Revolution #54, July 23, 2006
Report from Jackson, Mississippi:
Last Clinic Standing
After years of violently blockading abortion clinics, terrorizing women and doctors, and agitating for biblical rule, there is a smug sense of triumphalism coming from the “pro-life” organization Operation Save America/Operation Rescue (OSA/OR). I have come down to Jackson, Mississippi, and will be writing throughout the week (July 15 to 20), during which time OSA/OR will be staging an extended protest aimed at closing the state’s last abortion clinic—with the expectation, in their words, that “the laws of our land will reflect the victory that was won in the streets.”
From the Jackson, MS Clarion Ledger
Online readers of Jackson, Mississippi’s only newspaper, the Clarion Ledger, who went to the paper’s web site the evening of the face-off at the city’s abortion clinic, read a story that included the following:
“Tracey Stern of Atlanta stood across State Street with about a half dozen volunteers from the anti-Bush administration organization, the World Can’t Wait.
“‘We are here because we see this as a showdown about whether women are going to be able to control their bodies or whether there will be Christian theocrats who believe the Bible will be the law of the state,’ she said.”
The next morning’s print edition quoted Sunsara Taylor, who they also identified as “part of the World Can’t Wait: Drive Out the Bush Regime Now organization.”
With George W. Bush in the White House OSA/OR, and the larger Christian fascist offensive they are a component of, has cause to be pumped up. One of Bush’s first presidential pen strokes prohibited U.S.-funded international organizations from mentioning abortion to the people they serve. Since then there has been a torrent of nearly 2,000 restrictions and challenges to abortion introduced by legislatures nationwide, most notably the statewide abortion bans in South Dakota and Louisiana. During the same period, individuals in two states have been sent to prison for their involvement with self-induced abortions.
But even as an avalanche of new laws makes it increasingly difficult for women to access abortions, OSA/OR has continued to train and mobilize a core of Christian-fascist foot-soldiers. Whether it be their “No Place to Hide” campaign that distributed photos and home addresses of abortion providers, their violent assaults on women’s clinics, or their more recent aggression onto public high schools to harass and shut down gay/straight alliances, they have spent years building up and training, ideologically and practically, a fascist street-fighting vigilante force. The fact that OSA/OR and other fascist foot-soldiers—including the anti-immigrant Minutemen, the blindly obedient BattleCry youth, and men’s cell groups like the Promise Keepers—have not only been allowed to flourish but openly encouraged by powerful figures grouped around Bush is designed to make the atmosphere overall even more intimidating.*
From an Interview with World Can’t Wait Activist Elaine Brower, whose son is currently deployed in Iraq
Q: Could you paint a picture of the kind of resistance that would be needed in this country in order to actually drive out the Bush regime?
In other words, OSA/OR’s siege on the last abortion clinic in Mississippi must be seen not just as a threat to women’s right to choose whether or not to have a child—critical as that is—but as part of a larger fascist movement that aims for a forceful reassertion of unvarnished patriarchy and a Christian fascist state to enforce these rules. This movement must be called out and not conciliated with.
On the other hand, a serious battle to defend abortion rights is both urgently needed and can play a role in helping forge a real movement against the whole Christian fascist agenda. Most of the U.S. population still believes women should have the right to abortion. And if pro-choice people respond decisively, this week in Mississippi with counter-protests (which I am participating in) that could serve as a rallying point for millions to not only push back against this assault on abortion but can help unleash a movement against the whole Bush program of repression, empire and theocracy—a movement capable of driving out the regime.
“Submission Is God’s Design for Women”
A Fetus Is Not a Baby
With its assault on basic science, including evolution, and its intentionally misleading and grotesque signs, the fundamentalist movement has misled many into imagining that aborted fetuses are cute little babies just waiting to be cuddled. In fact, 90% of abortions take place when the fetus is no longer than this string of o’s: oooooooooooooo. Since there is no way these fetuses could become fully formed, independent human beings except as a subordinate part of a woman’s overall biological processes for nine months, declaring that they all should be preserved means reducing women to incubators and slaves.
No matter how many people have been duped into joining the anti-abortion movement on the basis of “saving babies,” as Bob Avakian has pointed out in his book Preaching From a Pulpit of Bones: We Need Morality but Not Traditional Morality, “The essence of the anti-abortion ‘movement’ has been to assert patriarchal control over women, including to insist on the defining role of women as breeders of children. The fundamentalist foot-soldiers of this ‘movement’ make this very clear. The following prayer offered at an ‘Operation Rescue’ rally, cited in Life magazine (July 1992), typifies this: ‘Oh please, Lord, break the curse on women’s hearts that says we don’t need our men. Break that independence.’”
A quick look at the cast of characters involved with OSA/OR over the years turns up a “who’s who” of the Bush regime’s most influential and demanding theocratic supporters, and draws out the theocratic and misogynist character of this regime. Among them:
- Tony Perkins, who 14 years ago could be found at Operation Rescue’s siege on the last abortion clinic in Baton Rouge, La. Today that clinic is closed, and Perkins is the head of the Family Research Council. He organized the three “Justice Sunday” events to rally support to hammer through Bush’s theocratic Supreme Court nominees.
- Pat Robertson, who not long ago received a phone call from Karl Rove to discuss Samuel Alito before his nomination was made public and who penned the foreword to Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry’s 1988 book. That book detailed the “righteousness” of defying “man’s law” and launched the group’s hundreds of violent blockades of abortion clinics.
- Randall Terry himself, who became a fixture on nighttime talk programs last year as the lead on-the-ground operative of the theocratic power grab staged in the Terri Schiavo case.
At the core of OSA/OR’s efforts is an attempt to tighten the patriarchal chains of tradition. Consider: There is not a single anti-abortion organization in the country that supports birth control. Beverly LaHaye, the founder of Concerned Women for America, a group whose members Bush has sent as delegates to United Nations commissions on women and children, put it this way: “The woman who is truly Spirit-filled will want to be totally submissive to her husband…. This is a truly liberated woman. Submission is God’s design for women.”
As Benham, the OSA president, explains, it is this same ideal that motivates his thuggish approach to women at the doors of the clinics: “It seems ugly, my speech. But it’s because we love them that we scream at them. You have to have a bad guy who will confront them.”
Why the Republican Party Is Being Driven by a bunch of Theocrats…
How has it come to pass that such unadorned, blatant, patriarchal lunacy is not only being trumpeted in the streets, but echoed in the halls of power? In the last 50 years, the U.S. has witnessed massive changes in the role of women in the economy as more jobs have been opened to women and more families are forced to have two incomes in order to get by. This has given rise to, and interacted with, changes in the family and the rise of the women’s movement. All of this, including its impact on people’s thinking very broadly, has profoundly undercut the basis on which the traditional male-dominated family has been held together.
The Bible Belt Is the Lynching Belt
In some ways, OSA/OR does us a favor by being more open about its views than its brethren in the White House, Congress and, increasingly, the judiciary under the Bush regime. One of Operation Save America’s T-shirts reads: “Homosexuality is a sin. Islam is a lie. Abortion is murder.”
Less known, but perhaps more revealing: OSA/OR’s office space was donated by Lincoln Log Homes International, whose CEO, Richard Schoff, was once a leader of Indiana’s Ku Klux Klan. Fittingly, a picture of the infamous segregationist George Wallace hangs in the hall not far from OSA/OR’s door.
Indeed, one cannot talk about “tradition” or “traditional values” in this country—particularly in the deep South—without implying not only patriarchy but slavery and racism.
There’s nothing “unnatural” about that—the family hasn’t always existed, and it is an evolving institution. But those in power see these changes as undermining an important part of the reactionary ideological glue that “binds America together”—especially needed now as the U.S. and the world are hurtling through major transitions since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the U.S. rulers feel driven to contend for unchallenged and unchallengeable supremacy.
This is why the core of the Republican Party has a program to forcefully and radically reassert traditional values in the face of those changes—and the Christian Fascists within that core have a program to actually turn the country into a theocracy.
…And Why the Democrats Won’t Resist
It is against this backdrop that the lack of opposition of the Democrats to this whole anti-abortion, anti-birth control and anti-woman program must be evaluated.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has called defending abortion a “game” the Democrats “can’t afford to play” any longer. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) has called abortion a “tragic choice,” ceding the moral high ground to religious fanatics when, in fact, abortion should require no shame or apologies. As a key part of regaining seats in the Senate, the Democrats are running the vehemently anti-choice Bob Casey Jr. in Pennsylvania. And revealingly, the Democrats recently unveiled a new “95/10 Initiative,” which aims at reducing the number of abortions by 95% over the next 10 years—but which doesn’t even mention birth control, and is absolutely outrageous to introduce at a time when the real problem is the wholesale assault on access to abortion and the very legality of the procedure itself.
Some in the Democratic leadership claims that they are doing this to “get elected.” In fact, there are bigger things at work. The Democratic Party leadership actually agrees with the need to reinforce the traditional male-dominated family, as witnessed by Bill Clinton’s signing of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, his promotion of the idea that there is somehow something wrong with a woman getting an abortion (through the “safe, legal and rare” formula), and his infamous harangue against the Black masses in a Memphis church over, among other things, “family values.” What is going on now—the outright sacrifice of the right to abortion on the altar of supposed “electoral expediency”—is just the logical extension of all that.
This basic agreement stems from an even more fundamental agreement between the Democrats and Republicans—the need to maintain the U.S. as the dominant, unchallenged empire on the planet, and the need for “social stability at home” to manage the kinds of huge challenges and changes that go along with that imperative. They may and do differ on exactly how to do that. But because the Democrats do not have a coherent alternative to the Republican program; and because their role is to appeal to people who don’t like the Republican program; and because they do NOT want to fundamentally challenge the Christian fascists and risk bringing the massive potential opposition to this into the streets—they have pushed very hard for conciliation with and, in fact, capitulation to these forces. Now, it has gotten to this: if the Democrats win, then women—and people much more broadly—will lose.
That is why the terms of relying on the Democrats are killing confines—and why the only way forward is to break out of those confines and bring forward a whole different dynamic—one set by the millions and tens of millions who detest the whole direction of this society, who do not WANT a theocratic fascist society undergirding an unbridled empire, who will NOT conciliate with those who want to render women and gay people as less than human. This can happen, but it cannot happen unless people act. Yes, this country is extremely polarized. The way to act on that situation that creates a more favorable situation is for those who uphold the rights of women and gay people and who oppose this whole theocratic direction must also be speaking out to the world this next week, as broadly and powerfully as possible, when the theocrats attempt to shut down the Jackson clinic.
The simple truth is that a woman who cannot control her own reproduction has no more freedom than a slave. And if half of humanity is not free, then no one can truly be free.
The clock is ticking toward the resolution over the battle over abortion, and this is part of, and will have a big impact on, the overall direction of society.
The World Can’t Wait Bus Tour and the Jackson chapter of the National Organization for Women are planning counter-protests all week long. There is little that could be more important this week than joining them in the streets of Jackson to help build a movement to counter the theocratic zealots in the only way it can be done: through the independent political action of millions to drive the Bush regime from power.
* An ominous dimension of all this is the video games like Left Behind games that are conditioning young men from this Christian fascist orbit and beyond to live and die to blow away non-believers, and are also training them in military tactics. Even more chilling is the enlisting of hundreds of white supremacists in the U.S. military, specifically in light infantry where they aim to learn skills—such as house-to-house raids and urban combat—that they believe will be useful when it comes time for the “racial cleansing,” as recently reported in the New York Times. Back to text
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