August 5, 2022 4:40 pm
The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe v. Wade in June was not only unpopular in the United States, with over 72% of people opposed to the ruling, but also went against the overwhelming worldwide trend toward increasing reproductive freedoms. Latin America specifically has seen some of the most inspiring examples of victories for reproductive justice in recent years, all of which were made possible through movements organized by working-class women. The resounding success of organizing efforts in Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and other countries has inspired activists in the United States and has strengthened the network of solidarity that has existed between Latin American abortion rights organizers and their US counterparts for decades.
According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, 53 countries have enacted laws that expand access to abortion since 1994. The United States is only the fourth country to have reduced access to abortion within this same time period, signaling a concerted push against the progressive tide sweeping other parts of the world. In Latin America, the movement that has made this trend possible has the fitting name of “La Marea Verde,” or “The Green Tide.” This name comes from the iconic pañuelo verde, or green handkerchief which has become the symbol for the Latin American reproductive rights movement. The Green Tide has now reached the United States, with large numbers of protesters sporting the color green in abortion rights protests across the U.S.
The pañuelo verde was first adopted by the National Campaign for Legal, Safe, and Free Abortion in Argentina, which was founded in 2003. The Campaign presented a bill for the legalization of abortion to the Argentine Congress in 2008; the bill was soundly defeated but began the long road towards a legal victory. Similar bills were presented and subsequently rejected about every two years. The turning point in the movement didn’t occur until the creation of the “Ni Una Menos,” or “Not One Less,” movement, which rose to the forefront in Argentina after a series of brutal murders of women and girls sparked nationwide protests in the mid-2010s. One of the victims, Chiara Páez, was only 14 years old and was pregnant. The massive mobilizations in the streets against machista violence helped to popularize support for a wide range of women’s rights struggles and highlighted the connections between the fight against femicide and the fight for reproductive rights.
These and subsequent protests tied to the Ni Una Menos and Marea Verde movements also emphasize that issues like femicide and unsafe clandestine abortions affect poor and working-class women the most. One popular chant at the protests in support of abortion rights has been “Las ricas abortan, las pobres mueren,” or “The rich abort, the poor die.” The movement achieved a tremendous victory when the Argentine Senate passed a bill legalizing abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy on December 30, 2020.
This victory in Argentina strengthened many other movements beyond its borders. In Mexico, abortion was unanimously decriminalized by the Supreme Court in September 2021. This followed a strong militant Marea Verde movement of Mexico’s own. For years it has been a common sight for city streets to turn green with pañuelos verdes throughout the country on September 28 (International Safe Abortion Day), March 8 (International Women’s Day), and beyond. The decriminalization of abortion in Mexico set an important legal precedent and marked a tremendous milestone for the women’s liberation movement in Latin America’s second most populous country.
Before Mexico decriminalized abortion nationwide, networks of activists worked to provide access to safe abortions by mailing abortion medication and providing practical guidance and emotional support over the phone. After abortion was decriminalized in Mexico City in 2007, there was a long drought of legal advances. Social media played a huge role in invigorating the movement and providing access to medicated abortions. For example, the organization Aborto Legal México created a particularly impactful Facebook group in 2018. Members of the group shared scientific information about abortion, discussed news of the movement in Argentina and allowed women to organize themselves into coalitions based on geography. This group also became a resource for people seeking information about and support in accessing medication abortion. The group estimated that from 2018 to 2020, they assisted with 1,000 medical abortions in Mexico and other countries like Perú, El Salvador, Honduras, Chile and Argentina.
Groups like Aborto Legal México are also standing in solidarity with women in the United States as our reproductive rights are stripped away. In the wake of the Texas abortion ban, one organization called Las Libres committed to help women who need abortions travel into Mexico to have their procedures, and bring medication abortion into the United States or send them by mail. Another organization, I Need an Abortion, based in the city of Monterrey, has accompanied between five and seven women from the United States per week in the wake of the Roe decision. This group also provides virtual help after mailing medication abortion to the homes of those who request it. There are more than 30 different Mexican organizations providing support to people who need abortions in the United States. This level of international cooperation, along with the inspiration that the Mexican and Latin American abortion rights movements at large provide, shows that we have much more uniting than separating us–we are all together in the fight for women’s liberation. El pueblo, unido, jamás será vencido!
August 8, 2022 5:19 pm
On August 5, Indiana lawmakers passed the first post-Roe abortion ban, prohibiting abortion after implantation. The bill, which is set to go into effect on September 15, narrowly incorporated exceptions in the case of rape and incest before 10 weeks of fertilization: to protect the life of the pregnant person, or if the fetus has a lethal abnormality. The law also bans abortion clinics entirely, mandating that all abortions must take place in hospitals or outpatient centers owned by hospitals.
In their rush to ban abortion, Indiana legislators failed to run the bill through any health-related committees, and the bill is full of inconsistencies and unscientific provisions. For example, the bill bans medication abortion after 8 weeks of pregnancy, even pregnancies covered under one of the bill’s exceptions. Abortion rights advocates say this will lead to mass confusion and a chilling effect as health providers attempt to make sense of the new law.
The struggle for abortion rights has been ongoing in Indiana, but it ramped up when the Dobbs decision was leaked in May. Thousands of people mobilized on less than two days’ notice to take to the streets in cities across the state. When the Dobbs decision was officially announced a month later, statewide protests erupted again. Pro-abortion rights advocates stood watch in the Statehouse from 25 July to 5 August, when the bill was signed, while others stood outside the building chalking pro-choice messages and talking about the issue to passersby.
State lawmakers, however, dismissed the people’s will. Multiple legislators cited their personal faith as the reason for endorsing the bill, explicitly dismissing the unpopularity of the action. Senator Rodric Bray suggested that unhappy Hoosiers should vote out the lawmakers responsible – never mind the gerrymandering that serves to uplift reactionary forces, or the fact that 32% of Indiana Senate seats currently up for election are unopposed.
In addition to the extreme restrictions on when and where abortions can be performed, the Indiana legislature also mandated that physicians lie to their patients. The bill requires physicians to inform patients that they may be able to “halt” or “reverse” the effects of medication abortion as long as they’ve only taken the first pill. The unscientific basis for this claim originates from one anti-abortion doctor’s flimsy study, and has not been endorsed by any legitimate medical bodies.
Right-Wing Legislators Divided Over Exceptions to Severe Ban
Heated debate around abortion ban exceptions carried on until the day before the bill passed. Representative John Jacob, who supported the removal of exceptions in the case of rape, declared on the House floor, “The body inside of the mom’s body is not her body. Let me repeat that: The body inside of the mom’s body is not her body. Not her body, not her choice.”
Representative Karen Engleman, who also supported removing the exception for rape and incest, was reminded that doing so would mean forcing young children into childbirth. She responded that forcing a 5th grader to carry a birth to term is actually doing them a favor, because it is “harmful to put a minor in the position of being the new Jane Roe.” Similarly, Representative Tim Wesco argued, “You cannot treat rape, one of the worst things that can happen to someone, you cannot treat that with abortion.”
Despite the far right using the excuse that leaving abortion legislation up to the states will simplify abortion law and give U.S. voters a say, the situation in Indiana proved the opposite. Divided right-wing legislators engaged in closed door debates and extended discussions into special sessions to determine whether or not to include the exceptions for rape and incest in the bill. The content of these debates is even more sickening in the aftermath of a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio crossing state lines to receive an abortion in Indiana.
Popular support for abortion ignored
The people of Indiana largely support access to abortion. From a recent poll, 58% of Indiana voters support the Roe v. Wade decision, and only 27% said it should be overturned. This is not a trend unique to Indiana. Nation-wide, 72% of Americans support the Roe decision, and Kansas voters recently voted overwhelmingly to keep protections for abortions in the Kansas constitution.
Yet, when asked about a voter referendum on abortion in Indiana, the Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray and bill author Representative Susan Glick shut the idea down. “It is a representative government that we have, and it’s our job to determine and communicate with our constituents and make decisions based upon that,” Bray explained, “We’re accountable to our constituents, and every four years at least over here in the Senate, they decide whether we stay or whether we go.”
In reality, Republicans in Indiana knew that if they posed this question for voters to decide, the people of Indiana would vote in favor of protecting abortion rights.
Far reaching effects of the bill
The ban introduced by Indiana lawmakers will have the most significant impact on poor and working class people. Indiana’s maternal mortality rate, third highest in the country and estimated to be twice that of the United States. on the whole, is 52 deaths per 100,000 births. This statistic is even higher in rural Indiana, at 76 deaths per 100,000 births. These rural areas are known as “obstetric deserts,” counties where there are no obstetric wards. Additionally, in 2018, Black women accounted for 18% of maternal deaths in Indiana while only contributing to 13% of births.
Indiana’s abortion ban will only make these statistics worse, demonstrating that so-called “pro-life” Republicans do not actually care about human life. Another example that exposes the hypocrisy of Indiana’s far-right legislators is that, rather than increasing support for families in the wake of the abortion ban, Indiana is building more baby boxes for unwanted newborns.
The devastating effects of Indiana’s abortion ban will spill over outside of Indiana. Illinois, which has already seen an uptick in out-of-state abortion seekers since Roe was overturned, will face additional pressure in light of the Indiana ban.
The Indiana bill sets an ominous precedent for post-Roe legislation. Not only does it eviscerate the rights of the people of Indiana, but it makes it harder for all Midwesterners to access abortion. Despite popular support for abortion rights, Republicans passed the bill through secret closed-door meetings and infighting, with no regard for the loss of lives that will result. It is clear that Indiana lawmakers are enemies of the people, and as the people we must make our voices heard. We cannot accept further draconian bans on a basic life-saving healthcare procedure. Abortion access is a human right. We must take to the streets and fight!
Every person who works on the magazine is a full-time or retired worker or student. We are all activists and organizers in our communities. We are revolutionaries, members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. We are people from a broad spectrum of nationalities, LGBTQ and other oppressed communities. We are mothers and daughters and nieces supporting our families and our communities in a myriad of ways.
The women of the Party for Socialism and Liberation have:
Unions are popular. Strikes, collective actions and worker organizing are on an upswing as workers are learning through their own experiences that organizing works. The pandemic, which hit women workers hard, also proved the value of the union, of collective workers’ organizations, as unionized workers retained more benefits, safer working conditions, stability and higher salaries than non-unionized workers in this period. Concentrated ruling class attacks have whittled down union representation to only a fraction of workers in the United States. But unions continue to be powerful organizations because of their position in the ongoing class struggle and their fundamental class character. At the moment, the possibilities for expanding worker power vis-à-vis the unions, and the labor movement, seem great. Moreover, the anticommunism used by the ruling class historically to undermine the labor movement is largely fading as socialism rises in popularity again. Women are playing a larger role than ever in the leadership of unions. The expanded organizing of women workers has the potential to bring class struggle front and center to the women’s movement in ways that have been repressed and elided over the last several decades. What do these developments mean for women workers in the struggle for socialist liberation? How do we utilize our history, a vast history of women’s leadership and initiative in the labor movement, to inform our work in the current context?
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