By DOLORES UNDERWOOD

According to a leaked initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, the Supreme Court is poised to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which guarantees the right to an abortion. The ruling would likely ban or further limit abortion in 28 states, meaning that more than half of reproductive-age women’s legal access to abortion could disappear overnight. The ban will disproportionately affect Black women, oppressed by class and race, who are already four to five times more likely to have an abortion and are more likely not to have access to contraception.

It becomes imperative to take to the streets to oppose the Supreme Court opinion and demand a federal law guaranteeing a full, free, and safe abortion for all, as well as equal rights and protections for the LGTBQI community. We can’t wait for November; we need reproductive rights now! Labor organizations, youth, and community groups must join in this struggle to build for independent mass action in the streets. That’s how the Civil Rights Act was won and that is what is needed today.

The outrage over the right to an abortion is cynically being used by Democrats to push voters to the polls. The Biden administration’s plummeting popularity in the face of inflation, rescinded promises on the climate crisis, and continued support for corporate America are being brushed aside. It should come as a surprise to no one that the party that has never made moves to codify abortion into law attempts to do so when they obviously don’t have the votes. After failing to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act that proposed to codify abortion into law, they are pretending to be the champions of women’s rights. The party that has continually failed to pass pro-choice legislation will not be the champions of it now. We can neither trust nor rely on them.

While the Democrats are desperately using this moment to corral voters to the ballot box, we need to stand firmly as an independent and mass movement, divorced from the two bourgeois parties, and uniting the fight for reproductive rights with the fight for LGBTQI rights. It’s time we took a page from recent examples of women’s movements that have successfully codified legislation of free, on-demand abortions and reproductive care. In Latin America, in overwhelmingly Catholic countries, working-class women have mobilized millions and relied on mass action to fight for this right.

An attack on more than just the right to an abortion

It’s clear that the conservative-majority court is seeking to reinforce the capitalist regime of social reproduction and heteronormativity and setting the scene for further attacks on queer, gender non-conforming, and trans rights. After the leaked draft, right-wing lawmakers in many states are lining up legislation that will severely limit women’s reproductive freedom. After the bills introduced in Texas and Oklahoma to criminalize abortion, senators have called for condoms to be banned and for birth control to only be legal for married couples. According to a recent bill drafted in Louisiana, a woman seeking an abortion in a post-Roe world would be charged with murder (following an outcry, that provision was later expunged from the bill). The use of invitro fertilization, intrauterine devices, and emergency contraception would also be made illegal.

The way the Court’s draft opinion is argued is an outright attack on those with reproductive capacity, women, and the LGBTQI community. Alito states that “the Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.” This legal formulation places on shakier ground other landmark rulings that are not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, such as same-sex marriage and access to birth control. We need to link the struggle for an abortion to LGBTQ oppression, where currently, various states are expanding legislation that targets nonbinary people for discrimination, prohibits physicians from performing gender reassignment surgery, and imposes educational gag orders.

Where Roe fell short

While the draft opinion is a shocking acceleration in the degradation of reproductive rights, the reality is that abortion and reproductive health services have been gutted across this country for decades. Close to 90% of counties in the country don’t have abortion clinics. As a result, Black, migrant, and working-class women have been living without access to reproductive health care for years.

As we’ve argued elsewhere, while Roe v. Wade was a huge step forward, it fell short of securing the enduring right to abortion codified through federal legislation. In 1976, just four years after Roe was passed, U.S. Representative Henry Hyde introduced the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited the use of federal funding for abortions. Congress has renewed the Hyde Amendment every year since its introduction. In 1992, a second Supreme Court ruling, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, further eroded Roe by arguing that states could place restrictions on abortion if it didn’t create an “undue burden.” The undue burden standard meant that states could impose laws designed to persuade pregnant people to carry to term: 24-hour mandatory delays, biased counseling, and spousal notice mandates, to name a few. TRAP laws (Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers), on the rise after Casey, single out physicians who provide abortion care and impose burdensome legal requirements.

How to build an independent movement and win

The leaked decision has rightly led to mobilizations across the United States in which activists are demanding that the right to an abortion be enshrined in federal law. While volunteering, educating our community, and donating will help those in need today, the current situation demands large-scale mobilization. We cannot accept the undemocratic decision made by a reactionary institution such as the Supreme Court. As Eugene V. Debs said, “The Supreme Court is not the court of last resort; the people are.”

The situation in the U.S. is dire, yet in recent years the world has witnessed great triumphs in gaining abortion rights. Successful mobilizations in Argentina, Chile, Puerto Rico, and Colombia can show us in the U.S. how to win. In Argentina, for example, the fight for legal abortion took years and hundreds of escalating and ever-growing actions and mobilizations. Despite continuous attempts at co-optation by progressive governments, their struggle remained a grassroots one, which took place in schools, cities, and unions. Coordination of the movement and decisions on its next steps were arrived at in a democratic and independent manner. Furthermore, they connected the fight against imperialism with the fight for reproductive health care for all: They wove into their program the fight against cuts to social spending that were justified by the need to repay the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Despite this orientation, the pressure to place hopes in “progressive” governments is very strong. We must continually fight against the co-optation of our movement.

In February of this year, Colombians won that “the crime of an abortion” be stripped from the penal code. For over two years, with the Colombian youth as protagonists, they took the streets to fight for this cause. The victory, to be celebrated, is recognized as an incomplete one: abortion will continue to be a crime beyond 24 weeks. They know their fight continues, particularly due to a privatized and underfunded health system.

Gender oppression and exploitation

Gender oppression places the burden of domestic and wage labor overwhelmingly on those with reproductive capacity. In today’s capitalist society, the cost to reproduce laborers falls largely on the domestic sphere, and particularly on the shoulders of working-class women: health care, insurance, food, and increasingly, education is paid for not by the regime that requires wage laborers, but by the laborers themselves. As we explained:The capitalist system wants to have it both ways: It wants women to have children to reproduce the labor force (so it heavily regulates reproductive rights) but it does not want to pay for the cost of social reproduction of labor power.” And in every new crisis of capitalism, women are tasked with new burdens in the realm of waged work and care work.

The right to an abortion and to reproductive health are minimum democratic demands that we must fight for—and that we can win. They are also linked to the struggle for free and universal health care in the United States. This right must become a reality for everyone and contributes to the fight against racism and discrimination, for we know that Black and immigrant women have less access to basic health services.

However, we shouldn’t fool ourselves that oppression will be eradicated under capitalism. Oppressions are not natural or biological but are reproduced or created from relations of production. Gender oppression under capitalism is the result of a regime of social reproduction that sustains the current profit-making machine based on wage labor. Both forms of exploited labor, waged and unwaged, are necessary for the continuous expansion of this system. Only with the overthrow of capitalism and the reorganization of productive and reproductive labor under a workers’ government will it be possible to definitively solve the problem of oppression.

No trust in the Democrats: For an independent women’s movement! Legal, safe, and free abortions for all now! End the criminalization of women! Free contraceptives and family-planning programs! Abolish the Supreme Court!

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Photo: Al Drago / Bloomberg