Every day or so we learn about new horrors inflicted on women and girls by the vicious war on abortion rights that has been dramatically escalated in the wake of the United States Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson decision. There’s nothing mysterious about the Donald Trump-captive Republi-fascist Party’s reprehensible role spearheading this sadistic sexist assault. The attack has been spearheaded by that party’s elected officials and judicial appointees from the preposterously 6-3 right wing Court, which overrode super-majority public support for retaining Roe v. Wade (the 1973 Court decision that established abortion as a constitutional right), red state legislators, governors, and judges who are banning and severely restricting female reproductive choice across the nation.
Less well known and insufficiently appreciated is the complicity of the Democrats and establishment “pro-choice” organizations in the nation’s sickening abortion rights meltdown. It’s an ugly story. Ever since Dobbs was argued before the Court last December, the Democrats have approached the case and ruling in a despicably cynical and enabling fashion. Seeing the death of Roe as an opportunity to win votes and raise money, they have despicably refused to mobilize masses beyond the narrow and killing confines of US electoral politics sphere. They have also badly downplayed the menace and consequences of Dobbs before and since the ruling, selling wild delusions about their capacity to protect women and girls against Republi-fascist assault through elections, abortion funds, and blue state “sanctuary” services.
The Post-Roe Hell
Let’s start with the Republi-fascist-led horror. In the new post-Roe era, abortion is banned outright in at least 11 states. Twenty-six of the nation’s 50 states are now active anti-abortion jurisdictions. Along with 11 states with full bans, 15 states are extremely hostile, with strict bans short of outright prohibition. Three states continue to permit abortions without legal protection. Abortion service providers are disappearing from hostile states even in the absence of total bans.
The new national abortion landscape has been thrown into deadly chaos as abortion seekers and providers contend with a new and lethal mishmash of rules, laws, rulings, and medical responses. Idaho is considering an abortion bill that would make it a criminal offense for doctors to provide the emergency medical treatment that federal law requires in cases where pregnancy threatens to kill a women or girl. he vanguard anti-abortion government of Texas has filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration for reminding doctors that they must provide abortions in potentially catastrophic medical situations under The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act. (Texas’s draconian SB-8, passed well before the Dobbs ruling, puts anyone in any state who helps a Texas woman or girl get an abortion at risk of a $10,000 lawsuit.) Texas and Indiana have passed bans on medication abortion. Nineteen states require the clinician providing a medication abortion to be physically present when the medication is administered, prohibiting the use of telemedicine to prescribe medication for abortion.
And every day bring news of a new abortion prohibition, law, legal case, ruling, and government or medical rule. The paralyzing uncertainty and confusion is part of the authoritarian woman-hating mix.
Beneath the legal and administrative turmoil and chaos, the atrocities are plentiful:
+ A ten-year old rape victim denied abortion in Ohio was forced to get one in Indiana, where the doctor who performed the procedure is demonized and the state legislature passed a near total ban.
+ A businesswoman was forced to spend weeks dangerously carrying a dead fetus in Texas, where doctors face six-figure fines and long prison terms for performing abortions.
+ An expectant Louisiana woman carrying a skull-less fetus that would die within a short time from birth travelled 1,400 miles to New York City to end her pregnancy after her hospital refused her an abortion doe to uncertainly over the procedure’s legality when Louisiana passed a draconian abortion after Dobbs dropped.
+ A woman in a prohibition state was unable to get an abortion after she miscarried. Rather than perform the procedure, doctors forced her to endure hours of painful labor.
+ Prohibition state doctors have been instructed by hospitals to delay treatment for ectopic pregnancies even though truly grave risks to patients could be averted with properly prompt care.
+ Prohibition state doctors are sending pregnant patients home if their water breaks too early instead of promptly removing a fetus that has no chance of survival. (This puts women at risk of sepsis and the loss of their uterus while making them wait at home in misery).
+ Forensic nurses who treat rape victims in prohibition states have said they will no longer provide morning-after contraception for fear it will be considered an “abortion drug.”
+ Women and girls are being compelled to take long arduous journeys they can barely afford to obtain abortions.
+ Poor women and girls are being compelled to give birth to children for whom they are in no position to adequately care – this in states that rank at the bottom of the nation’s weak commitment to social care for women and children.
+ A Florida court ruled that a sixteen-year-old girl is too immature to get an abortion but mature enough to become a mother.
“They Now Wait for Women with Cancer to Get Sicker”
This is just some of the Hell being hurled at women and girls by the Christian Fascists in the nation’s rightmost major party. And it isn’t just about abortion. State laws are absurdly criminalizing miscarriages since medications used to clear the uterus after a miscarriage (mifepristone and misoprostol) are also used for an abortion. There is widespread uncertainty about what is and isn’t legal among medical professionals, leading to compromised non-abortion patient care and the flight of medical personnel from prohibition states. For fear of violating new abortion rules, obstetricians are delaying miscarriages until women with severe complications are deemed “sick enough” for their lives to be in danger. (Lacking the cover of abortion bans, telling patients to wait for treatment until they become seriously ill qualifies as malpractice). A lupus patient in a prohibition state has had to quit a prescribed drug that controls her symptoms because the drug can also cause miscarriages.
The New York Times recently reported on numerous cases in which doctors and other health care workers are now hampered in their effort to provide women with adequate treatment “given the [large] number of situations where physicians have to terminate pregnancies to protect the health or life of the pregnant woman.” By the Times’ account:
“Texas…oncologists say they now wait for pregnant women with cancer to get sicker before they treat them, because the standard of care would be to abort the fetus rather than allow treatments that damage it, but a state law allows abortion only ‘at risk of death.’ Some hospitals have established committees to evaluate whether a pregnancy complication is severe enough to justify an abortion…Two months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the medical consequences extend far beyond abortion clinics and women seeking to end unwanted pregnancies. Doctors who never thought of themselves as ‘abortionists,’ to use the language of the court’s decision, say the criminalization of abortion is changing how they treat women who arrive in emergency rooms and on labor and delivery floors with wanted but complicated pregnancies” (emphasis added).
Racist Eco-Terrorism Hooked Off Abortion in Louisiana
Then there’s the use of anti-abortion laws as a whip handle in the broader Christian fascist agenda. The Attorney General of Louisiana has tried to deny majority Black New Orleans desperately needed flood protection money because the city passed a resolution calling on local prosecutors and law enforcement not to use money or resources to enforce the state’s draconian abortion ban. This is a reminder that the war on abortion is a battering ram in the racist and eco-cidal Republicans’ larger crusade against human rights and livable ecology.
The Christian Republi-fascist author of the Dobbs decision, “Justice” Sam Alito, made it clear in his ruling that he and his and his right-wing Court majority would like to build off the ruling by revisiting other hard-won human rights including contraception, gay sex, and same-sex marriage. Alito referenced the English “legal precedent” of the early 17th Century jurist Sir Matthew Hale, who ordered the execution of two women for witchcraft and wrote a treatise backing marital rape.
No human and social right not enumerated in the (18th Century slaveowners’) US Constitution is safe in the hands of arch-reactionaries like Alito and his fellow right wing Court member Clarence Thomas. Thomas, married to a leading Trump coup plotter, wrote a concurring Dobbs opinion targeting rights to contraception, same-sex consensual relations, and same-sex marriage.
The States’ Rights Lie and Delusion
It isn’t just about the prohibition states. Interstate abortion travel is overwhelming abortion provider capacities in non-prohibition states, causing wait times as long as three weeks and limiting abortion access for pregnant women and girls in those states. Contrary to the anti-abortion movement’s claim to merely want to “return” policy “to the states,” the woman-hating party wants a national ban. Leading Republi-fascist Lindsey Graham – the US Senator (Rf-SC) who recently threatened “riots in the streets” if Trump was prosecuted for any of his egregious crimes – has just and once again said out loud the not-so quiet part. He called three days ago for a national 15-week abortion ban.
This also contradicts “liberal” and Democratic “pro-choice” and “repro” advocates who downplayed the horror of the coming Dobbs decision by claiming that legal abortion states would (magically) pick up the slack and save prohibition state women seeking abortions with travel funds, telemedicine medication abortion, and ramped up “sanctuary state” services. There was self-interested delusion behind these pledges, which came with urgent calls for emergency financial contributions even while the reigning liberal “choice” groups (led by Planned Parenthood and NARAL) refused to mobilize masses to oppose and possibly prevent the terrible ruling.
Dobbs as a Secretly Welcome Electoral and Fundraising Opportunity for the Democrats and Allied Abortion Providers
“Don’t despair, there’s a silver lining in this lethal dark sexist cloud!” So say the Democrats and their pundits and cable news talking heads, who want us to think that their party will ride pro-abortion voter backlash to a “Blue Wave” victory in the November 2022 mid-term elections. The Democrats are holding up a recent referendum in Kansas and centrist Democrat Patrick Ryan’s recent victory running on abortion rights in a special Congressional election in upstate New York as proof that the Dobbs decision will be a welcome boon for the “pro-choice” Democrats this fall. The Kansas referendum, in which more than 60 percent of voters chose to keep abortion rights in the state constitution, is consistent with national majority opinion, strong enough to carry the day in a single-issue referendum even in a right-wing state. Ryan defeated his Republican opponent in a contested “bellwether” district (NY-19) by running mainly on women’s right to choose and control their own reproductive lives.
“See,” the liberal class says, “the Dobbs decision is a winner! It will permit us to buck the usual historical pattern of the party in White House power losing the mid-term elections. The Republicans and their Court are going to let us keep control of the House of Representatives and maybe even expand our control of the US Senate!”
The Dems and their media fans are predicting a big “Blue Wave” based largely on pro-abortion votes in November.
This is not just an after-the-fact response to the Dobbs decision. The ruling was widely expected – in the absence of a mass uprising – from the minute it went to oral arguments before the Donald Trump-packed Court last December. It was highly telegraphed, with ample time for those who wished to prevent the coming horror(s) to demonstrate that that the people would shut down the country and call into question the legitimacy of its reigning legal and political institution if the nation’s top “justices” went through with their desire to smite public opinion by taking the unprecedented step of wholly stripping a previously established constitutional right.
Serious anti-abortion activists asked for months why the Democrats and the leading liberal, Democratic Party-affiliated pro-choice groups Planned Parenthood (PP) and NARAL surrendered in advance to the coming death of Roe v. Wade, announcing the coming of the “post-Roe era” without a fight – without mass resistance in the streets and public squares. A big piece of the answer to these questions was suggested in a June 6th New York Times Op-Ed by the liberal Talking Points Memo founder and chief editor Josh Marshall. “Democrats,” Marshall wrote eighteen days before the Dobbs decision, “hope to make November’s midterm elections a referendum on Roe v. Wade, the linchpin decision upholding abortion rights, which the Supreme Court is almost certain to strike down this summer.” I heard much the same morally twisted logic from Iowa City Democrats the previous March: “we’ll win the mid-terms after they get rid of Roe.”
Well, gosh, it sure was going to be hard to do that if Roe didn’t fall, no? For the Dems to win, women and girls had to lose a basic constitutional right whose attainment through many years of dedicated social movement struggle led to a dramatic improvement in women’s opportunities and freedom.
Yes, the not-so leftmost of the country’s two dominant political parties was banking on the restoration of female bondage through legally imposed forced motherhood in much of “world’s greatest democracy,” where 70 percent of the populace supported the continuation of Roe.
The Dems were looking forward to the horrific decision promised in the draft Jackson v. Dobbs decision that was leaked early last May.
And the Dem-affiliated “choice” groups PP and NARAL were fundraising off Roe’s demise from the minute the Court decided to hear the Dobbs case. They wouldn’t come into the streets and public squares to block the revanchist Dobbs decision in advance or to call for legal abortion on demand across the lands right after the ruling. But they were quite happy to raise abortion funds money off Dobbs well before it came down.
In the absence of popular mobilization, real and serious resistance to defend and preserve Roe was left to partly radical-led organization Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights (RU4AR). RU4AR sparked rallies, marches, and direct actions under the banner of “Post-Roe, Hell No!” and on the model of successful abortion rights activism in Latin America. It promoted the green bandana, the symbol of women’s and abortion rights protest in Argentina, Mexico, and Columbia. It called for a Green Wave beneath and beyond the savagely time-staggered major party big money and candidate-centered electoral extravaganzas that are falsely and disastrously sold to the US masses as “politics,” the only politics that matters.
And for this it earned vicious, libelous, COINTELPRO-like attacks from liberal and even supposedly left journalists – attacks that falsely and preposterously accused RU4AR of being a financially corrupt, anti-gay, and transgender-hating “communist cult” opposed to abortion services and abortion funds.
Questions for Democrats and Their Establishment “Choice” Allies
The Democrats and the leading Democratic Party-allied “choice” NGOs need to face some difficult question regarding their deeply flawed abortion politics.
Would the Dems and Dem-allied pro-choice groups like to apologize for their role in helping produce the horror US-American women and girls are experiencing in a “post-Roe era” to which the Dems and the “choice” establishment surrendered in advance out of political and financial calculation?
If they are so strongly committed to abortion rights, why aren’t the Dems and the “choice” establishment stridently demanding that Biden declare the war on abortion rights a public health emergency (like he did for Monkey Pox) and above all that that the White House move to provide legal nationwide abortion on federal lands and military bases? (These were RU4AR’s demands voiced in front of the Supreme Court immediately after the Dobbs decision.) Why don’t they call for Biden and his part to move aggressively to expand the size of the absurdly powerful Supreme Court, which stands preposterously far to the right of the US populace on abortion and numerous other critical issues?
Do the pro-choice NGOs really think they can meet the needs of women and girls – especially disproportionately nonwhite poor women – seeking in prohibition states, and do so without badly compromising abortion services for women in “safe” states? (That’s a promise they very likely can’t keep.)
Do the Dems and the pro-choice NGO leaders have any historical understanding of how the now defunct constitutional right to an abortion was won in the US – and of how the right has been more recently won in Latin American countries? The answer: through a dedicated mass feminist social movement that caused disruption of business as usual, not through electoral machinations and appeals to candidates.
Do the pro-choice Dems really expect people not to understand that the mid-term elections are not single-issue policy referendums like the one that took place in Kansas (please see my postscript), but rather candidate-centered partisan contests linked to a multiplicity of issues insofar as they are about issues at all?
Have they looked closely at the Kansas vote? It’s less encouraging than Democrats know or acknowledge. Many voters and non-voters were understandably confused about the strangely worded referendum’s language and meaning. The vote drew on libertarian anti-government sentiments against state control as much as it did on a positive commitment to government-backed women’s right to control their reproductive lives. And the vote was tied to a primary election, with much lower turnout than what takes place in general elections.
What serious evidence do the Dems have that they will ride abortion rights backlash to victory this fall beyond the Kansas triumph and Patrick Ryan’s narrow victory in an idiosyncratic special race held in a Democratic Party run (and districted) state? While abortion rights sentiments have likely put some wind in the Dems’ sails this summer, the odds are still that the usual pattern – the party in White House power going down to mid-term defeat – will prevail in a political environment shaped by the remarkably uncharismatic Biden’s low popularity, widespread economic anxiety, a huge majority saying the nation is “on the wrong track,” and widespread voter suppression and election worker intimidation being practiced by Republi-fascists across the country. A recent NBC poll found that just 8 percent of US voters make abortion rights the top issue determining how they will vote next November.
Why do the Dems and their choice allies insist on channeling everything into voting (like Joe Biden did in his big “threat to democracy” speech last Thursday) in an elections and policy system that is tilted far to the right of the US populace by archaic minority rule institutions and practices that inflate the women-hating Republifascists’ power, including the Electoral College, the preposterously malapportioned, unrepresentative, and powerful nature of the U.S. Senate, the Senate filibuster, the absurd nine-member Supreme Court, judicial review, and states’ rights.
And why should anyone think the Dems will somehow make things right for women and girls and re-establish abortion rights when they never acted to “codify Roe as national law” despite numerous opportunities to do so over the last half-century?
What will actually happen for abortion rights if the Dems are able to buck the historical odds and keep the Senate and even the House next fall? A national bill to codify women’s right to an abortion in federal law would require two-thirds support in the US Senate unless and until the Democrats agree to cancel the Senate’s reactionary filibuster rule, something the Democrats have shown little willingness to do. A federal nation-wide abortion rights bill would be subject to judicial review and would at some point be taken up by the currently arch-patriarchal Christian fascist Supreme Court, whose revanchist majority wants to turn the clock far back on a broad swath of human and civil rights beyond abortion. The Democrats’ current Senate point man for national abortion rights legislation is the pro-life Catholic Tim Kaine (D-MD), a centrist fan of bipartisan appeasement who does not inspire hope for a strong abortion rights bill.
How much do they know about their party’s new “pro-choice” darling Patrick Ryan (D-NY), a proud imperialist with a long history of working with the US police state to spy on trade unionists and Black Lives activists? Ryan’s “choice” sentiments do not extend to US-Americans choosing to effectively fight racial oppression, employer tyranny, and military imperialism.
Please see my latest essay on Substack: “They Probably Won’t Get Trump: Seven Reasons”
POSTSCRIPT: Some Idiotic Bullshit from Chicago
To get a sense of the idiocy afoot in the faux-radical liberal “choice” movement, look at the following Facebook announcement of a coming Chicago For Abortion Rights’ (CFAR) event:
“The outsized abortion rights victory in Kansas shows that if we mobilize, we win! The electoral victories in Kansas and in recent special elections show the broad popular support for people to control their own bodies and reproductive decisions. Millions are demanding the freedom to assert our autonomy and build our families free of discrimination, criminalization, and barriers…Here in Chicago, a broad group of organizations is organizing in solidarity with a National Day of Action to defend – and expand – our access to safe and legal abortion and other reproductive rights. We dream of a future with protections beyond Roe, in which everyone – no matter who they are, where they are from, or how much money they make – can access free, affirming healthcare within resourced, supportive communities….Decades of erosion of access to basic healthcare such as abortion care and the overturn of Roe v. Wade, show we cannot depend on politicians and the voting booth alone to preserve and expand our rights. We must also be in the streets to make sure that politicians and the courts heed our demands, and to build power within our communities. We must take direct action to support people coming to Illinois to exercise their reproductive rights and support their efforts to restore those rights in their home states…We must recognize that the attack on abortion rights is part of a broader attack on all of our rights – union rights, LGBTQ rights, racial justice, and the rights of working people to do more than fight for scraps and shoddy social services in the world’s wealthiest nation.”
“JOIN US ON OCTOBER 8!
A list of co-sponsors is in formation.
Current co-sponsors include:
AIDS Foundation Chicago
Chicago Abortion Fund
Chicago for Abortion Rights
Chicago National Organization for Women
Gay Liberation Network
Illinois National Organization for Women
There are five remarkable things about this event post. First, notice that it doesn’t use the words “woman” or “women” (except in listing the names of NOW’s Chicago and Illinois affiliates). This reflects its author’ acceptance of the idiotic hyper-woke “repro” notion that mentioning the female identity of the militantly sexist anti-abortion movement’s main target by far – women – is somehow exclusionary towards gay and transgender people. The post can say “racial justice” and “the rights of working people” but can’t say “woman,” “women,” “girls,” “sexism,” “female(s),” “feminism,” or “patriarchy.”
Second, even though it contains an arguably healthy warning against over-reliance on electoral politics and politicians, it starts by citing Democratic Party “electoral victories in Kansas and recent special elections” as supposed proof that “if we mobilize, we win!” This aligns CFAR with the dubious “Blue Wave” strategy. Their call for “being in the streets” comes as an “also” next to the openly embraced electoral obsession. For Green Wavers like the present writer, the primary focus by far and away is mobilizing to be in the streets beneath and beyond the savagely time-staggered electoral spectacles that take place within a vicious right-tilted party and election system that has long functioned as a lethal graveyard of social movements.
Third, the post is pitched entirely at the local and state level. It badly and arrogantly exaggerates Illinois service providers’ capacity to rescue abortion-seeking women and girls (gender unmentioned) from other states. It plays into the hands of the Republi-fascists’ disingenuous divide and conquer game of giving abortion policy “back to the states.” And it totally ignores RU4AR’s proper and urgent demand for legal abortion across the entire country right now – a demand that must be directed at the Democratic Joe Biden administration.
Fourth, the CFAR post reinforces its dysfunctional Blue Wave bias by advertising endorsements from openly Democratic Party-affiliated groups like Chicago NOW, Illinois NOW, and the blatantly corporate and imperialist organization Indivisible, which lives to shoot down any principled and proper criticism of establishment neoliberal Democrats in the Clinton-Obama-Biden mode.
Fifth the includes among its signatories the Chicago Abortion Fund (CAF), one of 23 groups who signed a toxic neo-McCarthyite hate letter that viciously libeled, smeared, and red-baited RU4AR, the exemplary national group that has led the fight against the Dobbs decision from coast to coast before and after the ruling.
The CAF, which called for the disbanding of the supposed “communist front group” RU4AR, has recently send out a fundraising email containing this precious sentence: “Can you make a donation of $25, $50, or $100 today to continue to make abortion access a reality for all people across the Midwest and beyond – regardless of unconscionable bans and restrictions by anti-abortion, anti-family lawmakers?” Surely the CAF knows very well that abortion access is NOT “a reality for all people across the Midwest and beyond” – especially not for disproportionately nonwhite poor “people” that the words “continue to” and “regardless of” (?!) are completely misleading. And surely CAF doesn’t seriously think that Chicago and Illinois service providers are going to meet the needs of abortion seekers from regionally proximate anti-abortion states like Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Iowa (not to mention all the vicious women-hating states “beyond”). And notice CAF’s totally ridiculous woketarian use of the word “people,” as if their expanded clientele isn’t super-disproportionately – as in 99% – female, that is women and girls.
This content originally appeared on CounterPunch.org and was authored by Paul Street.