Socialism is the Best Medicine

Socialism is the Best Medicine

Abortion: Whose Decision?

April 28, 2007

Last week, the US Supreme Court voted to outlaw a form of late-term abortion. The one dissenting judge pointed out that this ruling bans “a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.”

This latest blow against women’s rights follows decades of attacks. Soon after abortion became legal in America (1973), anti-abortionists began picketing and attacking women’s clinics. In 1976, the Hyde Amendment eliminated abortion funding for poor women. Since Hyde, a web of restrictive laws have made it increasingly difficult for women to access abortion. Today, ninety percent of U.S. counties offer no abortion services at all.

Not only is it harder to get abortion, it is harder to get contraception, including the morning-after pill. Employers can refuse to provide contraceptive coverage in their health plans, pharmacists can refuse to dispense oral contraceptives, and doctors can deny patients’ requests for birth control information. These measures increase the need for abortion as it becomes less available.

Women with money can always access safe abortions. Legal restrictions on abortion hit working-class women hardest. Before abortion was legalized, 90 percent of the women who died from illegal abortions in New York City were Black and Hispanic.

A basic right

Regardless of your personal views, it is dangerous to support any State restriction on abortion. The right to control one’s body is a basic right. If women can be denied this right, then no one’s rights are safe.

The Supreme Court justified its ruling by saying that it wanted to protect women from making harmful decisions. Where did it get the idea that abortion is harmful?

Anti-abortion campaigns are designed to make women feel guilty about having an abortion. That guilt is then used to claim that abortion harms women’s mental health. “Informed consent” and mandatory counseling laws aim to dissuade women from having abortions and to guilt them if they proceed. The Supreme Court shows no concern for the harm caused by these measures.

In fact, abortion is safer than childbirth. The risk of dying from legal abortion in the U.S. is much lower than the risk of dying in childbirth. Furthermore, unlike abortion, childbirth is strongly linked with postpartum depression and psychosis.

The abortion debate is not about what is best for women. The ruling class does not care about women’s health or their lives. If they did, they would provide paid parental leave and government-funded childcare.

The attack on abortion is part of a larger strategy to remove decision-making power from ordinary people. In the workplace, the boss dictates the worker’s every move, including bathroom breaks. In society, the State dictates personal behaviors, including sexuality and reproduction.

While people get caught up in debates about how the State should control people’s lives, the right of the State to dictate personal matters is never questioned.

A truly democratic society would provide all the options – sex education, contraception, abortion, support for having children – and trust people to make the best decisions for themselves. Of course, some people’s choices turn out badly. However, poor outcomes cannot be avoided by depriving people of their right to decide. Many women who are denied safe abortions will seek unsafe abortions with their much greater risk of infection and death.

The right to abortion cannot be trusted to “pro-choice” liberals who have failed to defend this right over the past 30 years. Without abortion there is no choice. We need free abortion on demand, so that all women have the right to choose what happens to their bodies.

The right to abortion cannot be trusted to politicians. In 2006, Democrats joined with Republicans to outlaw abortion in South Dakota. Democratic Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton calls abortion a “sad, even tragic choice” that shouldn’t “ever have to be exercised or only in very rare circumstances.”

The right to control our bodies is a working-class demand that is linked to the right to control our work and society. These basic rights will only be secured when the majority organize and fight for them.



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