Because: Women’s lives MATTER. Women are HALF of HUMANITY, and deserve to be treated as full human beings in every sphere of society. When abortion, birth control, and scientific sex education are out of women’s reach, all of society is held down and slammed backward.
Because: There is a national assault on the right to abortion, and people have forgotten, or have never before heard, the truth about what happens to women’s bodies and lives when abortion is illegal. Women in Texas and other parts of the US are already employing dangerous methods to induce abortion: black market drugs, sticking sharp objects like coat hangers and knitting needles into their vaginal canals, purposely getting into a fight or having someone beat them in the stomach, falling down stairs, all to avoid the shame and stigma of abortion or because they cannot access safe and legal abortion care. Without abortion, women will be forced to bear children EVERY single time they get pregnant, their lives foreclosed and shackled to the breeding and raising of children, their dreams crushed, their hopes betrayed. Young girls will all grow up in a society that teaches them that this is their future, and they won’t even BEGIN to dream of what they want to be, or what kind of world they want to live in when they grow up.
Because: LOOK, just look at all this stigma and shame, all this ignorance of women’s bodies’ and basic biology, all this SHAME that’s spewed at women just for having sex, and all this ignorance about the FACT that abortion is not shameful or tragic, that its a safe, common, positive and liberating medical procedure…look at all these fucked up laws, ideas and culture that keeps women locked into these desperate measures! These life and death measures!
Stop Patriarchy was recently asked to remove all anti-pornography messages from a table we had at a Vagina Monologues production, in the name of “sex positivity.” Activists with Stop Patriarchy said, you know that there’s a war on women when the state can keep sex education out of the schools and abolish abortion, while a curious ten-year-old can type “sex” into Google and watch a woman eat shit. This is what we are exposing, and we should all fight it. Porn has nothing to do with sex, and it’s not “positive” in its effects—it does nothing to encourage real intimacy, it makes rape and the absence of consent sexy in the minds of many, and the industry itself continues to intersect with sex trafficking and generally treat women like garbage. The event organizer went on to say that there were women involved in the event who create “feminist pornography.” Stop Patriarchy said that we need a movement for women’s liberation, fighting for a world without a multi-billion dollar sex trafficking industry, where women’s bodies are not objects up for sale: not through sex slavery, not in strip clubs, not in porn, no matter who is getting the profit. A world where slavery is rejected not sexualized, and a woman is more than an orifice and receptacle to stuff things into or pump stuff out of.
This is where the connection between the social origins and the social consequences of individual desires must be grasped. Not all theories that seem on the surface to be in opposition to harmful and oppressive tradition actually reflect the kind of world that is possible: a world without slavery in any form. On the contrary, the defining of sex as “whatever you want it to be” when what people want is being shaped by a patriarchal system, is in itself a stamp of approval on the intolerable conditions women face in the world as it is.
For Women's Lives and Against McCarthyism: A Response to "United Statement in Opposition to Stop Patriarchy"
As members of the Advisory Board of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride 2014: Ground Zero Texas, we strongly reject the recent ad-hominem and McCarthyite attacks and accusations leveled at the Ride and at Stop Patriarchy as unfounded and untrue. We appreciate the comments of clinic owner Diane Derzis, owner of Jackson Women’s Health in Mississippi, as quoted in the Dallas Observer:
“‘We became far too reliant upon courts to maintain the status quo, while our enemy is in the trenches with these churches raising money, raising time, electing people. Am I a communist? Absolutely not. Do I care whether someone else is? No.’ She adds: ‘I think it’s time starting thinking outside the box, because what we’ve been doing has not been working.’”
The reasons and goals for the Ride are clearly spelled out on StopPatriarchy.org and we stand by them. Reproductive rights in this country are under increasing attack and fast disappearing, leaving thousands of women and girls without access to reproductive care.
With so much on the line and the responsibility of ensuring reproductive justice for women in this country, we believe diverse ways of fighting back are necessary. Many people and groups are doing important work to address the current emergency and we applaud them. We invite anyone to join the Ride in person, or to support it in the various ways described on the website. All points of view and affiliations are welcome, no loyalty oaths are required, the only requirement is a commitment to reproductive justice!
Signed by members of the Advisory Board, Abortion Rights Freedom Ride 2014: Ground Zero Texas:
Diane Derzis, Owner of Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the last abortion clinic in Mississippi
Carol Downer, Co-Founder of the Feminist Women’s Health Center which began doing abortions in 1971
Merle Hoffman, CEO of Choices Women’s Medical Center which began doing abortions in 1971
Wendy Robinson, Director, Voice of Choice
Mary Lou Singleton, licensed midwife and nurse practitioner, Founder, Personhood for Women
Sunsara Taylor, Revolution newspaper, Stop Patriarchy, fighter for abortion rights since 1995
Note: To learn about the actual track record and achievements of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride in the past, click here. To read “A Response to Recent Attacks and Invitation to All from the Advisory Board of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride 2014: Ground Zero Texas,” click here.
"….In 2011, there were 46 abortion clinics in Texas. 21 clinics have already closed. Unless HB2 is overturned in the district court before September 1st, only 6 clinics will remain open. Closing clinics is a hate crime against female bodies. As women’s heartbeats are legislatively subordinated to blastocysts, embryos, and fetuses, women’s very lives are in danger. But so is the extent of what we are allowed to dream. When you are taught the fatal lesson that your body is not your own, you quickly forget how to dream in the first place, and that is what is at stake, too: Women’s hopes, dreams, and futures. Zip codes and state lines should not determine the worth of anybody’s future….”
"Nobody should be forced to have a child they don't want."
On the university campus, in Austin, TX, we asked students whether they knew there will be only six abortion clinics in the entire state after September. Many didn’t. A lot of people knew about the Wendy Davis filibuster, but they had not heard that abortion clinics continue to and will be closing.
A middle aged woman who had five children with her, stated abortions were illegal throughout Mexico, and only legal in Mexico City. She said they shouldn’t take this right away from women. We read from the flyer, “When abortion is illegal, women die…” She nodded in agreement.
A young woman took a flyer and continued walking until we said “Let’s protest.” She stopped, turned, took off her earphones, walked back up to us and asked “Where?”
"Not the Time to be Ladylike and Follow Rules Doled Out by the Establishment"
by Mary Lou Singleton, licensed Midwife and Family Nurse Practitioner, as well as Founder of Personhood for Women.
Like most women who believe they deserve full human rights and dignity, I am furious. Actually, I alternate between feelings of total despair and full-bodied rage as I watch the rights of women in the United States, like those of women all over the world, erode to the point where we are considered nothing more than public breeding stock. I live in a country that has failed for close to 100 years to give women full constitutional rights in the form of the Equal Rights Amendment, but now recognizes constitutional and human rights for capitalist corporations. Worse yet, constitutional rights and protections are being legally conferred to fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses. The lack of a ratified ERA combined with codification of fetal personhood together relegate women in the US to the legal status of state-regulated incubators.
I am a life-long women’s rights activist and have been a practicing midwife for over 20 years. Midwives carry the privelege and burden of knowing and witnessing the most private details of women’s lives. From this knowledge, I am fully aware that the majority of the women I have served have made the decision to abort a pregnancy at some point in their reproductive lives. From conversations with other midwives, I believe the often quoted statistic that one in three women will have an abortion is an understatement. Very rarely do I encounter a woman who regrets her decision to have an abortion. More frequently I hear the tearful confession of a woman who is having post-partum depression or difficulty bonding or alienation from older children telling me that she never wanted to have children in the first place but felt she had no choice. Sadly, as I watch the erosion of abortion rights in our country, I expect to hear more and more of these confessions.
I support the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride because no other organization in the country is speaking the full truth about abortion rights. Forced motherhood absolutely is female enslavement. Without the right to abortion on demand, women are not free. There is no greater human rights abuse than forcing a woman to endure the threats to her emotional and physical health that are inherent in pregnancy and childbirth against her will. There is no more misogynist statement than the odious, “Adoption, not abortion.” Forcing women to gestate and give birth is barbaric and criminal.
I support the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride because under the guidance of the Democratic Party and mainstream pro-choice organizations, the right to abortion has basically disappeared in large swaths of our country. I no longer believe that following the instructions of the non-profit industrial complex and the Democratic Party will do anything to stop the erosion of women’s rights, let alone lead to an expansion of abortion rights in the US.
This is not the time to be nice and ladylike and follow the rules doled out by the same establishment that has failed to protect us from having our rights ripped away. This is an emergency.
From a Texas Woman: Off the Sidelines... Because I Do Not Like to Be Controlled
Watching the filibuster of the Texas legislature, and the subsequent outpouring of dissent last summer, I felt a number of emotions. Shock that this was actually happening. Excited that Texas women were standing up for our rights. And jealousy that I wasn’t there with them! I was hopeful that this was a tide that was turning. That society was shifting in a way that was favorable towards women’s rights, specifically, the right to a safe and accessible abortion.
I was wrong.
More and more TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws are being passed around the country. Texas is the latest example of how the legislatures can use the courts to ban abortions. But Texas must also be an example of how to create visible resistance to any restrictions to women’s liberation.
Part of the jealousy that I talked about earlier was due to the fact that I was sitting on the sidelines, living life, not getting involved with political matters. I think a lot of people do that and it’s understandable. As women, we have jobs and families that keep us occupied. But in my opinion, banning abortion is one of the tools that reactionary forces in our society are using to control women, keeping us subjugated. And I do not like to be controlled.
That is why I am supporting the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride as it makes its way through Texas. If the courts, reactionary politicians, and misinformation are allowed to reduce the number of abortion clinics in Texas to 6, in a state with 26 million people, and I did nothing, then I would be beyond jealous. I’d be pissed.
Report from Austin: You are Not Alone, and You are Needed Now More Than Ever
The Abortion Rights Freedom Ride has hit the streets of Austin, in preparation for a raucous and revealing month of resistance against the attacks on abortion. We have been talking to many people - on street corners, in theater lines, at student unions, and outdoor markets - about women, abortion, society, and the role we all can play in making history right now.
Of those who know that dozens of abortion clinics are being shut down in Texas, many are surprised to hear that this is happening all across the country: 6 states have only one abortion clinic left, and hundreds of restrictions have come down on abortion in the last three years!
To talk about abortion on a street corner or public place has been a startling thing for many people on both sides of the issue! Some people, when we ask their opinion, say, “Isn’t that a personal question?” or “Isn’t that a very touchy subject?” Some, when we ask as they pass if they know there will be only 6 abortion clinics left in all of Texas by September, stop in their tracks and come back, saying, “Really? Only six?” Part of the effects of seeing abortion as a personal or private topic, is that many people just don’t know that right now, women in southern Texas are living in conditions like the 1950s - they are attempting to self-induce through dangerous methods, or being forced to bear unwanted children. Consider this story:
One pair of women approach. One of them stops and angrily argues with one of our volunteers about how “irresponsible” and “slutty” these young girls are who just have sex, and don’t want to deal with “the consequences.” The other stands quietly and listens. The volunteer explains that there isn’t anything wrong with women having sex, and nobody should be forced into motherhood as some kind of punishment. I wonder what the silent woman is thinking, so I quietly ask her, and she says, “Women have absolutely got to have the right to decide if they’re ready to be mothers or not.” I tell her, “If they don’t, it’s like society telling them they’re just breeders, not even human.” She nods. We talk for a little while about recent Supreme Court rulings, and all the clinic closures, and where that leaves women, and then I say, “It’s really important that people like you, who have a sense of what this is going to mean for women, be part of fighting it for real. You won’t be alone.” She smiles and signs a contact list, digs around for some money and makes a donation. I tell her I am looking forward to seeing her again, and fighting by her side for what is right. Soon her friend, still shouting and gesticulating up till that point, stops frozen and stares, her jaw literally drops, at her friend signing up to be a Freedom Rider for women’s lives, and donating her money. They leave together, in intense discussion with each other: “I never knew you thought that way… But what about…”
It is striking that the anti-abortion friend was loudly throwing her opinion around, and speaking with such certitude and conviction, while the pro-choice friend who had a strong conviction as well, didn’t voice it at first, and not without prompting. Then they left together engaging each other in a level of conversation about this most crucial question - about the direction of society for half of humanity - that it was clear they had never had before. What’s more, this was not an isolated incident. This same phenomenon between friends and family has happened several times already through our conversations in the few days we have been in Austin.
Imagine this on a mass scale! Imagine all this opening up, where friends and family members laid their arguments out, deeply explored their differences and where their opinions come from and lead to, and more and more people confronted what the criminalizing of pregnancy and the robbing of abortion access actually meant for women.
Imagine if the women who had abortions felt like they could tell their daughters or their parents, emboldening them to speak out too. Imagine if the mostly silent majority of pro-choice people talked to their friends, shattered the stigma, and fought the vicious attacks that right now are taking women back in time to desperate days of stifling subordination.
A few more voices from Austin for now, and many more to come:
A teenage woman in line at a theater: “My mom got an abortion when she was seventeen. She wasn’t ready to have a child. She was not financially stable, she had no support system… I am personally so grateful she had the right to get an abortion. Right now she is a helpful, caring mother of three children, and she loves us so much! Access to abortion gives us power, gives us career options, gives us options.”
A young man on Congress and 6th: “I support women getting abortions if they want to because it’s 20 fucking 14, and quite frankly, a woman is a human being. Every bit as important, every bit as legitimate, and every bit as powerful and respectable as a man.” When asked about the anti-abortion movement, he said, “Whenever your entire point is to take the class divisions, this sex- gender orientation or racial divisions, and broaden the gaps as far as you can in hopes that it will never be closed again, it’s a disaster. It’s just pathetic.”
Abortion rights are in a state of emergency, and it’s time to get loud about it! If you are in Texas, in the south, or anywhere else, and you are pro-choice, or you have had an abortion, you may feel isolated. You may feel alone. You may feel like the confidence and certitude of the anti-abortion voice pushes you to the margins. You have to know: you are NOT alone. And what’s more than that, you are needed now, more than ever! You are urgently needed to stand up and speak out for the sake of future generations of women who do not deserve to live in a society where these formative truths are stifled and only told in whispers, where their lives are determined for them, and where being born a woman is a condemnation to sex-shaming and state-mandated child-bearing.
It is liberating and it is also urgently needed - if you do not want abortion to be illegal or impossible - that you refuse to be drowned out or silenced. JOIN these voices from Austin and the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride:GROUND ZERO TEXAS today and through the month of August, and for as long as it takes, in whatever capacity you can.
This is hatred toward women! The battle around abortion has never been about babies, it has ALWAYS been about the enslavement of women. Fetuses are NOT Babies, Abortion is NOT Murder, and Women are NOT INCUBATORS!!
A fight to turn the tide in the all-out assault on women’s right to abortion and birth control. July 30 thru Aug & into Sept.
We’re pushing hard to get to $20K by Monday + another 125 donors. We’re at just over $12,000 now.
“Abortion clinics offer young teens a choice to live again." - this from a 17 year old student who wrote about why she wants to join the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride Texas. Read her whole statement hereand I know you’ll be inspired. Please share with others and give them the opportunity to make a difference as you have.
"It is my pleasure to donate & fund a Freedom Rider on this important mission. Go inspire/unite all of the women who need to know they deserve to be treated as full human beings capable of making decisions about their own bodies. Bring the message of another world is possible, free of the crushing oppression of women here & around the world, and they can be a part of bringing that world into fruition.
Wishing you all much love & determination in turning the tide & defeating the war on women”
A 17-year student writes: Why I Want to Join the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride
"If I got the opportunity to Travel with Abortion Rights Freedom Ride I would be extremely grateful.
If women’s abortion rights were taken women would feel as if they don’t have a voice. As women we have honorable rights to do what we want with our bodies so not being able to turn to abortion when needed, would make one feel as if she has no control over her life. Abortions help women of all ages make an important decision about their life, while also making the woman understand that she is more than just a holder for the fetus. Being a part of something this special will let women know all over the world that they are not alone when it comes to fighting for our rights for abortions.
From second hand experience I know that abortion saves a lot of teens/young adults from feeling as if they cannot succeed in life. No one in life is perfect; nothing is guaranteed one hundred percent effective, and everyone learn from mistakes. I have never been pregnant myself but I have close friends that have. Some of them never had a good role model in their lives to tell them the importance of not getting pregnant at a young age, while others just simply made mistakes. One of my friends stressed herself out so much about her pregnancy, she decided to drop out of school and run away from home because she wanted to save herself from embarrassment. I was extremely sad to hear that my friend whom was such an honorable student, felt as if she had no choice in life because of a simple mistake. Since, my friend was extremely scared to tell her mother and abusive father I encouraged her to talk to a teacher who I felt would provide wise information about an abortion. Weeks later after the abortion, I was ecstatic to see my close friend back at school focused more than ever.
Abortion clinics offer young teens a choice to live again. There are so many teens unable to take care of a child mentally as well as financially. Why should one be forced into motherhood if they know that they are not able provide a stable safe environment for their child? In Texas, I would be happy to fight for what is right, there is nothing worse than feeling alone and held down.”
Everyone: Follow her lead. Help this young woman and other volunteers travel to Texas. DONATE. Come to Texas, send a video or written statement, organize a house party to watch the People’s Hearings, starting July 30. Be part of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride however you can.
Sharing a message just received from a generous donor:
It is my pleasure to donate & fund a Freedom Rider on this important mission. Go inspire/unite all of the women who need to know they deserve to be treated as full human beings capable of making decisions about their own bodies. Bring the message of another world is possible, free of the crushing oppression of women here & around the world, and they can be a part of bringing that world into fruition.
Wishing you all much love & determination in turning the tide & defeating the war on women
Are you a female over 50? Chances are you took advantage of both birth control and abortion during your reproductive prime. You know how important it was to have those choices.
Are you a female between the ages of 20-50? Not a month goes by that you don’t think about your need for birth control and your absolute right to decide when and if you plan to have a child.
Are you a young woman under 20? You might not be thinking that much about issues of reproduction but you very likely are thinking about and exploring your sexuality and should be able to do so without the terror of your life being foreclosed for it.
Are you a boy or a man between 4-80? You have daughters, granddaughters, wives, sisters and mothers who deserve to be recognized as full human beings and who deserve the right to make personal, legal and responsible decisions about their own bodies.
Are you a member of this society, one of the 317 million people living in the United States? Access to birth control and abortion is an absolute right; it should never be up for a vote. It should never be subjected to the whims of politicians.
How many people in the chart are affected by the laws, court cases and culture restricting birth control and abortion? Everyone. Everyone represented in the graph has a stake in this fight.
Where are you in this picture? Where are you in the fight?
BECOME AN ABORTION RIGHTS FREEDOM RIDER TODAY
Donate $10 and then tell 3 friends to follow your lead
Tune in and listen to Sunsara and other guests discuss the outrageous US Supreme Court ruling on the Hobby Lobby case, which allows corporations the so-called “religious freedom” of denying female employees insurance coverage for birth control.
It is urgent that everyone act now to stop this war on women.Forcing women to have children against their will is a form of enslavement.
RIGHT NOW…..Women across the country who cannot access safe abortions are attempting to self-abort using dangerous methods. Many more are forced to give birth to unwanted children and are trapped in abusive relationships, driven (deeper) into poverty, or are separated at birth from a baby they can’t care for. This is the future for all women if these attacks are not resisted and defeated!
Click through to learn more about this abortion rights emergency and what must be done to resist!
by Sunsara Taylor | July 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
It would be hard to overstate the dangers hurtling towards women in every part of the world today. I’m talking about everything from the rising epidemic of gang-rape from India to Steubenville to the sexual enslavement of millions, from the saturation of the culture with ever-more violent and humiliating pornography to the all-out assault on women’s right to access abortion and even birth control. Everywhere, the oppression of women is being violently and aggressively reasserted.
Here in this country, one major spearhead of this global war on women is shaping up in Texas. Just a couple years ago, Texas—the country’s second most populous state with approximately 26 million—had 46 abortion clinics. By September 1, there are likely to be only six left! This will leave women in the impoverished regions of the Rio Grande Valley (down by the Mexican border) and other rural parts of this vast state hundreds of miles from the nearest clinic. Most poor women won’t make the trip. Instead, they will be forced to have a child against their will—or to risk their lives to self-induce an abortion. Already, growing numbers of women are self-inducing and growing numbers are being arrested for things perceived as a threat to their fetuses.
None of this is completely unique to Texas. Six states in this country have only one abortion clinic left. Hundreds of laws have been passed that restrict abortion access and have closed down dozens and dozens of clinics nationwide in recent years. Across the country women face shame, stigma, and humiliating and vicious protesters at clinic doors. Still, Texas represents a certain concentration point and bellwether for the rest of the country.
A trial is set for August 4 in Austin to determine whether the next round of clinic closures will go forward in Texas (whether on September 1 they will be down to just six clinics). What happens in that trial, but even more importantly what happens among the people, this summer will determine a great deal for the direction of the whole country on this major faultline. If this law goes forward without sharp opposition, it will mean a great leap backward; but if, on the contrary, people come forward to forcefully oppose this and expose the real terms of things, we could begin to turn what has been and is an ugly and relentless tide.
The Abortion Rights Freedom Ride 2014: Ground Zero Texas
It is for this reason that the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride 2014: Ground Zero Texas has been undertaken.
Coming from different perspectives, people from around the country are mobilizing to join with people in Texas to stand up against this assault from July 30 through early September as a critical part of fighting to turn the tide nationwide. The goals of this effort are simple: to get beyond fighting each new assault one by one on ever-shrinking ground and forge a national strategic counter-offensive; to change the way that millions think so that they understand the fight over abortion is a fight over women’s enslavement or women’s liberation; and to call forth mass, independent political resistance instead of relying on courts and politicians.
Through mass, nationally webcast People’s Hearings each Wednesday from July 30 to August 20 in Houston, Austin, San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley, we will mobilize the outrage of people against these attacks and include testimony of abortions before legalization as well as today. They will include community and religious leaders as well as prominent individuals. Together, they will bring alive the true stakes and urgency of this fight for the future of women everywhere. Across the country, people can send in their testimony to be part of these Hearings and should tune in live to watch.
Each Thursday, the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride will mobilize powerful and dramatic protests outside the offices of key individuals or institutions behind this assault. Brandishing the findings of the People’s Hearings, along with striking images of the women who have died from illegal abortions, wearing shackles which represent female enslavement and holding bloody coat-hangers,* we will expose the utter illegitimacy of these laws and institutions. We will revoke their ability to hide behind claims of “concern for women” or for the “unborn.” We will bring alive the reality that when it comes to abortion there is really only one moral question: Will women be forced to have children against their will or will they be treated as full human beings which means being able to decide for themselves when and whether to be a mother.
Beyond that, Abortion Rights Freedom Riders will get out to the communities, talking with and involving people in standing up to take on and defeat this entire war on women. And during the final week of August, in the lead-up to the September 1 scheduled clinic closure date, the Freedom Ride is mobilizing a nationwide WEEK OF DEFIANCE; a time for people across the country and all around Texas who have been tuning in throughout the month to step out together into the streets.
Who Should Be Part of This? And How?
Every single person who is outraged by this assault on women—and every single person who, as they learn about this, can be won to be outraged—should be part of this effort!
This includes older folks—men as well as women—who remember when girls were “sent away” to have babies and give them up in shame and when women bled to death in motel rooms and parking lots after botched abortions, afraid to call for help. This includes young folks—from the suburbs and campuses to the inner cities and projects—who are shocked at first to hear someone speak positively and unapologetically about abortion. This includes people in the arts and academia, public figures and beloved poets, scientists and health care workers—folks whose voices have disproportionate impact and reach have a responsibility to be heard at this time. And while this definitely includes people who have been active in the struggle to provide and defend abortion rights, this potential reservoir stretches way beyond this and the so-called “usual suspects.”
People who can need to get on the bus, in their car, or on an airplane down to Texas. Be on the ground as a part of this historic political battle. Folks in Texas have begun to and many more need to open up their homes to the volunteers and join in the efforts on the ground. People everywhere need to send money to support and enable those on the front lines. People should send in their testimony to be featured at the hearings. People should spread the word among their friends, families, religious or atheist networks, community groups, local media, and in other ways about the ride. Throughout the country people need to start scheduling viewing parties every Wednesday and get ready to take it to the streets during the Week of Defiance.
Vicious Attacks in Defense of a Failed and Deadly Program
Many have stepped forward from a great many different perspectives to support and take part in this Ride. This is very important. At the same time, it is still just a fraction of who can and must be won to take part.
Others have come out in vicious and unprincipled attack. Individuals grouped around some pro-choice organizations in Texas, as well as some individuals from other parts of the country, have taken it upon themselves to spend inordinate amounts of time and energy spreading tabloid-style rumors, making emotionally charged accusations, and even threatening the organizers of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride for daring to mobilize people to stand up on the front lines.
The Advisory Board of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride 2014: Ground Zero Texas has issued a response to these attacks, which everyone should read. As this response points out, there is a huge difference between principled and substantive debate over the way forward, and attacks and slanders which foster distrust, demoralization, division, and even danger to people’s lives.
Here I will add: the fact that these attackers resort to impugning to us things that we would never advocate, as well as the fact that they have consistently steered clear of responding to the substance of our analysis and actual plans that we have repeatedly and forthrightly set forward are just a reflection of how desperate they are to obscure the real differences of approach being advocated.
Beneath their ludicrous claims to somehow speak for all 26 million people of Texas when they tell us to “stay out,” beneath their delusion that somehow what is happening in Texas is just a “local” issue the outcome of which will not affect women everywhere, beneath their McCarthyite anti-communism, and beneath their distortions of the Ride’s plans and views towards other pro-choice forces, is the well-worn and definitively failed political program of laying low, denying the true scope of the emergency, relying on the courts and chasing after the left end of the electoral political spectrum as the whole spectrum continues to hurtle further and further to the right.
Theirs is not a “new program.” For decades, “leading pro-choice voices” have urged people to pour their energies into elections, to “reframe” abortion as “just another form of healthcare,” and to “stay away from confrontation” with anti-abortion forces. This has done nothing to stave off anti-abortion assaults and only served to disorient and demobilize the millions who could be won to stand up and fight back.
This same essential approach led the women’s movement to capitulate to, rather than fight, the Hyde Amendment that revoked federal funds from abortion and caused women— in particular, poor women—to start dying once again. This approach led the “pro-choice movement” to support Bill Clinton, even as he insisted abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare” as if there were something morally wrong with it and signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which is the foundation for the Supreme Court’s recent Dark Ages Hobby Lobby ruling against birth control. This approach worked to redirect the righteous anger that poured out in the Texas capitol a year ago against these anti-abortion restrictions away from the concrete goal of preventing clinic closures into the goal of getting Wendy Davis elected, proclaiming that “reproductive justice in Texas is stronger than ever” as clinics are shuttered and women’s lives are foreclosed.
Can we get real? This approach has been and is abetting the death and enslavement of women.
We must embark on a different road and we must do it now. Again, we ask EVERYONE who is outraged by these assaults to come together and direct our political fire against the REAL enemy.
It is urgent that people step out boldly and unapologetically—in the streets and in many other ways. That we surge to the front lines of the most sharply joined battle and wake others up to the emergency that we face. We must stop aiming all our efforts at what seems “realistic” within the currently existing political landscape and embark on the road of fighting to change the terms on this question throughout society. We must tell people the truth and we must act accordingly.
This is what the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride 2014: Ground Zero Texas is aiming to do, and everyone who does not want to see women forced to have children against their will has a responsibility and a role to play in making this real.
* The coat hanger is a symbol of terror and enslavement of women. Before abortion was made legal, many women sought illegal abortions or tried aborting the fetus themselves, often using coat hangers to induce bleeding, and often these women died. The coat hanger became a symbol in the battle to win the right to abortion, and is still iconic of what the lack of this right means for women.