The Spark

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

The Religious Attack on Women

Jul 7, 2014

The Supreme Court once again ruled on a case that takes away the rights of women to have access to contraception. The so-called “Hobby Lobby” case, decided at the end of June in favor of a right-wing religious family that owns stores of that name, ruled that religious freedom for the owners means they can prevent their health insurer from covering contraception for their employees.

Contraception is currently a legal requirement under the Affordable Care Act. The Act had already backed off on requiring employers to provide abortion coverage in their employee health care plans.

This new “Hobby Lobby” ruling allows employers of working class and middle class women to stop paying for contraception, under the guise of “religious freedom.” So now a greater part of the female population will be at risk of unwanted pregnancies.

The attacks on women’s rights and on clinics providing contraception and abortion have been unrelenting. Only three years after Roe v. Wade the U.S. Congress began the attack on the right to abortion with the so-called “Hyde Amendment,” passed every year since by politicians of both parties, to restrict the use of Medicaid funding for abortions. In this way, poor women were denied a legal abortion.

Of course, wealthy women, not only in the U.S. but everywhere, could always obtain both contraception and an abortion.

In the nearly four decades since, the Supreme Court has authorized more and more restrictions on the “right” to a legal abortion, most of them passed by the states.

At this time 42 states restrict abortions after a certain number of weeks. Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia prohibit using state funds for abortions except in certain circumstances. Forty-six states allow health care providers to refuse to provide abortions. The list of restrictions is much longer but these show some of the reasons for the difficulties women have in obtaining abortions. Mississippi and North Dakota have only one abortion provider remaining. Montana has only four, one of which was attacked in March of this year. At least 100 incidents of violence against abortion clinics have taken place every year since 1997.

But “rights” are never really given by the courts. Roe v. Wade was passed in the context of a time period filled with angry people throughout the U.S. demanding their rights: black people, first and foremost, but also many many women, Native Americans, gay people, anti-war protesters. There was also a large strike wave. The 1973 decision reflected the decision made by the ruling class to step back when it was facing the anger of a considerable part of the population. It is with that same anger and mobilization that women, and the whole working class, can begin to impose their needs and wishes.