Two Concentrations of the Fight Over Abortion Rights Loom in November
Let’s start in Jackson, Mississippi. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the very last abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi, has been under escalating siege from anti-abortion forces for years. Women, many of whom travel long distances and the majority of whom are African-American and poor, are forced to undergo a 24-hour waiting period after first meeting with the doctor. Many cannot afford the extra time off work, two trips to the clinic, or a place to stay overnight if they try to do these two visits. There is a 16-week cut-off for abortions which means that women who cannot come up with the funds in time end up forced to have children they don’t want. Mississippi law mandates that doctors who provide abortions be trained as OB/GYN doctors; this is totally unnecessary but makes it difficult for the clinic to find doctors.
As one of these hateful protesters put it, revealing how steeped the anti-abortion agenda is in archaic Old Testament values: “I grew up in a time when girls ... grew up scared of the natural consequences of sexual intercourse. They were closer to God.” The cold hatred against women who step outside their biblically mandated “role” as breeders of children, the constant threats to abortion providers (that are occasionally acted on through clinic bombings, arson, and murder), and the red, sweaty, screaming faces spitting vile condemnation at women who are already weighed down by everything that unplanned pregnancy brings, are all justified by the inflated, imaginary, and incredibly dangerous sense of being crusaders on a “mission from God.”
On top of all this, a law was recently passed which requires abortion doctors in Mississippi to have official arrangements with local hospitals to admit patients. This very, very rarely happens; abortion is ten times safer than childbirth. Besides, hospitals are already required to admit patients in the cases of emergency so this law does nothing to improve patient safety. The real purpose of the law is to close the clinic; local hospitals have denied these privileges to the doctors at Jackson Women’s Health which would mean this clinic must close. The only thing keeping this clinic open is a temporary order from a judge until a trial over the constitutionality of the law is held in March.
Now, Operation Save America, a Christian fascist anti-abortion organization, is seizing on this vulnerability by calling for a national convergence on this clinic from November 2-6. They will bring their hatred and thug-like tactics to the clinic doors and throughout the city of Jackson. Beyond the extremely negative effect all this will have on further stigmatizing abortion very broadly and intimidating those who actually support this right, they are praying that “God” will close the clinic by the end of this year. What does that mean other than encouraging the most violent edge of the anti-abortion movement to act out in extra-legal ways?
Flip Benham, leader of Operation Save America, has said, “We will become like the God we worship.” Let’s be clear: the God that Flip Benham worships is wrathful, condones genocide, hates gay people, mandates the stoning to death of women who have sex outside of marriage, and revels in fear. A tour through the Operation Save America website reveals an unabashed hatred of immigrants, a macho pro-U.S. military and imperialist chauvinism, a desire to force LGBT people “back into the closet,” and a persistent white male supremacy. They are open about it; they are proud of it. It is what drives them.
Now, let’s look at Southwestern Women’s Options in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Albuquerque is the only town in all of New Mexico with any abortion providers (it’s worth mentioning that this is a very, very large state, riddled with economic disparity and a large population of Native American people who are increasingly disenfranchised). Southwestern Women’s Options is the home of two of the only four doctors left in the country who openly provide third trimester abortions in the wake of the murder of Dr. George Tiller in Kansas in 2009 (see the new documentary, After Tiller). While abortions this late are extremely rare, women need them because many life-threatening complications for the woman or the fetus don’t emerge until late in pregnancy, and because of other extreme circumstances of many women. These courageous doctors have been under ongoing attack from the anti-abortion movement, maybe most relentlessly from Operation Rescue, the organization that created the climate of brutal hatred and provided the resources that made Tiller’s murder possible. Now Operation Rescue has followed these two doctors from Wichita, Kansas to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and has plastered their faces all over the web with descriptions like, “Member of Tiller’s killing team.”
When the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride arrived in August, we learned that one home they went to belongs to a doctor in his 80s who provided abortions well before Roe v. Wade. Ever since then, his policy is that if a woman has been raped, payment should not even be discussed and the abortion will be free. Operation Rescue circulated fliers throughout this doctor’s neighborhood with his face, his name, and his home address, that read, “Killers Among Us.” They hung bloody baby dolls from the lampposts and saturated local neighborhoods with their pictures of mutilated stillborns. Lest anyone dismiss this terror as the tactics of a dismissible, isolated “fringe,” the mayor of Albuquerque, Richard J. Berry, welcomed these fascists and took a photo-op shaking their hands.
Here is the national picture that Mississippi and New Mexico concentrate: just this year, nearly 300 abortion restrictions have flooded legislatures nationwide, and last year 43 similar restrictions were passed across 19 states. 97% of rural counties in the U.S. have no abortion provider, and 5 states have only one abortion clinic in the whole state.
Abortion providers are heroes to women. They risk their lives every day so that women will not be forced to have children against their will. It is utterly unacceptable for Christian fascists and fanatics to be allowed to run wild, unchecked and unopposed. Those who care about women must make their voices heard, their bodies seen, and their moral indignation at this terror and woman-hating felt throughout society. We must be on the ground in each of these places telling the truth about abortion—that it is a perfectly moral and absolutely essential right for all women to be able to access without restriction, judgment, shame or stigma—and resisting these attacks.
Now is not the time to sit back and hope that somehow the courts or the politicians will protect abortion rights and abortion providers. While Republican fascists have proven more than willing to push extreme anti-abortion legislation, to whip up and unleash a fascist social base in the streets, and to use their bully pulpit to shame women and trivialize rape (think of Rush Limbaugh calling a law student a “slut” for daring to stand up for birth control or Todd Akin claiming that women cannot get pregnant from “legitimate rape”), Democratic Party leaders have never called on people to wage real political resistance commensurate with the threat women face. No major Democrat has come out and spoken non-defensively about the positive morality of abortion rights or called out the fascist immorality of those who would take this right away. Instead, Bill Clinton insisted that abortion be “safe, legal, and rare” (implying that there is something wrong with abortion), Hillary Clinton called abortion “tragic,” and Obama repeatedly insists on seeking “common ground” with these woman-hating fanatics. And for far too long, much of the official pro-choice movement has channeled people’s efforts into supporting these Democrats, rather than getting out and really politically battling to change the terms and direction throughout society.
The last several decades—where yesterday’s outrage repeatedly becomes today’s “compromise position” and tomorrow’s limit of what can be imagined—and the utter state of emergency we are in today, have proven the bankruptcy of this approach.
It is essential that the people who do not want to see women enslaved to their reproduction stand up now and in each of these places. We ourselves must publicly and very vocally insist on women’s right to abortion on demand and without apology! We must set out to change the way people think and feel about abortion—so that millions begin to recognize it as something positive, essential, and liberating. We must strip away the legitimacy of those—whether they be the thugs on the street or the fascists in power—who claim to be “pro-life” when what they really are about is the enslavement of women. And we must rally and mobilize thousands and soon millions to stand up and rely on ourselves to defeat this all-out assault on the rights and lives of women because it is the right thing to do and the only way to win.
Join with StopPatriarchy.org in traveling to Jackson and Albuquerque, sending messages of support, donating to this effort, or in other ways using your voice and your influence to turn these vicious attacks into a resounding political defeat for those who want to criminalize abortion. By standing up, let's make a major leap in building the kind of unapologetic, self-reliant, nationwide resistance that is necessary to defeat the war on women and win all-the-way liberation.
November 2-6: Operation Save America and their shock troops from around the nation will once again lay siege to the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the last clinic in Mississippi. This terror must be resisted by people traveling down to Mississippi. WakeUpMississippi.org are calling on people to protest Operation Save America and defend the clinic, beginning Saturday, November 2. Stop Patriarchy calls on you to join us there October 29-November 6!
November 19: Operation Rescue is returning in full force to Albuquerque, as residents prepare to vote on the 20-week ban on abortion. If passed, this would close HALF the services available in the U.S. to women with dangerous complications late in their pregnancies or who face other extreme circumstances. Be there November 15-17!
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org today to get involved.
by Sunsara Taylor and Rigel Kane