Abortion RIGHTS: Stop avoiding it and start demanding it!

From Albuquerque, Day One…

By Rigel Kane | November 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Stop Patriarchy was welcomed warmly by a group of local activists that has done a lot of work to fight for abortion rights, on a scientific and pro-woman basis, and to argue for an unapologetic stance in doing so. We are uniting with these courageous and tireless folks throughout the week to change minds, break boundaries, and rally all those who support abortion rights to stand together in defiant opposition to this ban and the anti-abortion movement that would like to see a societywide return to the dark ages, stand together in uncompromising support of abortion rights, and stand together in determination to see this world transformed into one where women are truly liberated.

Beyond these deeply determined circles, there seemed to me at first to be a bit of abortion fatigue in Albuquerque. The last time Stop Patriarchy was here was in August on the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, launching a nationwide movement to end the attacks on abortion, changing the terms of the debate, and rallying others to stop relying on the Democrats for fundamental gains against this war on women. At that time, Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion organization with a whole fascist agenda and sordid history of instigating violence against abortion providers, had just come through the town in a rampage. In response, Personhood for Women organized a rally in which many people spoke out against those terror tactics, and to the need for abortion—yes, past 20 weeks, and at any point in her pregnancy. Since then there has been a lot of advertising from both the “for” side and “against”… Watching TV for ten minutes, you see a commercial for and a commercial against the 20-week ban on abortion that residents will vote on next week in this flashpoint of the attacks on abortion rights, the hometown of the practice of two out of only four late-term abortion providers in the nation. Walking through the halls of the student union at University of New Mexico you can see the fliers for both sides, one after the other after the other.

Heading onto UNM campus it wasn’t surprising to see some young women there with signs and fliers urging people to vote AGAINST the ban on abortion. Well all right! I talked to them for awhile, and let them know that I and others are in town to help defeat this ban in ABQ as part of a national counteroffensive against the attacks on abortion. They liked this idea very much, and two of them expressed how true and concerning it was that the pro-choice movement is really “on the defensive,” fending off these attacks as they come but not “getting to another place”—meaning a more sustainable situation for women and providers. I invited them all to the Emergency Forum we are hosting tomorrow night, where people of different perspectives will get together to deal with just that—how do we get to another place altogether? How do we actually fight to defeat the whole war on women? I told them we were certain that a key piece of this is changing the terms about abortion nationwide, and giving people many ways to act in open support of this essential right. One of them said she liked my sticker, Abortion On Demand and Without Apology, and I offered her one. They exchanged glances. One spoke up and said the organization they were working with had agreed not to use the word abortion since it is "distracting" from getting people out to vote against the ban. I said in a very friendly way that I was sure that in the long run, to “get to another place” and ultimately to women’s liberation, we have to take the taboo off the word "abortion" and lovingly and fearlessly throw down with what we know this is really all about! That it’s proven pretty difficult to rally people to fight like hell for something they are ashamed to say out loud, and fighting like hell is exactly what it's going to take. A couple of them very much agreed and now wanted the stickers to wear later and one wanted to put it on her bike, but they didn’t want to violate the decisions of the organization they were working for by wearing it while trying to get people to vote.

So there we were, and as people passed, this group led with, “Did you vote?” while we led with, “Stop the war on women.” There were a lot of people who saw their signs and said, “I voted already” or “I’m not registered here” and a couple who said, “I’m a convicted felon.” I was a little shocked that they totally dismissed these people and didn’t have anything else to say to them. So along with others, I talked to a lot of non-voters, non-residents, and a couple felons.

One thing that struck me hard today in talking to these students is that an overwhelming number of them knew that Albuquerque residents will vote on a 20-week abortion ban next week, and hardly a single one knew that this kind of thing is happening across the country. Most did not know that the 5th Circuit Court just two weeks ago forced 13 clinics in Texas to cease providing abortions. Nobody I talked to knew that there is only one surgical abortion provider left in the entire states of Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Arkansas, and Mississippi. Nobody I talked to knew that nearly 300 restrictions on abortion have been introduced at the state level this year. Nobody I talked to knew that the very ban that will be voted on in their town is being introduced this week on the federal level in the Senate, having been passed by the House over the summer. When most people found out, even if they thought abortion should only be provided to certain women in certain circumstances (which was most people who talked to me), they were shocked and outraged, not only that it is happening, but that they didn’t know it.

A second thing that stood out was the lack of direction many people I talked to today (and people in general) have when at all concerned about whether or not women should have the right to abortion, other than voting. A young Native American woman who is a student at UNM but not an Albuquerque resident was visibly frustrated that she could not vote against this ban. I told her there is a great need to change the whole conversation around abortion, that there has been serious damage done by the anti-abortion movement in removing the woman from the equation. She agreed wholeheartedly, and wanted to know how. I told her we were just in Mississippi, and talked to some anti-abortion activists there, and we asked them straight up if they thought a woman who was raped should be forced to carry the fetus to term. They said, “Why should the child pay for the crimes of its father?” Why is that their answer every time? BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT THEY FUCKING DO! It's an ideological vanishing act, and you are left with some bullshit philosophical question that effectively erases the woman from the picture. So what do we do? We put that woman back in the conversation, and we don’t wait for anybody else to do it. We get in the streets. We tell the truth: Fetuses are not babies, women are not incubators, and abortion is not murder! Abortion is awesome, and we demand it, unrestricted and free from stigma! The alternative is forced motherhood, which is female enslavement. And we stand in the streets and say we won’t watch this happen without a fight! This other side is fueled on some woman-hating bullshit and we demand the truth be told! And we do it right here, this Saturday, right on that corner, and we don't stop till we see abortion available on demand and without apology. She had clearly never heard this kind of talk before, and said, “That is where I want to be Saturday!” and took a stack of fliers to give to people that she knows.

The third thing that struck me (again) is the great need to actually talk to people about abortion with the goal of changing people’s minds by telling the truth. I watched as those informing people how to vote—which really does need to be done in this situation where the legislation, like everything coming from the anti-abortion movement, is totally misleading—actually cherry-picked who they would talk to, and if someone said they were against abortion, they wouldn’t talk to them. Today, like every other day in every other damn city I’ve ever been to, students and others who say they are against abortion have not necessarily thought this through! It is not a pointless conversation to have! People have been lied to, kept in the dark, confused, swayed, influenced by religion and the inflated sense of purpose and totally constructed (and flimsy and false) legitimacy of the anti-abortion movement, and waylaid and demobilized by stupid fucking questions about children that don’t exist and fathers who are rapists, but all that misdirection is in direct conflict with the reality of what women need in order to survive and thrive as full participants in society. Women need abortion on demand and without apology. People who are “against abortion” have often never heard the facts or the arguments that reflect the facts. I talked to one young Latina woman, for example, who had never heard “the right to abortion.” Meaning she had never even heard of abortion as a right at all, but had always heard about it and thought about it “as something that just happens, that probably shouldn’t, when women make bad decisions.” Whoa. She had a sense that this idea was worth investigating, and she was damn well worth talking to.

More on the need to change minds, and moreover, change the terms society-wide: One young white man told me he has known several young women who got pregnant and it changed their whole lives. He said wistfully, “You know, they had plans. What about their plans?” I asked him why they didn’t get abortions and carry on with their plans. He said he didn’t know, but he was pretty sure they could have accessed it, except that abortion “seems so undesirable.” He said he has a friend who is 16 years old with two children, and as we talked more, about what the right wing has done in setting terms and stigmatizing abortion so heavily, he said he was certain these women would be more actively participating in society, more fully realizing their dreams, if abortion was seen as “not a big deal.” This is just one example of a range of stories of the stigma on abortion deciding the direction of women’s lives. Thinking that being pregnant is a good reason to be a mother is a problem. Thinking that being pregnant is an obligation to be a mother is a problem. These ways of thinking have been put on people. They did not come up with that shit on their own. So how can we NOT want to puncture the whole thick fog of lies and rely on people to be able to understand the stark reality of the situation?? How many more women have to be forced into motherhood before we get serious, unapologetic, and real with people of all perspectives and backgrounds?

So I am happy to report, there is no abortion fatigue in Albuquerque; not really. When people think, as many do, that abortion is a "side issue," it only affects a few people, it's contained in the framework of only being relevant to locals or to voters of this or that place, or when they think it is an argument nobody can ever win and it is just a matter of personal opinion, rather than an essential right that is in serious danger of being wrenched from women altogether, or they have no idea the scope of the situation or what is at the core of the issue—then it is easy for people to blow the whole thing off. People in Albuquerque and across the country have definitely heard some arguments about abortion… but they haven’t often heard the unfettered truth.

And when they do, they don’t always agree, don’t get me wrong. But when people do not know about the scope of these attacks on women’s lives (this is happening across the whole nation), when they do not know that abortion is an essential right of women, that it is not murder, or that the anti-abortion movement has worked hard to make sure you don’t think about women when you think about abortion (we need to change the terms back to reality: this is about enslavement v. liberation of women), or that it doesn’t matter where you live or whether or not you can vote (we all need to stand up now in uncompromising resistance AGAINST these attacks and FOR the truth and the liberation of women)… they can’t even see the tunnel, much less the light at the end of it.

We have a lot of work to do, and it has to be done in the largest sense. A few individuals talking to a few individuals is not going to cut it. We need massive resistance everywhere that these attacks come down, and we need to get seriously loud in our lives and in the world. And when I say we, I mean you. Find out more about how to do this in your town at and by contacting Reach out like a motherfucker, with all questions, reservations, outrage, confusion, passion and compassion. It will take a swift and deafening roar of the people to “get to another place” and when we do that place should be the full liberation of women.

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