By SOCIALIST RESURGENCE
Tens of thousands of people across the United States marched and rallied for abortion justice on Oct. 2. About 660 events took place nationwide, with events taking place in every state.
Building for the actions gained momentum last month following the passage of Senate Bill 8, the so-called “Heartbeat Act,” in Texas and the refusal of the U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 decision, to block it. The Texas law, which went into effect on Sept. 1, is the most restrictive in the nation. It bans abortions after just six weeks of pregnancy and essentially deputizes people at random, including anti-abortion fanatics, to police the measure.
The law also allows private citizens to sue anyone they believe may have “aided or abetted” someone getting an abortion after six weeks, which understandably has caused confusion. According to the new law, patients themselves cannot be sued for seeking an abortion—but providers and anyone who helps them are considered fair game and can be subject to crippling fines plus court costs.
The Texas law is a dangerous precedent and other states are attempting to introduce similar legislation. The U.S. Supreme Court has announced that it will convene on Dec. 1 to consider a Mississippi law that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The law was passed in 2018 but blocked by two federal courts. The Supreme Court ruling in the case could enable it to overturn abortion rights established with the Roe v. Wade case in 1973. In a brief filed in July, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, a Republican, argued that Roe v. Wade was “egregiously wrong” and should be overturned. If the Court concurs, abortion access would no longer by protected by the Constitution, leaving states free to ban it or to tighten restrictions.
In many areas of the country, abortion was already virtually inaccessible—especially for the poorer strata of working people and people of color. Since the Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973, over 1900 abortion restrictions have been passed. Nearly 500 state laws restricting access to abortion care were passed over the last decade alone. As of 2014, 90% of U.S. counties had no abortion clinics; five states have only one remaining clinic.
“No matter where you live, no matter where you are, this fight is at your doorstep right now. The moment is dark,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood, told the crowd at the Rally for Abortion Justice in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 2. The action saw about 10,000 in attendance, according to most reports. It was sponsored by a coalition of nearly 200 organizations. The protesters marched to the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.
At the kick-off rally at Freedom Plaza, near the White House, comedian and activist Cristela Alonzo said: “The reason that many of us are here today is because we want to let people know that we are capable of deciding what is best for us. … We can decide what to do with our own bodies. What we’re asking for is the right to be treated as a person with their own brain, their own heart, to make decisions that are right for us.”
The New York City Women’s March drew about 20,000 people. Participants gathered at Cadman Plaza Park in Brooklyn for an early afternoon rally. The group then marched over the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan’s Foley Square, where another Women’s March rally took place. The organizers described the action as the beginning of a renewed fight to defend against efforts to restrict abortion rights and access.
Close to 7000 joined the march in Chicago on Oct. 2; the Chicago Teachers Union participated with a banner. Also on Oct. 2, at least 10,000 marched in Houston. Large banners read, “Don’t Mess with Women!” and “Houston Women March On!” Reports state that about 700 rallied in Detroit; 1500 in Madison, Wis.; and more than 1000 in Boston and in Portland, Ore.
In Philadelphia, about 4000 people participated in a spirited march from the George Washington monument near the Art Museum to a rally at City Hall. Philadelphia branch members of Socialist Resurgence joined with members of Workers Voice in distributing over 1000 copies of a SR/WV flyer titled “Fight for Reproductive Justice!”
Socialist Resurgence members in Hartford, Conn., reported that the Oct. 2 rally on the steps of the State Capitol focused on women who volunteered to share their personal stories of getting an abortion, with the goal of overcoming any blame over their decisions that others put on them. Some revealed painful memories of rapes or medical complications. Rally organizers told the Hartford Courant that the event “was designed to lend affirmation to those decisions and the right to terminate pregnancies no matter the reason.”
“Frequently when we are talking about policies related to abortions, folks who have had abortions or folks who need access to abortions are frequently left out,” Liz Gustafson, NARAL’s state director, said at the Hartford rally. “We are here today to rally around one another and support abortion storytellers.”
A Socialist Resurgence member who participated in the Allentown, Pa., Woman’s March wrote: “It’s Oct. 2, 2 p.m., and in front of City Hall pro-choice and anti-choice protesters face off along Hamilton St. Despite the last-minute abandonment of Woman’s March Organizers, and in defiance of armed right-wingers, a crowd of about 60 pro-choice supporters, largely women, gather to defend their rights.
“The two groups congregate on opposite sides of the street, after it is determined by people on the ground that the main sponsor of the Allentown Woman’s March seemingly canceled the event at the last minute. It is likely that similar events that occurred earlier in the day in Bethlehem and Easton took portions of pro-choice and anti-choice protesters. Nonetheless, the women remain undeterred.
“Along the side of the anti-choice protesters, as reported by several women in the march, is a lone armed gunman in a camo getup and carrying Trump flags. … Regardless, the act of intimidation does not keep women from demanding their rights. One woman’s sign reads, ‘Your guns have more rights than my body!’”
A Socialist Resurgence reporter in Portland, Maine, wrote: “Several hundred showed up on Oct. 2 to protest the recent Texas abortion ban legislation and to rally for reproductive justice. Just this year, several anti-abortion laws were proposed in Maine and subsequently defeated.
“Planned Parenthood of Maine sponsored and organized the Abortion Justice Rally. Cathie Todd from Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights (GRR!) gave a brief history of women’s struggles to gain access to abortion prior to the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973. A Maine Family Planning nurse practitioner, Julie Jenkins, urged attendees to become more comfortable talking about abortion: ‘People who have abortions deserve our love and support, not shame and judgment. Ending abortion stigma is important.’
“Eunice Nuna, a Kenyan immigrant who represents the Maine chapter of the Wounded Healers International group, is a sexual assault survivor who suffered an unsuccessful self administered abortion. She now dedicates her life to providing emotional support to survivors of physical and sexual assault. She summed up a woman’ s right to control her body quite succinctly, stating, ‘Allow me to own my womb.’
“Dr. Rachel Criswell, from the Mabel Wadsworth Center, a comprehensive reproductive health-care center in Central Maine, said: ‘Make no mistake: this law targets pregnant people, people of color, people of low income, immigrants. This is sexist, racist, classist legislation. … Abortion is health care that cannot be delayed.’
“Rally organizers, including state and federal legislators urged participants to lobby for the passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA). The federal legislation is aimed at protecting the right to access abortion care throughout the United States and for health-care professionals to provide it.”
Socialist Resurgence supports the passage of this bill, which would help provide a safeguard against legal bans and unnecessary restrictions on the state and local level. But it is a mistake to suppose that reproductive rights can be strengthened simply by the passage of a bill in Congress—even if avowedly pro-choice Democrats manage to swing it through, which is hardly guaranteed. Moreover, there is a pressing need to extend abortion care so that is fully accessible and affordable to all who need it. For this, we cannot depend on the ruling-class politicians; a mass action approach is needed to show our power.
Using Oct. 2 as a springboard, the movement must strive to get hundreds of thousands, if not millions, into the streets demanding reproductive justice. Certainly, it has been done before. For example, on April 25, 2004, a coalition of groups brought over 1 million people to Washington, D.C., for the March for Women’s Lives, to demand full access to abortion, birth control, and other health-care options. Also, the first Women’s March, following Trump’s inauguration in 2017, brought at least 470,000 people to Washington, while giant crowds marched in other cities. But the power of those marches was squandered by the main sponsoring NGOs, who sought to turn the movement into a force for lobbying and support in the polls for the Democratic Party.
Now that the threat against reproductive rights has been magnified, and the health and wellbeing of increasing numbers of women are at stake, we need to rebuild the movement to historic heights. Women’s lives cannot be in the hands of the courts and the statehouses; our focus needs to remain in the streets.
Photos: (Top) Washington, D.C., on Oct. 2. by Jose Magana / AP; (Below) By Sarah Morris / Getty Images