Oct 11, 2021
Following what is effectively a ban on abortion in the state of Texas, women and supporters came out on Saturday, October 2, in all 50 states to protest. In hundreds of cities and towns across the U.S., demonstrators marched, many for the first time. Some expressed shock that “established law"—the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court Decision that legalized abortion—looked to be in danger.
A refrain in city after city was, "Keep their laws off my body." Homemade signs abounded, in particular, signs with a real wire coat-hanger attached to the phrase, "We won’t go back."
In Washington, D.C., thousands marched to the steps of the Supreme Court. The court went back into session on October 4 and will hear oral arguments on December 1 on a Mississippi case that threatens to overturn the fetal viability standard established under Roe v. Wade. That 1973 ruling declared abortion legal, nationally, up to the point at which survival is possible outside the womb.
In practice, restrictions on access to abortion have piled up for working class and poor women ever since 1973. Barriers to obtaining abortion have worsened to the point that today, there are no medical facilities or doctors who perform abortions is 90% of all U.S. counties.
Called by the Women’s March organization that formed soon after Donald Trump was elected president, this was the first large women’s protest of the Biden Presidency.
Because you had to have internet or social media access to hear about the demonstrations, those who came out were largely young people, white collar workers and professionals. Some of the organizers, linked with the Democratic Party, talked about elections and voting being important. But many who came out expressed a serious fear for women’s safety and a sense of urgency. That instinct that something more needs to happen is correct.
No politicians and no courts ever gave women the rights that are now under attack. Women and allies have had to come together, organize, and fight every step of the way. The right to an abortion was won along with a package of social gains by the many social movements of the 1960s—the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, the black power movement, and the anti-war movement.
On the heels of last year’s massive protests against police brutality following the horrific murder of George Floyd, a new layer of people may be learning not to wait on the politicians and the courts but to go into the streets. But to rely on organizations linked to the Democratic Party to call the demonstrations will mean the fights that are called will be limited in scope. Fights that aim to bring the working population together to take on the whole system are what is needed.