Saturday, April 7, 2012

Women's rights in the crosshairs

A very powerful article.  The rapidity with which women, and not just the leaders of the reformist remainder of the second-wave feminist movement, responded militantly to the Komen and and later attacks on Planned Parenthood and abortion rights.

Sexist politicians compare women to livestock
Defend abortion rights!
By Tina Landis
April 7, 2012

Women protest anti-choice bill at the state capitol, March 12, Atlanta, Ga.

Under capitalism, every gain the working class makes is under constant threat of being overturned by the capitalist class. A social safety net, strong unions and public services all mean lower profits for the ruling class. The ability to control our reproductive functions is an essential right for women if we are to be able to participate in society and the economy as equals. Ever since the 1973 victory of Roe v. Wade, the right wing has been trying to roll back this right.

In the latest attack, the Georgia House of Representatives passed a Senate-approved bill on March 29 that criminalizes abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of incest, rape or a dead or genetically mutated fetus.

HB 954, the "fetal pain bill," also known as the "women as livestock bill," is yet another disgusting maneuver to turn back the clock on women's rights. Rep. Terry England spoke at a hearing and compared pregnant women to livestock, saying: "Life gives us many experiences …I've had the experience of delivering calves, dead and alive. Delivering pigs, dead or alive. It breaks our hearts to see those animals not make it."

He ended his speech with a quote from the Bible saying that life begins at conception. Whatever happened to separation of church and state?

Georgia will join six other states with similarly harsh bills turning back Roe v. Wade, which allows abortions up to the 24th week of pregnancy. The name "fetal pain bill" misrepresents the facts, as science shows that fetuses do not develop neurologically to the point of feeling pain until at least 24 weeks and likely closer to 28 weeks.

The Georgia bill provides no exemptions for women with mental illness or suicidal tendencies. The only exemption is the rare case in which a doctor can prove the pregnancy is "medically futile" but with the stipulation that the doctor must perform the abortion while keeping the fetus alive until it emerges from the womb. For failure to follow this stipulation, a doctor could face up to 10 years in prison.

One example in a broader offensive

This bill in Georgia, although one of the more egregious examples, is just one facet of a much broader attack. The offensive has the potential to affect women's health and quality of life far into the future if we fail to defeat it now.

Reports show that many medical students in the United Kingdom, where similar reactionary laws are being passed, are opting out of training as abortion providers due to intimidation. A New Hampshire bill currently in the Senate would cut all taxpayer funding for any clinic or hospital that provides elective abortions, putting the entire Medicaid system in the state in jeopardy. House Bill 1196 in Mississippi if passed will prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectable—around 4 weeks—which would likely shut down the last remaining abortion clinic in the state.

In Wisconsin, a small homemade bomb was detonated April 1 outside a Planned Parenthood clinic causing a small fire but no injuries. A suspect has since been arrested.

The majority of women who use the provider are lower-income women, without access to other health care services, who go to PP seeking affordable contraception and prenatal care as well as breast cancer, cervical cancer and sexually transmitted disease screenings. Abortions account for less than 10 percent of PP's work. Anti-abortion protesters were even present at the opening of a new PP clinic in Ferndale, Mich., that does not currently provide abortion services.

In Germantown, Md., the landlord of a clinic that provides abortions was being harassed with threatening phone calls. He organized and fought back with the right wings' own tactic, marshaling volunteers to research the names and addresses of anti-abortion protesters and leaving messages notifying them that the clinic will not be intimidated. The tactic has been so successful that a national group has formed with 5,000 volunteer callers defending clinics and doctors throughout the country.

Misogyny a product of capitalism

Unfortunately, this current state of reaction is not just a case of a few extreme voices but a product of the capitalist system itself. Misogyny, like racism, is a divisive tactic of the ruling class, used even more in times of economic downturn.

The right-wing politicians and media are fueling reactionary tendencies that already exist in society making it more dangerous than ever for women to access safe health care. Without access to safe, legal abortion, young women will either be forced to bear unwanted children or will seek out dangerous, possibly lethal illegal abortions as was common before Roe v. Wade.

A militant women's movement is the only solution to push back the right-wing attacks under capitalism. But the ultimate cure for the endless cycle of victories and defeats is socialism, where working-class women along with our working-class brothers will decide what is best for the majority of society. Under socialism, medical care is a right, not a privilege. Women truly will have the right to choose with access to full reproductive care, from contraception to abortion to prenatal care, as well as to affordable housing and living wage jobs to be able to raise the children we do choose to have.

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