For decades, we have struggled to provide and defend abortion services to women because without the right to decide for themselves when and whether to bear children women can not be full participants in society . For decades, we have watched as yesterday’s outrage became today’s “compromise position” and tomorrow’s limit of what can be imagined. Yet never has the threat to women’s fundamental right to reproductive freedom been so great. The crisis is upon us and each day it worsens.
For too long our side has been forced into defensive battles, responding to attacks in the courts and the electoral arena and public education and struggling to keep services open to women on ever shrinking ground.
Courageous abortion providers and escorts are working tirelessly to keep abortion available to women. We salute these efforts. At the same time, we must all soberly confront the truth: much more is needed.
We are involved with the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride 2014: Ground Zero Texas because we support its three overarching goals:
- Forge a national strategic counter-offensive.
- Radically reset the political, moral, and ideological terms of this fight so that millions understand that this fight is about women’s liberation or women’s enslavement.
- Mobilize all people of conscience to wage massive, independent, political resistance. Relying mainly on politicians, and the courts, has not halted the barrage of attacks.
The Ride has plans to hold nationally webcast public speak outs (modeled on the Speak Outs held in April of this year, click here to watch: webcast with Merle Hoffman, Dr. Willie Parker, Marge Piercy, David Gunn, Jr., Bill Baird, Sunsara Taylor, Rev. Donna Schaper, Louis Bernikow, pre-Roe testimony, provider testimony, etc.]) which bring alive the stories of women denied the right to abortion and brings together public figures to sound the alarm and as it mobilizes dramatic non-violent protests to directly confront those spearheading this assault on women.
Given the tremendous stakes of the moment, we welcome and encourage open, principled, debate over the way forward. Unfortunately, some have chosen to attack – even coining the hashtag #FuckStopPatriarchy, campaigning to keep people from working with or donating to the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, and spreading distrust and division.
We condemn this. In responding, we seek not only to address some of the particular accusations but to set an example for the kind of open and principled political debate that is not only healthy but necessary.
There are no “outsiders” in the struggle for women’s liberation. Some accuse the ARFR of being “outsiders” who should stay out of Texas. But the assault to deprive women of abortion rights is not a “local issue” and what happens in any one place will affect women everywhere. This is a global and national war, one particular theater of which happens to be in Texas right now. All of us have a responsibility to play our part in taking this fight on wherever it is most concentrated.
This is a Freedom Ride moment. What is at stake today is whether women, half of society, will be forced into a legal status that is less than fully human. Some have accused the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride of “appropriating” the legacy of the Civil Rights movement. This is absurd. We lay no claim to “owning” this legacy, who even thinks that way? We draw inspiration from the original Freedom Riders both for their moral courage and because they dared to challenge what most people thought had to be accepted as “just the way things are.”
Forced Motherhood IS Female Enslavement. Being forced to have a child against one’s will is the forcible control by a male-supremacist state, church, and/or man over the very physical autonomy and life course of a woman. It reduces women to property. There is a legitimate history of legal scholars, court challenges, and abortion rights leaders including Merle Hoffman arguing for years that instead of being granted based on the “right to privacy” as it was in Roe vs. Wade, the right abortion should have been based on the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlaws slavery and involuntary servitude. Even Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave credence to this argument when asked about it by Hoffman several years ago.
Seeking to drive sincere forces out of the movement is destructive and has no place in a liberation struggle. With so much at stake how could there not be differences in how to understand the situation and how to approach it? What could be more important than openly airing those differences so that everyone can learn? We ourselves hold very different political views and have many robust arguments; this is a strength that enables us to unite ever more firmly and broadly in this urgent fight for women’s lives. In contrast, attempts to create a situation where sincere forces and legitimate political views are rendered “beyond the pale” and “personas non grata” is wrong and very damaging. It demoralizes and weakens our side, creates an atmosphere of distrust, serves those who hate women, and obscures the actual and important differences of substance and approach. Over decades, we have seen the damage this can do and feel responsible to share the lessons we have learned.
In conclusion, we reiterate our commitment to the future and lives of women everywhere. The Abortion Rights Freedom Ride has no mission other than to defend women’s lives and freedoms. We call on everyone across this country to join with us at this most critical hour in whatever way you can to become a Freedom Rider for women’s lives.
Diane Derzis, owner of Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the last abortion clinic in Mississippi
Carol Downer, co-founder of 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
Sunsara Taylor, Revolution newspaper, Stop Patriarchy, fighter for abortion rights since 1995