May 14 Is About Pressuring the
Who Will Do Nothing for Abortion Rights, Again
To Win Abortion Rights Fight,
Pro-Democrat Marches Are a Dead End
Free Abortion on Demand –
Women’s Liberation Through Socialist Revolution
We print below the Internationalist Group leaflet that
was distributed at “Bans Off Our Bodies” abortion rights
demonstrations in New York, Los Angeles and Portland,
Oregon on May 14.
Following the leaked Supreme Court majority draft opinion that would overturn the Roe v. Wade decision granting women a right to abortion, there have been large protests around the country. Several thousand came out in New York City the next day, as well as in numerous other cities. Many were semi-spontaneous, but Democratic elected officials quickly grabbed the spotlight. The main speaker at the largest NYC protest in Foley Square on May 3 was New York state’s top cop, attorney general Letitia James. Anti-abortion conservatives may have may have engineered the leak, to nail down the anti-Roe vote of wavering justices, but for the Democrats it was a godsend. It means that they have six months to pound away at the theme that a Republican victory in the mid-term elections is a threat to every woman’s rights, an appeal that might even stave off near-certain Democratic defeat in November. But that will not secure women’s rights.
Now a nationwide series of marches has been called for Saturday, May 14 on the slogan “Bans Off Our Bodies.” The central demand of these marches is “that elected officials take action before the Court gets the chance to overturn abortion.” But on May 11, the U.S. Senate predictably blocked the Women’s Health Protection Act in an almost straight party-line procedural vote (49-51), with all Democrats for it (except W. Va. senator Manchin) and all Republicans against. This means that the legislation won’t be passed before the Court eliminates the right to abortion, if it ever is. The conclusion, said Democratic majority leader and NY senator Chuck Schumer: “Elect more pro-choice Democrats if you want to protect a woman’s freedom and right to choose.” That’s the actual aim of the May 14 protests, to get out the vote for Democrats.
Democrats are “faux” friends of women. This party of war
and mass incarceration seeks women’s votes, but buries
legislation to defend their rights. As Internationalist
youth emphasized at recent speak-outs in New York and Los
Angeles, what’s needed is mass mobilization bringing
out the power of the multiracial working class, fighting
for the full and unrestricted right to abortion. For
free abortion on demand!
Democratic Party feminist capitalist politicians are not our sisters. At May 3 NYC protest, Internationalist Group called for “Free Abortion on Demand, ‘God Squad’ Bigots Go to Hell.”
In many places, the protests are formally sponsored by Planned Parenthood, a provider of vital birth control and reproductive health services, including abortions. Yet in reality, much of the impetus, organization, finances and in most places sponsorship of the marches comes from Women’s March Inc., which is politically a subsidiary of the Democratic Party, “progressive” wing. Using the same logo as Planned Parenthood, Women’s March is the main force behind the central Washington, D.C. mobilization. In its Annual Report 2021, Women’s March Inc. writes that it is preparing a “major Women’s Convention in August 2022,” and that it aims to “consolidate an intersectional, interlocking base, and win in the 2022 midterm elections while building for 2024 and beyond.” In short, its aim is to elect “pro-choice Democrats.”
For decades, the Democratic Party has sought women’s votes by pointing to Republican opposition to abortion. Yet even when Democrats have controlled both houses of Congress and the White House early in the administrations of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and now Joe Biden, they have never pushed through bills that would enact the (limited) abortion rights contained in the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision. This is despite the fact that in public opinion polls almost two-thirds (66%) of people surveyed say that Roe v. Wade should not be overturned and 59% support Congressional legislation to establish a nationwide right to abortion,1 while 61% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases and 73% say abortion should b e legal if a woman’s life or health is threatened.2 So even though overwhelming majorities support the right to abortion, as has been the case for decades, nothing has been enacted to secure that right.
So much for vaunted “American democracy,” and for Democrats’ supposed commitment to women’s rights.
Democrats’ Bill Does Not Secure Abortion Rights
Moreover, contrary to the claims of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, the bill in question (S. 4132) does not allow “abortion on demand.” Far from it. Like the current interpretation of Roe, it provides that after fetal “viability,”3, i.e., in the third trimester, abortion providers must assert that continuing a pregnancy endangers the person’s life or health. Even with this criterion, the bill still permits governmental interference in what should be a private decision between the pregnant person and their medical provider. Crucially, the bill does not establish a woman’s right to abortion, or protect her from criminal prosecution, but only refers in passing to “a person’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.” If the Supreme Court cancels that right, this bill would not restore it. The bill is about abortion providers, not about securing women’s rights.
In addition, while addressing many of the ways in which state laws have sought to get around the constitutional right to abortion (counseling, extraneous building requirements for clinics, etc.) the bill explicitly does not touch “insurance or medical assistance coverage of abortion services” – i.e., it would permit medical insurers to exclude abortion coverage, and does not repeal the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal aid that would enable low-income women to obtain an abortion. It should be remembered that for decades, then-senator Joe Biden upheld the Hyde Amendment, enacted with the support of Democratic president Jimmy Carter. (Though today Biden hopes people have forgotten, he was also one of the architects of the demise of school desegregation, leading the charge in Congress against “forced busing” to achieve integration.) And former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton campaigned on the policy that abortion should be “rare.”
For all its election hype about defending women’s rights, the capitalist Democratic Party is decidedly not a defender of the full, unimpeded right to abortion. Several would-be socialist groups (Socialist Alternative, Freedom Socialist Party, Left Voice, and others) have announced that they are marching in the May 14 protests in “socialist-feminist contingents.” They criticize the Democrats, yet here they are building a march whose very purpose is to garner votes for Democratic candidates. What these pseudo-socialists are doing is just a “militant” form of lobbying. At a May 8 “open meeting” in New York City they made this explicit with chants of “Hey Democrats, talk is cheap—Build a movement in the streets!” and “Voting blue is not enough, Democrats we call your bluff!” These contingents are an opportunist propaganda bloc in the service of a de facto popular front of class collaboration with the Democrats.
Many of these opportunist leftists are also calling to support Ukraine in the war with Russia instigated by the U.S. and its imperialist allies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Some even call to send arms to the fascist-infested nationalist Ukrainian government, thus joining the imperialist war drive against Russia. In Congress, the “Squad” of Democratic (Party) Socialists of America (DSA) and other “progressives” voted for a $40 billion war budget to arm Ukraine to the teeth – proving that they are all imperialist warmongers. Against the “NATO socialists,” the League for the Fourth International (of which the Internationalist Group is the U.S. section) calls to root out the Nazi/fascist threat in Ukraine and – opposing both sides in this reactionary nationalist war – calls for workers revolution to oust the capitalist rulers in Kiev and Moscow, while fighting to defeat the U.S./NATO imperialist war drive whose ultimate aim is counterrevolution to overthrow the bureaucratically deformed Chinese workers state.
The Internationalist Group has since its inception called for free abortion on demand, for the abolition of all abortion laws, including those that pretend to only regulate this fundamental right. The decision to give birth or not should be the woman’s alone, for she above all has to bear the consequences – boyfriends, husbands, priests or other religious authorities, and the capitalist state, hands off! We call for the workers movement to support abortion rights and to defend the clinics, including with effective means against the “god squad” bigots who, twistedly claiming their terror is for a “right to life,” have bombed abortion facilities and murdered the medical personnel that courageously provide this vital service. Key to unchaining and bringing to bear workers power in this fight is the call to break with the Democrats and all capitalist parties, to build a revolutionary workers party that champions the rights and interests of all the oppressed.
The assertion of governmental or religious control to prevent the termination of pregnancy is not only a fundamental attack on women’s democratic rights, the capitalist rulers uphold the nuclear family as the building block of bourgeois society. This family is at the root of the age-old oppression of women, and is also the cornerstone of the persecution of gay, lesbian and transgender people, whose rights are being viciously attacked today. Meanwhile, the crusade against abortion rights is racist to the core, seeking to produce more white babies while African American, Latina and immigrant women have been subject to forced sterilization. Revolutionary communists, from Marx and Engels on, call for superseding the family with social institutions – including free 24-hour childcare, low-cost restaurants, free high quality medical care for all – to free women from domestic servitude and help enable them to fully participate in social life.
Many people use the word feminism as a shorthand for support for women’s rights. Yet feminism, of all varieties, is a bourgeois ideology that treats women’s oppression as a sectoral issue, and ties them to their bourgeois rulers (in the U.S. to the Democrats). Genuine communists are the most intransigent fighters for the liberation of women through united class struggle. As we explained in the article, “The Struggle for Full Abortion Rights, From Latin America to the U.S.” in The Internationalist (January-April 2022), unrestricted access to contraceptives and abortion will not be won by petitioning the reactionary courts, lobbying capitalist legislators or just marching in the streets. The limited right to abortion in the United States over the last half-century resulted – at a time when U.S. imperialism faced impending defeat by the heroic Vietnamese fighters – from an all-sided upheaval against social oppression, together with militant workers struggles and opposition to imperialist war. It will take nothing less than socialist revolution to win the liberation of women. ■