The Spark

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

40 Years after Roe v. Wade, Women Still Denied the Right to Abortion

Jan 21, 2013

On January 22, 1973, the famous Supreme Court ruling, Roe v. Wade, was handed down. The ruling set the standard for women’s right to abortion and for many years prevented state legislatures from attempting to limit the right to abortion. Today, we are witnessing a siege on abortion rights by the right wing and a broad spectrum of politicians that include Democrats as well as a majority of Republicans. The State of Michigan is one of the most recent to jump on the anti-abortion bandwagon.

Michigan Lawmakers Move to Shut Abortion Clinics

On December 28th, Michigan Governor Snyder signed a new law that has the potential to dramatically reduce the number of clinics available to women seeking abortion effective April 1st of this year.

Under the pretext of ensuring that clinics are safe for women, Snyder imposed stipulations that may very well force the closure of 20 of the 32 existing Michigan clinics providing abortion services. The new regulations would require that a provider performing more than 120 abortions per year while publicly advertising outpatient abortion services meet the same requirements as surgical outpatient clinics that perform serious invasive surgeries like gall bladder or hernia surgery. Abortion clinics would be expected to have large hallways and rooms that can accommodate stretchers. The law is designed to force existing clinics to close unless they carry out expensive renovations. Another part of the law forbids the transfer of clinic titles to new operators or owners by sale or when the current owner dies. This is an obvious move to shut down the clinics permanently.

Meanwhile, Abortion Procedures Remain One of the Safest

The new law claims that large hallways and rooms are necessary to accommodate stretchers and that medical personnel must be on site for up to three hours following the procedure. But the vast majority of women undergoing abortion procedures walk in and out on their own two feet. Abortion procedures remain one of the safest medical procedures available to women. Only about 1% of women have complications with abortions.

With Other Tricks up their Sleeve

Another part of the new law passed in Michigan forces doctors to badger women patients. The law requires a set of mandatory questions regarding the reason for the abortion under the guise of preventing anyone from being “forced” into terminating pregnancy. Also, women will be forced to answer questions regarding disposal of the remains of the fetus. These practices are designed to shame women and make the process of terminating a pregnancy more emotionally painful.

Finally, doctors can no longer prescribe medicines from a distance (over telephones or electronic services) to a patient to induce abortion. This has been a standing practice available to women in remote or rural areas without medical facilities. This will obviously force many poor and/or isolated women to accept pregnancies they don’t want and/or are unable to support.

Michigan Laws Part of Attack on Women Nationwide

The right wing in this country has mounted a continuous campaign to make abortions illegal. This has included attempts to overturn Roe v. Wade, a law in place for 40 years. Before the ink was dry on that famous decision, those opposed to legalizing abortion looked for ways to prevent state or federal funding of abortions and ways to block access to abortions.

Some were organized disruptions like attacks on abortion clinics or on doctors who performed abortions. Originally, Roe v. Wade was the standard for measuring the constitutionality of state abortion laws. But increasingly, in recent years, the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed states to restrict abortion rights, and many states now have enacted laws to limit access to abortion. Michigan is only one of the latest states to attack women’s rights.

According to recent studies, between 2000 and 2011, the number of states hostile to abortion increased from 13 to 26. Currently, fully one half of all states have passed major anti-abortion legislation of one type or another. In 2011 alone, state legislators in all states adopted 92 provisions to restrict abortion.

With a Clearly Tragic Result for Women

Statistics on abortions show clearly that making abortions illegal or interfering with a woman’s right to a safe, legal abortion does not stop women from obtaining abortions. The numbers of women obtaining abortions remains constant, but the mortality rate of the women involved increases dramatically when abortion is made illegal.

Those who run the government are fully aware that they are condemning women to serious health complications and even death. If the abortion debate were really about women’s health and well-being, those in authority would push for access to free and safe birth control and free access to care for all women.

Abortion: Necessary that Women Have the Choice

Obviously, abortion procedures are not pleasant for women and are a last resort that most women dread having to go through. Recent statistics show that 50 percent of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, and that two out of 10 are terminated by induced abortion.

By age 45, fully one half of American women will experience an unwanted pregnancy, and at current rates, one third of these older women will have the pregnancy terminated. Is it any mystery that the overwhelming majority of Americans support legalized abortion?

The abortion rate is highest among women earning less than $19,000 a year. How dare these wealthy politicians have a say over the right to abortion! These are the very people who have been carrying out economic attacks against the working class and women: monsters who leave the majority of women without adequate means to feed and raise a child!

A Continuing Fight

While most women have faced abortion decisions individually, restrictions on abortions are making it imperative for women to begin looking at these decisions and the right to make them collectively. This will not be the first time that women have organized in defense of their rights. The most recent movement gained momentum in the late 1960s and early 1970s, coming out of the period of back-alley abortions. The current population lives in a period of history in which the termination of a pregnancy is legal. But older women remember the horrors of back-alley abortions before Roe v. Wade and the movements that were necessary to legalize abortion.

Interestingly enough, most women don’t know that for most of U.S. history, abortion was legal. Only in the mid to late 1800s did states begin to restrict abortions. One of the strongest forces against abortion was the medical establishment. Doctors in the American Medical Association (AMA) attempted to eliminate competition from midwives and other non-physicians by controlling access to abortion.

Our Bodies, Ourselves

Modern medicine and technology have made it unnecessary for women to have to struggle to avoid unwanted pregnancies. What stands in our way is a system dominated by the drive for profit in which representatives of the dominant class seek to control our every decision. In the wealthiest society in the world, a society with advanced technology and all the means to provide good, safe pregnancy prevention for women, it is unspeakable that women are forced to go through the stress of abortion except as a last resort. This capitalist system can push profitable electronics into the hands of everyone (at a cost, of course), so that even our kids are demanding iPhones and iPads at the age of five, but it refuses to figure out safe, affordable birth control. Ridiculous! It is, of course, all about profit, and women’s reproductive issues are of little interest to Wall Street.

To allow our futures to remain in the hands of these people is not an acceptable option. Women constitute over half of the population and are major players in the working class. Women will make reproductive rights an essential part of the struggle to free this society from its backwardness.