The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Roe v. Wade Overturned—Another Push to Roll Back the Clock

Jul 18, 2022

What follows is the editorial that appeared on the front of all SPARK’s workplace newsletters, during the week of June 27, 2022.

The Supreme Court did exactly what its contrived leak said it would do. It overturned Roe v. Wade, getting rid of 50 years of legal protection that many women assumed they had.

This court, the very top of this country’s legal system, declared that no woman has the right to make the decisions about her own body. They said it openly: her health, her physical, emotional, and social well-being are subject to the whim of state legislators. Open reactionaries, many of them.

Roe v. Wade itself—the original 1973 Court decision—was a recognition of rights that women had imposed themselves on this society through decades of mobilization and struggle, at the same time that society faced other social movements.

The original Supreme Court decision never protected all women. Far from it. Only three years after Roe v. Wade, Congress voted the “Hyde Amendment,” which prevented Medicaid from paying for abortions. For the next 45 years, no matter which party controlled Congress, Hyde blocked all federal medical funding for abortion. It was a big attack on the poorest women, including those condemned to work the low-wage jobs reserved for women.

In the 49 years since the original Roe v. Wade decision, both Congress and the states chipped away at it. Access to abortion became more difficult, more bureaucratic, much more expensive, less available. By the end, actual access to abortion was denied to the majority of women.

So, no, Roe v. Wade was never a real guarantor for most women.

But the legal overturning of Roe v. Wade has directly turned the clock backward. Abortion is now illegal, or will be within a few weeks, in 22 states.

That’s not the end of the game for this well-funded right-wing movement that worked to get rid of Roe v. Wade. The same forces are aiming to have federal courts throw out state laws which allow or even protect access to abortion in the states where access still exists. Birth control is now on the chopping block. So are sexual relations between two people of the same sex. All of this was once criminalized in this country. All of it—and more—can become criminalized again if the right wing has its way. Unions were once illegal. They can be made illegal again. Strikes or other mobilizations were once declared to be “criminal syndicalism,” they can be declared so again.

Big Money has inscribed a target around all these things, just as it targeted women’s access to abortion. Over the years, anti-abortion political committees paid billions of dollars to get rid of Roe v. Wade. A good deal of that money came from some of the biggest corporations in the country. In the last five years alone, Coca-Cola gave 2.6 million dollars to political committees pushing to restrict or outlaw abortion; GM gave 2.4 million; Comcast, 1.9 million; AT&T, 1.5 million; CVS, 1.4 million; Walmart, 1.1 million; Amazon and Verizon, almost one million each; and five other companies gave half a million or more, including three of the biggest banks in the country.

As the result of vast social movements, a certain number of social guarantees were once inscribed into law—the right of black people to vote, the right of women to control their own bodies, the right of workers to organize a union and to strike. But “legal guarantees” mean nothing when the movements that produce them recede.

In a country, which claims to be a “democracy,” but isn’t; in a country, which claims to recognize individual rights for every person, but doesn’t; there are no guarantees that ordinary people can count on, other than what they bring into being themselves by their own mobilizations.

That was true when the movements of the mid-twentieth century created the rights we gained. It is true today more than half a century later when right-wing forces attempt to roll back the clock.