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Vol. 75/No. 22      June 6, 2011

Defend women’s right to abortion!

Indiana has become the first state to outlaw the use of Medicaid for medical services at any clinic that performs abortions, in what is the latest move to push back the 1973 Supreme Court ruling legalizing women’s right to abortion. The attack is part of the grinding offensive against working people that also includes assaults on health care, the right to a job, growing wars, and constriction of democratic rights.

Abortion has always been a working-class issue. When it was illegal hundreds of working-class women, 80 percent of them Blacks or Latinas, died from back-alley or self-induced abortions each year. Hundreds of thousands were maimed.

That number plunged dramatically once legal abortion became available. The Supreme Court decision opened the door to millions of women—especially those from the working class—to begin to control their own reproductive functions. It went a significant way toward establishing the fundamental right of women to decide when and whether to have a child.

Freedom from enforced motherhood is a precondition to women’s liberation. Only with the right to control their own bodies can women begin to assert their full human identity as productive, not just reproductive, beings, to exercise full control over their lives, and join as equals in social and political life.

Ever since the 1973 decision, Democrats and Republicans have been chipping away at it. The very first body blow was in 1976, when Congress banned federal funds for abortion except in case of endangerment of the mother’s life, rape, or incest. Today, only 17 states allow Medicaid funds to cover abortions. It’s in this context that President Barack Obama has called for “common ground” with opponents of women’s rights to “reduce the number of women seeking abortions.”

Eighty-seven percent of U.S. counties—where 35 percent of the country’s women live—have no abortion providers at all. Twenty-four states require waiting periods before an abortion can actually be performed. Thirty-six states demand parental involvement before a minor can get an abortion. Eighteen states force women to undergo “counseling”—humiliating, antiscientific badgering sessions—prior to having an abortion.

The fight for women’s right to abortion is not only an essential part of the struggle for women’s emancipation, but is needed to strengthen the unity and fighting capacity of the working class as a whole—putting us on firmer ground to resist the capitalist exploiters’ drive to foist their crisis onto our backs.
Related articles:
Abortion rights curbed by Indiana state gov’t
Attacks fall hardest on working-class women
Iowa legislators seek further limits on abortion  
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