labor

Abortion Rights Protest in San Francisco: Cheryl Zuur Comments

by Cheryl Zuur

The abortion rights march in San Francisco: Many thousands turned out.

I went to the SF Women’s March today, one of the many across the country. I really did not want to go but knew that I MUST go. Many of the older marchers held that very familiar sign which they could bring to any protest saying “I can’t believe I still have to march against this shit”. It was a good turnout and I was glad I went in the end. 

Going to these marches for anyone who’s been before (and using their brain) gives you deja vu: “wait, haven’t we done this before?” Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?

Hyde Amendment & Access to Abortion
Women’s access to abortion and birth control has ALWAYS been unequal, from the very beginning, because of class and race. But it got a lot MORE unequal after the Hyde amendment was passed just three years after the Roe decision, in 1976, banning the use of Federal funds for abortions. And though it’s been modified slightly over the years (Under Clinton exceptions for rape or endangering the mothers health were added) it has stayed firmly in place. Biden voted to maintain it as a senator (he is a Catholic after all) but now wants to overturn it, or so he says. The Hyde amendment excludes all of the following groups from receiving Federal funds for abortion;

  • military personnel and their dependents
  • Federal employees
  • Women insured by the Indian Health System
  • Washington DC residents
  • Incarcerated women
  • Peace Corps volunteers

Manchin, Hyde Amendment & Infrastructure Bill
Manchin is holding the Reconciliation bill hostage to including the Hyde Amendment. I have not seen or heard much reporting on THAT this week. Rachel Maddow, with all of the endless interviews with the progressive talking head politicians, never mentioned it on the eve of the planned marches today.

The terrorist “operation rescue” in action. This was just their public face. Behind the scenes they were literally murdering people.

Operation Rescue’s Terrorist Attacks
In 1986 “Operation Rescue” began its “direct action” attacks on abortion clinics in various parts of the country, terrorizIng staff and women seeking abortions. It was a war zone. We could say it was a scene out of Reconstruction; the government refusing to protect people from terrorists bent on violating the Constitution. Doctors were murdered, staff were threatened, clinics shut down in the face of it. In 1994 Bill Clinton, after refusing to do anything concrete to protect these clinics, signed the “Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act”, which made it possible for groups to SUE if this act was violated.

Once again, so familiar, right?

And just like with Reconstruction, we are never freed from the problem of “States Rights”. Between 2011-2014, 231 laws in different states were passed restricting access to abortion in various ways. And now we have Texas and the brave new/old world of vigilante law.

In the face of no mass working class movement, so many things have gone backwards, including and especially women’s rights. In the face of such deteriorating conditions what COULD be done now to reverse course?

Union leadership
Just as the union leaderships approach to labor has seriously weakened the muscle of militancy and solidarity, the Democratic Party and it’s wing of organizations like DSA, non profits, etc. complete reliance on electoral politics and the courts have accomplished the same thing in whatever social movement you choose from Womens Rights, to the environment. Defending the right to abortion and reproductive rights means breaking the law. Direct action to keep abortion clinics open. In this moment women are fleeing Texas to get abortions, but what if, in a different world, there were “flying squadrons” of workers from all over flooding in to keep the Texas clinics open? [Oaklandsocialist adds: Or what if there were mass civil disobedience in front of any court house which hears any vigilante lawsuit against somebody who provides an abortion in Texas?] They couldn’t arrest everyone and it would cause an immediate crisis. Not gonna happen, but you get the idea.

Anything like that would never happen under the current leadership of the Women’s choice movement, as they are directly tied into the DP.

It was no surprise that there was no labor presence whatsoever at the march today.

The closest thing we saw to a union banner or placard at the SF abortion rights protest was this Teamsters sweatshirt worn by a teen-ager. She borrowed it from her father.

The SEIU, AFSCME and other “trendy” unions which fall all over themselves to defend “women’s rights’ as it pertains to identity politics were not there today. This absence, (of their members)  just like with BLM, is a huge loss. The unions, even in their diminished numbers, still have the $$$ and structural resources to make a huge difference. Again, in another world, what if union members demanded that their unions organize mass meetings on this issue and challenged their members who are anti abortion? “An injury to one is an injury to all”, and no access to free and safe abortions is a severe injury to women workers.

As for DSA: This youth wing of the Democratic Party is another organization with resources, both money and members. They were also absent today at least as a contingent. They go door to door, just like the unions, campaigning for politicians, but going door to door to organize a mass demonstration for Women’s Rights? No.

A neighbor of mine wanted to go with me today but was too tired. Instead, she made me a sign, which wasn’t a bad one, about the one million homeless children.

For once I’d like to see a mass meeting on the street at one of these protests, where the leaders just say it-it’s come to this. In spite of all of this marching we’ve done nothing but lose ground. We need to change direction. What should we do?

Of course it would be better if those leaders said “Things have gone too far. We’re slow learners but we’ve realized that relying on the Democratic Party has gotten us nowhere and we’re leaving it. We need a political party of our own, a party of just working class people.”

If those that call themselves progressives in it want to come with us, that’s fine. Otherwise they are welcome to keep pretending that they have any power or say.

We want to join with others who’ve reached the same conclusions. We can no longer tolerate the massive suffering and inequality that this system imposes, and each year it just gets worse. We don’t know exactly what to do, but we’d like to know what you think and start from there.”

Anyhow, one can always dream. That’s what I think about when I go to one of these marches.

Categories: labor, women

2 replies »

  1. I expect — and get — some of the same results, and don’t expect much of — and don’t get much of — other results.

    Expect and get: Sense of being part of a community with a vision! Sense that whatever happens, we are doing something important even just by our message of human rights.

    Don’t expect much of, and don’t get much of: Effect on specifically “targeted” others, such as government representatives or officials, or media. But sometimes get some positive result from them, and sometimes negative results.

  2. Excellent analysis. Importantly, this essay on the 2021 abortion rights march in SF is written in a clear matter of fact historical context. The opposite of fake news– yet SO real it breaks your heart to read it. I expect no less from writer and friend Cheryl Zuur who I met in college 41 years ago. It was Cheryl Zuur who provided me with my introduction to Marxism. It was clear, matter of fact, and in historical context then as it still is today in this essay.
    READ HISTORY, LISTEN TO WISE WOMYN, AND LEARN.

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