Abortion is a Woman’s Fundamental Right

Our world is crying out as abortion bans are sweeping through conservative parts of the country, particularly the southeastern United States, the historical site of much slavery and the largest African American communities, as well as a stronghold of white Christian patriarchy. While some women in the liberal northeast and west coast may never experience these bans, Black and U.S. Native American women (groups who researchers say have the highest risk of dying in childbirth) as well as poor, young, and rural women (who cannot as easily access affordable health care) will be primarily impacted by these bans. In addition, the Journal of Perinatal Education states that unintended pregnancies — which abortion allows us to stop — are associated with increased likelihood of risk factors causing death in childbirth, which also happens to vary by state. Women will always attempt to obtain abortions, whether or not the abortions are legal. Women die from both unintended pregnancies and attempted unsafe abortions all over the world, and lack of access to safe abortions (caused by outlawing abortion) puts them at risk. Therefore, the bans on abortion amount to the state-sanctioned murder of women, especially those of less social privilege. All of the country is ablaze with fury and apprehension, and we are seeing even women who were previously apolitical now come forward to speak with their families and communities on the right of a woman to abortion.
The male supremacist right wing sees women as vessels to produce the working class, soldiers to uphold their various patriarchal nationalisms — and not as full human beings unto ourselves! As radical feminists, we vehemently reject this ethos. These are the hateful convulsions of an anti-abortion movement that knows many of these bans are nearly impossible to enforce. This round of bans are purposely unconstitutional, designed to force a Supreme Court case that (they hope) would overturn Roe v. Wade. But we women won’t let them. We have a vast number of sympathetic medical personnel nationwide and can end unwanted pregnancies privately during the first 9 weeks with the medications misoprostol and mifepristone.
Abortion rights have been whittled away, step by step for decades, starting with the Hyde Amendment. Because legislators couldn’t take abortion away from us immediately, they have been doing it slowly. Parental Consent & Notification laws, TRAP laws, mandated sonograms/guilt trips/”waiting periods” — an astonishing array of laws designed to deprive us of our bodily autonomy. When Donald Trump took office, his Supreme Court picks were specifically for overturning Roe v. Wade, and one of his first executive orders was an attack on abortion. As Planned Parenthood Action Fund states: “The global gag rule was first introduced by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. On January 23, 2017, in one of his first acts as president, President Donald Trump reinstated and expanded the global gag rule. … The global gag rule prevents foreign organizations receiving U.S. global health assistance from providing information, referrals, or services for legal abortion or advocating for access to abortion services in their country — even with their own money.”

Trump’s executive order, which was essentially an imposed sanction on women’s bodies around the world, severely hampers women’s ability to obtain abortions and other sexual health care, regardless of the legality of abortion in their own countries. It even prohibits health care providers’ ability to treat AIDS, a crisis which Trump boasted about attempting to fix. The terrible impact is felt “especially in places where maternal deaths, HIV rates and unmet need for contraception are unacceptably high. Communities have lost access to essential life-saving services such as HIV testing, antiretroviral medications, nutritional support, birth control and pregnancy care,” says Dr. Leana Wen, President of Planned Parenthood.

It’s a United States tradition for the ruling elite to practice human rights abuses overseas before bringing them home. This year, we are seeing a wave of abortion bans. The New York Times (pdf) has the rundown. As of May 2019, Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Mississippi severely limited abortion rights to the first trimester. Alabama eliminated abortion rights entirely, even in cases of rape and incest. Utah, Arkansas, and Missouri all reduced abortion rights farther back into the 2nd trimester, away from the framework established in Roe v. Wade.

The bans are being met with fierce resistance. Kansas just added abortion protection to its constitution. New York enacted a law that will preserve access to abortions, protect medical professionals who perform abortions from being criminalized, allow medical professionals who are not doctors to perform abortions, and allow abortions to be performed after 24 weeks if the fetus is not viable or to protect the life of the woman. Vermont is about to pass a bill allowing abortions with “zero” limits, as a “fundamental right”, and prohibits government entities from interfering with or restricting access to abortion, “ensuring that any pregnancy may be terminated for any reason at any time.” Some Democrats have claimed that the Vermont bill goes”too far“! And this isn’t the first time Democrats started sounding like Republicans: in New Mexico, eight Democrats crossed party lines to defeat a pro-choice bill. Nor is it simply a matter of going “too far”. A milder law comparable to New York’s was proposed in Virginia by Kathy Tran, who immediately faced death threats, and the Republicans spread fake news that the bill was about legalizing “infanticide”. The Virginia bill removed some restrictions on abortion in the third trimester of pregnancy, allowed abortions during the second trimester to take place outside of hospitals, and made it so only one doctor would be needed to determine that pregnancy threatens the woman’s life or health.

We’ve never had full abortion rights. All the ways that the patriarchy nitpicks a woman’s right to abortion into “trimesters”, “medical” necessity, conditions of rape, harsher restrictions in some regions, etc, only serve to divide women and distract us from the fundamental right that women have to abortions on demand without apology, without approval, and without being treated as criminals.

Feminists in Struggle, like the early Second Wave Feminists, insists on FREE ABORTION ON DEMAND with zero questions asked. The only condition should be the consent of the woman who is pregnant. We also demand an end to the petty restrictions and code regulations (TRAP laws) that specifically discriminate against pregnant women and abortion clinics. We won’t stop there. We demand safe abortion access for women both in the United States, where we are based, and everywhere else. But because patriarchy divides women, the women’s liberation movement is divided into various camps. The Democratic party soaks up most of women’s political energy, preventing us from experiencing our full potential as a movement.

You must be wondering: what can radical feminists do? What can WE all do about this? Especially while we are still living out the war on feminism by dominant forces in the transgender movement, positioning radical feminists as underdogs in any discussion on feminism? Ridiculous rhetoric we’ve been peddled about “pregnant people” instead of “pregnant women” is now   becoming “abortions for people” instead of “abortions for women”. We consider abortion a right of the female sex, but for us to say that in progressive circles will bring controversy and distractions that women can’t afford.

As radical feminists, we can utilize our position as the radicals and underdogs to push harder and farther than anyone else will. Our hearts are with everyday women and our right to control our bodies and lives. We will do what the long arm of the Democratic party would never do. We will demand ABORTIONS ON DEMAND WITHOUT CONDITIONS. Not to mention, free health care that includes birth control and abortions.  No forced sterilizations.  And… END THE GLOBAL GAG ORDER!  100% of unwanted pregnancies are caused by MEN, yet no one holds the men responsible for the life-threatening condition of pregnancy!

If thousands of women join Feminists in Struggle and turn it into a powerful radical feminist movement, we would be able to organize and lead marches for abortion rights and pressure legislators to secure abortion as women’s fundamental right  We would be able to all strategize together in a bottom up democratic movement. However, because our organization is young and still small what we want and what is feasible are two different things.  We will often have to join in actions called and organized by liberal feminists and other more conservative sections of the movement. But still our voices as radical feminists can be heard.

We call for united mass action in the streets. We call for civil disobedience. We call for all women to speak up about abortion. We call for you and us to join the larger marches under the FIST banner and apply pressure there for people to take up more radical positions in support of the complete liberation of our sex.

We call for teaching women en masse how to use and smuggle the abortion pill, and perform menstrual extractions. We call for you, if you live in a state that protects abortion, to consider taking direct action to provide safe harbor for women seeking out of state abortions. Bring back the Jane Collective that performed thousands of safe abortions on women in Chicago before Roe v. Wade. We want to educate women about women’s self help groups who work to keep women’s health in women’s hands. Educate yourself and others on the use of plan B, a medication you can buy at the pharmacy that is effective in preventing pregnancy if taken within 48 to 72 hours following unprotected sex. Educate yourself and others on misoprostol and mifepristone, which can end unwanted pregnancies privately during the first 9 weeks. Educate women on preventing pregnancy and obtaining safe abortions. Spread the word to women affected by these bans not to sign any waivers when they get an abortion. You can also agitate and get previously apolitical women involved in the broader struggle. And of course… Join FIST and get actively involved by becoming a member of FIST’s Feminist Assembly!

Women are half the population. Women have the numbers. We will prevail!

We have a few suggested chants and slogans:

“Our bodies, our spaces, our sex based rights.”

“My body, MY CHOICE!”

“Keep your rosaries off my ovaries!

“Women’s bodies are not incubators!”

“It’s not a womb, it’s a WOMAN”

“Abortion on demand, NO APOLOGY!”

“Birth must be voluntary. Abortion is health care. Health care is a human right.”

“Free Abortion on Demand!”

The Equality Act

A committee of FIST lawyers has agreed to analyze H.R. 5, “The Equality Act”, and consider proposing feminist amendments.  In case you haven’t been following this, H. R. 5 calls each of the following a form of sex discrimination:  discrimination on the basis of the “sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition of an individual, as well as because of sex-based stereotypes.” The Act goes on to define ‘gender identity’ to mean “the gender-related identity, appearance, mannerisms, or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, regardless of the individual’s designated sex at birth.”

We are supportive of extending anti-discrimination protections to lesbians and gays, and are heartened to see the intent to strengthen protections against pregnancy discrimination.  However, we are concerned that defining gender identity as a form of sex discrimination will have the effect of actually compromising some of women’s hard-won rights and harming some programs like Title IX of the Education Act which was intended to redress past discrimination.

The Congressional testimony of Julia Beck of WoLF and Doriane Lambelet Coleman, two feminists pointing out the dangers to the rights of women and girls inherent in elevating gender identity to a discriminated status can be heard beginning at about 24:00 minutes of WLRN podcast #36 “The Left, The Right, and Feminist Strategy  https://soundcloud.com/wlrn-media/edition-36-the-left-the-right-and-feminist-strategy

 

FIST on WBAI Update

To listen to a podcast of the Joy of Resistance show on WBAI, please go to Joy of Resistance on WBAI, which will take you to the archive page, then click on the down arrow, select “Joy of Resistance.”  There are many great podcasts from which to choose. From there you can either listen to the podcast or download the MP3 file.

For the interview of Ann Menasche of FIST, go to the April 25, 2019 broadcast and click on the link.  Or you can go directly to the specific link FIST on WBAI to just listen.  The interview with Ann starts at 38:13 minutes into the show.

FIST on WBAI Radio!

Ann Menasche of Feminists in Struggle (FIST) will be interviewed by Fran Luck on the Joy of Resistance show on WBAI Radio Thursday, April 25, 2019 at 7-8 pm EDT (4-5 pm PDT).

Ann is a Civil Rights lawyer and has been a radical feminist and a socialist activist for her entire adult life. She organized a lesbian feminist group and mass marches in defense of abortion rights in the 1980’s in San Francisco and led a coalition for marriage equality. Recently she became a founding member of a new national radical feminist organization: Feminists in Struggle–or FIST–which was launched on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2019.  The interview will explore why a number of women across the country saw the need for a new feminist organization–including the fact that FIST, unlike other feminist organizations that are gender critical, does not believe in making alliances with the right wing and and sees its positions as belonging in a revitalized Left. Its issues also include reproductive freedom, passing the ERA, and an end to men’s violence against women–as well as the abolition of gender.

You can tune in at: Joy of Resistance at WBAI. The show will also feature Taina Bian Aime of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women–CATW) on the fight against legalization of commercial surrogacy in New York State.  There may be an opportunity to call in during the show.

For more information, go to:Joy of Resistance Info

WLRN Debate Between WoLF and FIST

Ann Menasche of Feminists in Struggle (FIST) and Kara Dansky of WoLF (Women’s Liberation Front) debate strategy regarding relationship with rightwing media and organizations on Women’s Liberation Radio News.  Click here to listen: Debate between FIST and Wolf on WLRN The discussion between Ann and Kara starts at 37:06 and goes to 1:22:36 of the full podcast.

Also featured on this podcast at 24:00 minutes is Julia Beck of WoLF testifying before Congress regarding the Equality Act and how it will eliminate sex-based rights and enable the continuation of discrimination based on biology, and Doriane Lambelet Coleman who spoke mainly to the chilling effects the Equality Act would have on women’s sports if passed.  Included in the podcast is some feminist music and news as well.

Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights

The preamble to the Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights reads as follows:

“On the re-affirmation of women’s sex-based rights, including women’s rights to physical and reproductive integrity, and the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls that result from the replacement of the category of sex with that of ‘gender identity’, and from ‘surrogate’ motherhood and related practices.”

FIST very much supports this declaration and would urge individuals and organizations to sign it at:

https://www.womensdeclaration.com/

Failing to get Favorable Court Rulings, Gender Activists Go After Vancouver Rape Relief’s Funding

Feminists In Struggle urges all supporters of feminism and of democracy to support Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter in their continuing fight to preserve spaces for natal women alone.  According to VRR, gender activists have now convinced the city to discriminate against women in the name of inclusivity.  In the defense of their woman-only policy they raise some interesting comparisons to indigenous, ethnic, disability and other struggles. In their statement they note that many grants by the city of Vancouver are given to other organizations that serve other specific groups, but that “rightfully, none of these groups have been challenged with the demand that they demonstrate “accommodation, welcomeness and openness to people of all ages, abilities… and ethnicities,” as it would undermine their mission. However, this is precisely what they are doing in the case of VRR. The Vancouver City Council is ignoring previous court decisions affirming VRR’s right to offer some services to only natal females and attempting to force them to change this policy.  For more information on what has happened, go to their statement.

The Collective of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter

An International Women’s Day Message from Feminists in Struggle

This International Women’s Day, March 8, 2019 marks the launch of a unique national grassroots network of radical feminists, Feminists in Struggle.  We are unique because we are member-run, member-funded, and with a vision that draws inspiration from generations of feminists that came before us.  Our foremothers a century ago won the vote, and the eight hour work day. Women in the Second Wave won abortion rights and got very close to winning the Equal Rights Amendment.  Feminists succeeded in opening up higher education and many jobs and professions previously closed to women. These were long, hard struggles with many obstacles along the way.  But they persisted and they won.

It is time to do it once again.  We females are half the population.  It is time to exercise our collective muscle–the power of sisterhood–to roll back the attacks from multiple quarters that aim to reverse the gains we won during the past half century.   It is time to rebuild a movement for female liberation that will defend our right to our own spaces, programs, and organizations, fight for access to legal abortion, defend lesbian rights, preserve laws prohibiting sex discrimination,  finish the job of winning the ERA, and end violence against women.  We need a movement that will go all the way this time, and dismantle the patriarchal male-supremacist system that oppresses us.  We can’t be erased if we organize and speak out together as one voice!

If you believe like we do that the time for political organizing and collective action is NOW and you want to make herstory together fighting to defend the rights of women and girls, PLEASE JOIN US! As suffragist Christabel Pankhurst declared, “Remember the dignity of your womanhood. Do not appeal, do not beg, do not grovel. Take courage, join hands, stand beside us, fight with us.”

The Fight for Women’s Rights

The first women’s rights convention in the U.S. called by women met in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848, over 170 years ago now. The five women who organized the convention, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Mary McClintock, Martha Coffin Wright, and Jane Hunt were all abolitionists. Their founding document, The Declaration of Sentiments, outlined 19 “abuses and usurpations” cemented in law, including the inability to own property or vote, and asserted the equality of women in private and public life including politics, education, and religion.

The woman’s suffrage movement, which focused on securing the right to vote, required women’s unflagging commitment and the endurance of hardship and abuse before women were granted the right to vote by the 19th amendment in 1920, 72 years after the convention in New York.

The Equal Rights Amendment, written by Alice Paul and originally called the Lucretia Mott Amendment, was first introduced into Congress in 1923 but was never passed. Paul rewrote it in 1943 to read: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” and it was finally passed in 1972 but has still has not been ratified by 3/4 of the states. Thirty eight states are needed to ratify the amendment so it will become part of the U.S. Constitution, and only 35 had done so up until 2017 when Nevada finally ratified it, and 2018 when Illinois finally did, leaving 1 STATE LEFT needed to ratify! The states that still need to ratify the ERA are listed below. Help us get the ERA ratified by their state legislatures!

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia
  • Utah