Let Us Not Talk Falsely, the Hour Is Getting Late:

We Do Not Need a “New Underground” of Abortion Services – We Need Revolution and an Uncompromising Resistance Among Millions to Defeat the War on Women!

By Sunsara Taylor | November 8, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


November 3. I want to speak to something that I have heard advocated by abortion rights supporters with increasing frequency as the attacks on abortion rights escalate to a fevered pitch across this country. As abortion clinics are closed down at an alarming rate, as access to abortion is restricted beyond the reach of many poor and rural women already, and as new laws and restrictions mount, it is not uncommon to hear some of the most dedicated fighters in the pro-choice movement insist that it is time to begin developing underground networks that will be able to continue providing abortions to women even if it becomes illegal.

The first time I heard this approach advocated more than fifteen years ago at a women's conference, I found it extremely attractive because it had the appearance of defiance and determination not to be stopped by unjust and illegitimate laws. However, now when I hear this advocated I hear the air of desperation, defeat and honestly a degree of self-delusion.

To be clear, the stand and orientation of being willing to risk one's own safety to provide women with basic, life-saving and fundamental rights is undoubtably righteous. More people need to be willing to put themselves on the line, to risk great sacrifice, for the lives and freedom of women. That is not the problem I have with this strategy and that is not the criticism that I have of people who advocate for it.

The problems I see with this strategy are three-fold:

First, this approach totally underestimates the power of the state. Already women who attempt to self-induce abortions, or who simply have miscarriages, have been arrested or thrown in prison. Already, an award winning abortion doctor, Dr. James Pendergraft has been forced to spend time in prison based on bogus charges and other providers are currently facing bogus lawsuits. If abortion is made illegal today, it will not simply take us back to the days before Roe v. Wade (as horrific as that was, with thousands of women dying each year from botched illegal abortions). We would go back to all that plus a situation in which millions have been mobilized into the anti-abortion witch-hunt. Activists and repressive state agencies would hunt down and imprison those who dare to provide abortions against the law. We would face a situation more like El Salvador, where women who come to emergency rooms with perforated uteruses face criminal investigation and are often thrown into prison. And where doctors and nurses are required to report these women to the state or risk going to prison themselves.

As heroic as the attempts to provide women with abortions may be in such a situation, and as much of a life-saving difference as they might be able to make to a small number of women, it is impossible to imagine that such networks would last very long unless they kept an extremely low profile. And if that were the case, there is just no way they could be made known to and available to all the women who will need them. Most women throughout the country, and again especially those who are poor and live in rural areas, would have no access at all.

Second, this approach doesn't even aim to challenge the broader stigma and wrong thinking that surrounds abortion. I don't mean to say that the people who advocate for this approach don't themselves argue against the stigmatization of abortion, but there is nothing in this approach as an approach that poses the need and the basis to change the thinking of millions throughout society when it comes to abortion. Already, a great many women who objectively need abortions do not even seek them because they believe doing so is “sinning.” And, women who do get abortions face incredible stigma from their families, communities, churches, and themselves—all owing to the fact that the moral assault on abortion waged by Christian fascists has been conciliated with repeatedly for decades by most of the “pro-choice” movement. Most people have never heard abortion spoken of positively! If we do not fight right now very broadly and publicly to change this, if we do not raise the slogan Abortion On Demand and Without Apology and tell the truth that fetuses are NOT babies, abortion is NOT murder, and women are NOT incubators, then we will not lift the crushing weight of this shame off millions of women.

Third, and most urgently at this decisive moment, this “strategy” concedes wrongly that we are destined to lose the fight for legal abortion rights in this country. I know we have been steadily losing ground for decades and it can be easy, especially for those who have been on the front lines, all-too-often all by themselves, to imagine reversing this tide in a society-wide way. But this is possible! It is actually true that forced motherhood is female enslavement and that criminalizing abortion is against the fundamental interests not only of women (that is, half of humanity), but of humanity as a whole. Millions and millions and millions of people objectively will be negatively impacted by the loss of this right.

If we refuse to base ourselves simply on “where people are at” right now (after decades of relentless and nearly unchallenged anti-abortion rhetoric and attacks), but instead root ourselves in what is objectively true (abortion is NOT murder!) and what is objectively in the interests of humanity (Abortion On Demand and Without Apology and women's full liberation!), we can go out and fight to change people's hearts and minds, and correspondingly their actions and this can change history!

There are already millions of people who feel strongly that they do not want to see abortion rights taken away. If we tell them the truth about how extreme the situation is, if we set new moral, political and ideological terms in this fight, and if we give people concrete forms to take part in organized resistance, even a few thousand of these people can have an enormous effect right now. This can have the effect of taking on and potentially reversing some of the most extreme restrictions being hammered into place right now and it can have the even greater effect of changing the terms in which millions and millions more are thinking about this fight and relating to it, drawing in tens and hundreds of thousands more, and ultimately millions. This can re-polarize the huge numbers who are currently in the “murky middle” on this fight—who feel that maybe there is something wrong with abortion but that it should really be allowed at least for “other women,” or various shades of this thinking—so that increasingly they come to recognize the truth that there is nothing wrong with abortion and that they need to join this fight for the future of women. Acting on the truth and acting in resistance together we can change these terms throughout society. Acting on the truth and acting in resistance together, we can bring forward a powerful movement to turn the tide and defeat this war on women.

Further, acting on the truth and acting in resistance together we can take a big step towards the kind of re-polarization necessary in society to go even further, to contribute to a real revolution that can bring about the full liberation as a central part of the emancipation of all humanity. The truth is, we do not only need abortion on demand and without apology, we need a world without rape, without men beating and disrespecting women, without sexual enslavement and all the other horrors heaped upon women. We need a world without racial profiling, without mass incarceration, without police brutality and terror and the grinding poverty and slow genocide against Black people and other oppressed peoples. We need a world where our food and clothes aren't produced through life-crushing exploitation of displaced peasants, women and children throughout the Third World. We need a world where peoples and lands aren't plundered through imperialist wars and where the environmental destruction that threatens life on this planet is arrested and reversed wherever possible. We need a world where people are not locked in Dark Ages ignorance and traditions and where everyone learns to think critically and scientifically.

In other words, we need a communist world—a global community where everyone contributes what they can and gets back what they need to live a meaningful and culturally and socially rich life. But to get to that world, we need a revolution. A real revolution that—when the time for this comes and rulers are deeply divided and fighting amongst themselves (something you can see potential contours of these days), when millions are ready to put everything on the line to bring about real change, and when a strong revolutionary party with a winning strategy exists—defeats and dismantles the current state power that rules over the people and causes such great misery. A revolution that brings about a revolutionary new state power, a socialist state, that goes to work at digging up all these outmoded forms of oppression and exploitation.

This revolution is possible. It has been made possible through the new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward over decades by the work of Bob Avakian (BA), leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party. The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), based on BA's new synthesis, lays out concretely and with great sweep and vision how this new society will function, including guaranteeing the fundamental right to abortion. And there is a Statement on Strategy that gets into how we can be—and are—working today to fight the power and transform the people to both hasten and prepare for the time when such a revolution could be successfully waged. Everyone who dreams of such a world should learn about BA's new synthesis and join in building and spreading this revolution.

At the same time, everyone who refuses to see women pushed back into the Dark Ages needs to be thinking not of how we will try to do some good for some women after abortion becomes illegal, but how all of us are going to come together right now to not only keep abortion legal but expand and de-stigmatize access! We must come together and aim to turn the tide in this fight, to change all of society around this question and truly defeat the whole war on women. Not only that, these are arguments we need to open up broadly among those who are fighting back or who are just now waking up to the need to fight back. We cannot win if we do not understand the nature of the problems we confront and if we do not have a correct strategy to go forward. It is NOT a distraction from the needed resistance to open up dialogue and debate, principled polemic and struggle of real substance over how we got into this situation and how we get out of it. Everyone, including those of us who are communist revolutionaries as well as others coming from a great many different perspectives, need to put forward our understanding of these questions and everyone needs to be engaging the substance of these arguments. We need understanding as badly as we need massive resistance—and we need that resistance even more urgently now than ever before. I offer this thinking at this moment of intensifying danger to women's fundamental rights as a contribution to this process.

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