Watching the house won’t hurt, but the fight for abortion is grassroots
Today, the House Oversight Committee is holding a hearing to examine state efforts to restrict access to abortion, and how this has affected patients medically and economically. This hearing follows the Texas passage of SB 8 – but Texas law is just the most recent development in a decades-long trend of states slowly dismantling abortion rights. As a result, the hearing discusses federal legislation to “protect and expand rights and access to abortion” more broadly.
But the fight for the right to abortion is not a top-down effort – it is and always has been staged at the local level. Indeed, the right has widely used these tactics. Far from the liberal call not to ‘politicize’ abortion, the right sees the clinic space as political territory to be conquered, and has continued to do so – not just in the Red States, as some might argue. think, but all over New York City. also. It is not a fight to legislate in the White House but to win in the street.
The debate surrounding the passage of Texas SB 8 (which bans all abortions after six weeks and supplants private citizens in its enforcement) and other similar bills has focused on its legal mechanisms – the phantom role of the Supreme Court, its flagrant unconstitutionality. The ghost folder, for example – when the Supreme Court makes a decision without the usual long process of receiving a request to hear a case, deciding to hear it, announcing it, looking at briefs filed for months in advance, to make a series of public oral arguments, engaging in explicit deliberation and offering an in-depth presentation of its findings and decisions – is a glaring example of the Supreme Court’s lack of democracy and transparency. In this particular case, the court took less than three days and released a single paragraph in the middle of the night, with the majority opinion unsigned.
Although the specifics differ, this claim of abortion in court is not new. The question of abortion has arisen for decades as a question above all of legality. The very premise of Roe deer, after all, was that abortion was a “decision between a woman and her doctor” and access to it an extension of our right to “privacy”. It was not about the right to health care, gender liberation or the democratization of abortion (because there will always be a privileged few with access to a safe abortion, even if it is illegal).
This hyperfixation on legality has obscured the way in which abortion rights, and reproductive rights more generally, have been eroded for decades. Despite the technical legality of abortion in the United States, the experiences of many people have shown that abortion is in fact neither safe nor accessible. In many cases, it is almost impossible to obtain an abortion, which makes its legality largely irrelevant. To take an example, in 2019, six states had only one abortion clinic left: Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia. All anti-abortion laws exacerbate existing inequalities, as they disproportionately affect people of color (and blacks in particular), undocumented people (who often have to choose between the risk of being deported or the risk of not being deported). not have an abortion), the poor and working class people, people without private health insurance, queer and trans people, etc. Anti-abortion laws are killing us.
The mantra “safe, legal and rare” (signals Hillary Clinton to double down: “and by rare I mean rare“) has indeed contributed to the stigma of abortion. Tote bags and stickers defending the legitimacy of Planned Parenthood often read, “I went to Planned Parenthood and all I got was a mammogram, Pap test, and STD tests.” [and so on]”- but, despite its exclusion from official products, abortion is also a service that people receive there, and they shouldn’t hide it. The right does not attack clinics because we screen for cancer. We cannot hope to counter them, to fight against the repercussions of our reproductive health, by circumventing the very issue. We need an unapologetic movement fighting for abortion as a fundamental right – not a shameful secret but a necessary one. We must stop arguing when a cell becomes a fetus becomes a baby and what is the definition of a heartbeat. We are not incubators; we have the right to make our own decisions, sometimes complicated (and sometimes not), without constraint; and we exist more than for you. It really is that simple.
The attacks on abortion, ideological and material, don’t just happen in the Red States. They occur everywhere, even in what is often called, by anti-abortionists and pro-abortionists alike, the “abortion capital of the United States”: New York City. New York City for the right to abortion, of which we are a member, has been defending clinics against anti-abortion stalkers in New York City for over four years. The group was founded in 2017 by a group of people (including some of us writing this article) who came together because we were fed up with writing letters to our senators. And we were fed up with being told that the best thing to do when anti-abortion stalkers stalk clinics is to leave them alone, because “paying them attention is exactly what they want”, because ” patients can’t tell the difference ”between someone sending them to hell and someone trying to make sure they can access health services safely. (Um, yes they can!) Even Planned Parenthood’s official approach to anti-abortion activity outside their clinics is, well, to do nothing. We stand up for Planned Parenthood – every month for years, in fact – but we don’t let their board of directors dictate political strategy. We are also patients and providers.
In our latest fight against the Archdiocese of New York’s Witness for Life anti-abortion program, we saw both the religious law and the police are working hand in hand to crack down on us. Witness for life is led by the famous clinic invader Fidelis Moscinski, which has easily been involved in more than half of all clinic invasions in the country since 2017 in the tradition of Red Rose Rescues, a militant far-right wing of the anti-abortion movement.
Early in the morning of the second Saturday of each month, a group of us go to St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn, one of the many churches that regularly hosts the Witness for Life anti-abortion program. Archdiocese of New York. While Witness for Life followers are en masse inside, we picket outside the church, holding up signs, singing and raising awareness about how harassment in clinics occurs here as well. Billed as a “peaceful prayer,” the program’s weekly Mass concludes with a walk to the nearby Planned Parenthood, where clergy and parishioners – often more than a hundred of them, often taken by bus from the out of state – coming together to stigmatize abortion and pressure patients to give birth against their will, including through heinous identity theft of Planned Parenthood escorts. As soon as the procession comes out of the gate, we gather in front of them, on the sidewalk, and basically walk very, very slowly backwards. The goal is to delay them long enough so that abortion patients can get to their appointments (most of which take place in the morning) without confronting them in front of the clinic. A few months ago, we held them back for several hours – we’re talking about hours to move 10 blocks.
On August 14 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, the NYPD dispatched its militarized strategic response group (a particularly violent and well-armed unit, infamous for systematically abusing protesters throughout the Black Lives Matter uprising in 2020) to quell one of our harassment protests. They arrested two of our members and detained them for hours before releasing them on several counts. There was no “justification”, however weak, from the police. The moment when this historically rich and powerful patriarchal organization, which is also the largest landowner in town, feels threatened by ordinary people – who simply refuse to recognize that it is benign for the Catholic Church to stigmatize us in the streets for exercising bodily autonomy – they call on the most repressive arm of the state to push us back, while continuing to claim persecution religion.
It is clear that the fight for reproductive justice is not going anywhere anytime soon; that the Supreme Court does not come to save us; and that Roe deer will never be a guarantee, because it has never been based on abortion as a democratic and inexcusable right. Liberation will not come from political fools or precise and conciliatory word choices; it will come from the streets, to show those who want to rob us of our agency that they are not welcome here. We need an unapologetic, combative, explicitly pro-abortion movement that advocates for The SisterSong Reproductive Justice Framework – the human right to personal bodily autonomy, to have children, not to have children and to raise the children we have in safe and sustainable communities – rather than the flippant slogan of “the right to choose” , which masks the choices made by financial or social constraint are not in fact choices.
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