. We discussed the fact that what happens nation-wide is going to have a much bigger impact on what eventually happens in any given place, than just what is done locally. This actually underscores the importance of fighting each local battle, because it will set terms and influence the national tide, but to take these fights up as part of a national counter-offensive.

We got into the importance of the slogan: Abortion On Demand and Without Apology being declared defiantly and positively. And when I said, “Forced motherhood is female enslavement,” she nodded her head emphatically and then elaborated on how true she thought this was. We discussed how it is essential that people everywhere come to understand that it is utterly immoral to abandon the women of Mississippi or North Dakota or Albuquerque or anywhere else—and that it is delusional to think that if the attacks in Mississippi or North Dakota or anywhere else are not reversed and defeated that they will not soon spread to women all over the country.

At some point during this conversation, a man in scrubs poked his head into her office. It turns out he was the doctor performing abortions today. He said, with a broad smile on his face and a little bounce in his step, “There's more people on our side out there today than on their side!” He was referring to the Abortion Rights Freedom Riders and other escorts who were outside the clinic. That this is not always the case is precisely something we are setting out to change (as well as defeating and reversing a lot of the laws that have been passed restricting abortion, the stigma, and so much more).

Learning from Others Who Have Stepped Out with the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride

Earlier in the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, back when we were in Chicago, we held an incredible event with one of the doctors who flies in from out of state to do abortions here in Jackson. At the Unity Temple in Oak Park, he explained how he got involved with the Freedom Ride. As soon as he heard the slogan Abortion On Demand and Without Apology he knew he wanted to work with us. He was even more pleased when he heard the idea for an Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. For too long, he explained, the anti-abortion movement had attempted to claim the legacy of the Civil Rights movement. As a Black man who grew up in Alabama, as well as someone deeply committed to women's liberation, he felt very strongly that it was correct for the mantle of the Civil Rights and the Freedom Rides to be taken up by those fighting FOR women and for women's right to abortion. It is undeniably true that forced motherhood is a form of female enslavement and that when women are not free then no one is free.

He also spoke about how he believes people of faith need to take back the moral high ground and the Bible from those who use it to push women's enslavement. He spoke about why he, as a religious person, feels driven to stand up for women's rights without compromise or apology. He challenged everyone to open their eyes and realize that we have been going through what he called a “devolution”—the opposite of a revolution—over the last 40 years since abortion became legal and that it is long past time we launch a fight to turn the tide.

Time's Up for This System: We Need a Real Revolution

That night, and today, many of us on the ride got into how true his words were. We spoke of how intolerable it is that 40 years after Roe v. Wade, things have gone backwards for women—with not only the whole state of emergency surrounding women's right to abortion, but also the increasingly violent and degrading nature of pornography even as it becomes more and more mainstream, and the whole massive sex slavery trade this reflects and reinforces and sits atop along with the culture of rape, super-exploitation, and so much more. Things have gone backwards for Black people—with the New Jim Crow and slow genocide of mass incarceration and everything horrific concentrated in the acquittal of Trayvon Martin's killer. We are on the brink of disaster regarding the environment and the irreparable harm being caused by the profit-above-all imperatives of capitalism that continue to, and can only continue to, destroy the planet. And then there are the war on immigrants, the drones and destruction from the sky of the Obama administration, the ongoing U.S. backing of Egypt's and Israel's military terror throughout the Middle East, the putrid me-first, reality-tv, petty and back-biting culture fostered to keep everyone small-minded, mean-spirited, and distracted. We need a real revolution—and this is precisely what those of us who are supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Party are doing, through this ride and in many other ways.

It is time, right now, when the eyes of millions are being focused on big events in the world, when millions are beginning to wonder why it is that women continue to be slammed backwards and what it is really going to take to get justice for Black people on Amerikkkan soil, and when so many are being jolted out of their regular, American-style sleepwalk. None of this is human nature, it is the nature of the system. There is a way out. Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, has rigorously and tirelessly worked for decades to deeply sum up and learn from the previous revolutions in the Soviet Union and China before they were reversed, building on their incredible achievements and learning from their shortcomings and errors, and bringing this together with broader human experience and lessons since. He has developed a new synthesis of revolution and communism. This is what people need to get into and this is what people need to fight to make real.

One key dimension of this new synthesis is the centrality and the driving force of the fight for the full liberation of women. He has put it quite powerfully, “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.”

There is more, and you should get into this too. Check out the Declaration for the Liberation of Women and the Emancipation of Humanity. And check out the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) for a concrete and very visionary breakdown of exactly how this new synthesis will be applied starting Day 1, and going forward, in a revolutionary society that is not only geared towards meeting people's needs, furthering the world revolution, and repairing to the maximum degree possible the damage to the planet, but also overcoming all vestiges of oppression and exploitation and achieving a world of voluntary cooperation and mutual flourishing that is for-real communism.

The world really does not have to be this way but changing it requires getting involved right now and today. There is a way out and there is no excuse to turn away from this and contribute in whatever way you can along the way. As Bob Avakian also put it,

“Let's go on a crucial journey together—full of unity against oppression and lively struggle about the source of the problem and the solution. Pursue your own convictions—that the outrages that move you are intolerable—to their logical conclusion, and be determined not to stop until those outrages have been eliminated. And if this, as well as learning about other outrages, and ideas about how this all fits together and flows from a common source—and how it could all be ended, and something much better brought into being—leads in the direction of seeing not only the need for bold and determined resistance, but also the need for revolution and ultimately communism, then don't turn away from that because it moves you beyond your comfort zone, challenges what had been your cherished beliefs, or because of prejudices and slanders. Instead, actively seek to learn more about this revolution and its goal of communism and to determine whether it is in fact the necessary, and possible, solution. And then act accordingly.”

As We Step Out In Mississippi for Abortion On Demand and Without Apology

As we step out tomorrow for the women of Mississippi and the women everywhere, I want to thank the doctor who joined us in Chicago and flies into Mississippi for his courage every day as he serves women as well as for his courage in speaking out and lending his support to the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. On behalf of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, the thousands of people who have lent their support and voices and efforts to this Ride, and to the millions of women here and all around the world in whose interests we are waging this ride, I want to thank all the providers who risk their lives every day and I want to call on everyone, everywhere to find your voice right now. Today is the day to stand up for abortion rights, to stand up for women, to stand up against bigotry and misogyny and Christian fascism and legislated enslavement. Today is the day to join what is new and arising in the world right now—a new movement for the all-the-way liberation of women, for abortion rights without compromise or apology, and for a future in which all women and young girls can truly flourish.

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