Have We Come a Long Way?

Dianne Feeley

THE MAY 14TH demonstration in Detroit of about 1100 was the third rally and march since the leaked Alito draft revealed the almost certain overthrow of legal abortion in the United States. The Michigan Coalition for Reproductive Liberation is holding weekly actions at the Federal Courthouse. This is the talk Dianne Feeley gave as a representative of MCRL.

LAST WEEK A woman living in a shelter tried to take her life. She was pregnant and wanted an abortion but thought the leaked draft Alito wrote was in effect and abortion was banned.

Fortunately, she was found and rushed to a hospital where she recovered. She now knows that abortion is still legal, and she scheduled for the procedure.

It’s essential that pregnant individuals understand that not only is abortion legal but there is a movement to defend their rights. That’s true today, and it is true even if the Supreme Court majority goes ahead with their decision.

One of the fascinating parallels between the Alito text and the two rulings that have cut the heart out of enforcing the 1965 Voting Rights Act is the argument that we don’t need these federal protections any longer because we have progressed so far.

It is true that over the course of the 20th century women entered the paid workforce in increasing numbers, attended college and many became doctors, scientists, lawyers, educators, even some executives. Many more like me did a variety of jobs over the course of our work lives.

But always at great cost because we carry the responsibility of nurturing the young, caring for the old and providing the emotional stability for families and communities. And we do so without the social supports we need for quality childcare, affordable housing, functioning infrastructure, good public health, stimulating schools that encourage, not brutalize, students. And too few of us have had meaningful jobs.

Women of color are additionally burdened by the inevitable trauma that comes from daily discrimination – higher risks of poverty, higher risks of maternal mortality, higher risks of infant mortality, higher risks from living in polluted neighborhoods, and the list goes on. Most horrendously women of color must equip their children on how to avoid being crushed by the disrespect they encounter in life, by the possibility of arrest, imprisonment and death.

Women and gender-fluid individuals who can become pregnant are told we must accept the reality that we do not have the right to liberty under the 14th amendment. Our needs weren’t specially mentioned there Just like people who live in states that have a record of historically denying citizens the right to vote, we don’t need federal protection. We’ve come a long way.

Our response is to reject not only the upcoming Alito-written decision and the misogyny it reflects but also the Court as an undemocratic institution that would attempt to impose its bigoted viewpoint. We oppose the right wing’s goal of personhood for the zygote while imprisoning women in our bodies.

Since Roe, abortion, which used to be dangerous because it was illegal, is now several times safer than childbirth. And 50 million U.S. women have had the procedure. Today, the majority of abortions – those where the pregnancy is less than 10 weeks along — are no longer surgical operations but medical ones.

That makes the right wing particularly nervous because people can safely self-abort. After the right has done all this work to set up their phony clinics (outnumbering abortion clinics three to one), after they have developed laws that limit abortion providers, killing eight and wounding 13, and even if they succeed in killing Roe, they are trying to find ways to intercept pills sent in the mail. We need to support and advertise methods of civil disobedience, spiriting the pregnant across state lines or being conduits for abortion pills.

Here in Michigan, we have a unique opportunity. Between now and the end of June we are circulating a petition to place a referendum on the November ballot that would add reproductive freedom to the Michigan Constitution. This would not only void the 1931 anti-abortion law thar would come into effect if Roe were overturned but add state protections for a range of reproductive issues from contraception through childbirth, miscarriage management, abortion and sterilization. Be sure to sign the petition and see me if you can circulate it. Thanks for being here today. Know that we are the majority, and we will defend our rights.

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