Mar 17, 2014
Early in March, two more women’s clinics closed in Texas – casualties of legislation aimed at denying women access to abortion. This brings to 11 the number of clinics closed in Texas since 2010, leaving only six where abortions can be provided – in this whole mammoth state, with its 270,000 square miles and its 26 million people.
The picture across the country as a whole is not all that different. In Mississippi, similar legislation has closed the very last women’s clinic. Alabama and Wisconsin have only two clinics left. Missouri has only one, and 23 different bills aimed at closing it have been introduced into the Missouri legislature.
It’s a concerted attack on working class and poor women, women who don’t have insurance coverage or much money. No matter what the law reads, wealthy women have always had access to abortions and other medical care.
But for many women, these clinics were their only life-line, offering not only abortion, but also contraception, cancer screening, blood pressure and diabetes screening, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
Many states now require women’s clinics to be outfitted as though they were carrying out the kind of surgical procedures done only in hospitals – at the cost of millions of dollars per clinic, millions of dollars that the clinics don’t have. Such laws are not aimed at other clinics performing outpatient procedures, only at women’s clinics that perform abortions.
The most cynical and depraved law is one that requires a doctor who serves in the clinics to have “admitting” privileges in a local hospital – that is, to be a local doctor.
But few local doctors dare work in the women’s clinics because of the daily threat of violence. Doctors who perform abortions have found their homes firebombed, their children harassed or hurt. Some doctors have themselves been killed or maimed.
The legislation requiring local “admitting” privileges is a virulent bet that local doctors, facing terrorism from anti-abortion fanatics, will shut down.
Since 2010, thousands of bills aimed at eliminating women’s access to abortion have been offered into state legislatures around the country, with almost 200 of them already enacted.
These laws are not something coming up from the “grass roots.” In fact, for decades every poll has shown that a large majority of the population think women should have access to abortion.
No, the legislation introduced over the last few years by know-nothing state legislators is being mass produced and fed to them by a few extreme-right billionaires – people like the Koch brothers – who organized the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Women are not the only target. ALEC has also mass produced bills aimed at making it difficult for people to register and vote; or the bills making it harder for workers to strike and organize unions; or bills attacking the pensions of public sector workers; or the laws whose aim is to push teachers aside, replacing them with untrained novices and a computer; or the stand-your-ground laws used to justify racist murder; or the laws attempting to criminalize immigrants who come here to work.
The attack on women’s right to abortion, as foul as it is, is part of a much larger attack on the whole laboring population, an attack being pushed by the right wing.
The right wing, endowed with money and privilege, spewing out backward religious ideas, is trying to mobilize parts of the population against other parts, attempting to keep its victims isolated from each other.
It should be obvious that the whole working class, if it continues to be quiet in the face of these attacks, will find itself pulled further backward, trampled down. The working class has no choice but to organize to defend its overall interests, including the specific interests of its various parts: women workers, immigrant workers, black workers, public sector workers, retirees and so on.
The extreme right is arming itself for battle. It would be an enormous mistake for the working class to ignore that fact.