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News :: Human Rights
Boston - Defend the Abortion Clinics - 26 July 2014 Rally
26 Jul 2014
Leftists must defend the abortion clinics from the constant Right Wing presence. Defend the Clinics! Take a Stand!
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Clinic Defenders - Join us at Planned Parenthood to show the anti-abortion crusade that they have no place in this city and to demand full reproductive justice for all. We will be staging at the Super 88 grocery market before marching over together at 10 AM.

Saturday, July 26, 2014, at 9:30am
Super 88 Market
101 Allstate Rd, Allston, Massachusetts 02134

There is also a sign making event on Friday, June 25th:


Boston Feminists for Liberation has decided to call for a clinic defense on Saturday, July 26, to fight for full reproductive rights for all. We must fight because abortion rights are being steadily rolled back; because right-wingers have been emboldened by their recent victory and have doubled their numbers outside clinics; because our ability to access basic health care is under attack.

We are planning to send a message that their misogyny and intimidation tactics are not welcome in our city, and that women have the right to control our bodies and lives.

Our demands are free abortion; universal reproductive health care; an end to coerced sterilization; reproductive autonomy for all people, including disabled and trans people; and a safe environment in which to bear and raise children. We will also be taking a stand against mass incarceration and in solidarity with Palestine.

Planned Parenthood does not support our protest, saying that that it will create chaos and barriers to access. Other activists have voiced concerns that we will make it harder for the most oppressed to access care at Planned Parenthood.

But many of the women organizing this protest are Planned Parenthood patients. We have experienced right-wingers screaming at us as we try to get our annual pelvic exam. We are standing up for ourselves and for women around the country who need abortions and asserting that birth control is a basic right. We are not an alien group of people infringing on patient access. We are the very women who are affected by bigoted pro-lifers, acting in self-defense. To say that we are creating chaos is blaming the victim. It is blaming us for our own oppression. Right-wing terrorists are the ones creating chaos.

Historically, it is through social protest movements of the 1960s and 1970s that we won abortion rights. The 1973 Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision was borne of the women's liberation movement and intimately connected to the civil rights movement, the Black Power movement, the antiwar movement, the gay liberation movement and other struggles. But today, we are seeing that this gain from the 1970s can be taken back. The only way for us to combat this trend is through organization.

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Re: Boston - Defend the Abortion Clinics - 26 July 2014 Rally
24 Jul 2014
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Direct action is fantastic and necessary, but organizing an event in front of a clinic is a misdirected way to respond to the recent SCOTUS decision. I volunteer as a clinic escort and encourage you speak to one and read about their work to re-frame the picture of what protests, even in support of abortion, in front of a clinic mean to those who enter the clinic. (And cheers to Britni de la Cretaz and Alicia Johnson for their input here as well.) Lauren Rankin has written about her experience working as a clinic escort and the value clinic escorts are able to provide in aiding to create as calm an experience for patients entering the clinic as possible:
Defend the Abortion Clinics
24 Jul 2014
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Women's right to access reproductive care is under attack by the right wing. They mobilize every Saturday at PP in Allston- and now are drawing about 70 people after the Supreme Court struck down the buffer zone. Patients who use PP have been cancelling appointments out of fear.

To say that WE are restricting patient access is untrue. Many of the people organizing the rally--myself included--are PP patients. We have been harassed by right wingers as we tried to enter our healthcare center. We are acting in self-defense, taking a stand against these bigots who try to intimidate and shame us for seeking healthcare. We are planning to create, with our bodies, a buffer zone for women to walk through.

To say that we are the ones limiting access is to blame the victims of oppression for fighting back. We have a right to protest misogynists, and are going to make the clinic and country safer for women through our organizing.

PP does not support the protest, not because it will limit access, but because their strategy is largely legislative. The Supreme Rally was great and important, but almost all the speakers at the Supreme Rally were democrats--people who are cheering the slaughter of Gazan children and building of prisons. PP is waiting for the same politicians who threw us under the bus when negotiating Obamacare, the same politicians who have stripped abortion rights from women over the past two years, to hand women scraps.

We have a better idea. We see this rally as an opportunity for ordinarily people who are affected by sexism and oppression to stand up and speak for ourselves. We believe that it is only through organizing that we will make any gains for women's rights.

I do appreciate the concerns, but let's get one thing straight-
It is right wingers who are creating chaos outside clinics and restricting access. We are fighting for justice.
Bishops Bigots and Birth Conrtol
25 Jul 2014
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Workers Vanguard No. 997 - 2 March 2012

Obama Panders to Religious Reaction

For Free Abortion on Demand!

For Full, Free Access to Contraception!

The Catholic church’s campaign to oppose cost-free health insurance coverage for contraception for women employed in its universities and hospitals is a frontal attack on the rights that women gained in the wake of the social struggles for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. Cost has nothing to do with it. The same bishops who seek to achieve an exception to such coverage in the name of “religious freedom” cannot even obtain voluntary compliance from Catholics in this country, almost all of whom use effective birth control methods instead of Vatican roulette (the rhythm method).

The bishops quickly found allies from among the Republican candidates for the presidency—most notably Rick “Sanctorum,” who runs as an open proponent of Catholic theology. Joining in were the right-wing Christian fundamentalists who currently constitute the core of that party, as well as Orthodox Jewish rabbis. Santorum has now made the virtually unprecedented declaration that separation of church and state in the U.S. is not “absolute.” It needs to be noted that religious freedom in the U.S. is in fact based on the separation of church and state, not on the “freedom” of the clergy of whatever stripe to dictate their superstitious restraints on sexuality.

The attack on the availability of contraception is a part of the decades-long assault on women’s rights, centrally on the right to abortion that was supposedly guaranteed by the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. It is an attack on the very way women live today. Ninety-nine percent of women with sexual experience have used contraception, with 69 percent of those using highly effective measures like the Pill. At the same time, almost half of the first births in this country are to unmarried women, and not a small number of those are unplanned. Additionally, the Pill is the treatment of choice for a variety of medical conditions.

The Catholic hierarchy’s attack on contraception is one of myriad attempts to enjoin the sexual freedom of women and maintain them as breeding stock. Pending in over a dozen states are “personhood” bills that define human life as beginning at conception and, thus, threaten legalized abortion and contraception. Many states already have laws severely limiting access to abortion, with some requiring ultrasounds for any woman seeking the procedure. Planned Parenthood has been under siege for the “crimes” of making contraception available and providing some access to abortion to those without means.

But all is not well for the apostles of religious fundamentalism. A personhood bill that seemed a shoo-in was recently tabled in Virginia, and a similar bill failed last year in a statewide referendum in Mississippi, normally a reliable outpost of racial and religious reaction. Recently the Susan G. Komen foundation, which is dedicated to eradicating breast cancer, reversed its decision to end its donations to Planned Parenthood following substantial public outcry and objections of some of its wealthy patrons.

The vast majority of women today are not about to accept being forced back into the pre-Pill 1950s, with its straitjacket of sexual “morality.” Nonetheless, the notion that consensual sexual activity no matter how it is wrapped or stimulated is a private affair and should be free of state interference is hardly as American as apple pie. Laws against contraception remained on the books in many states well after the Pill was available by prescription. Until 1965, it was illegal for married people in Connecticut to use birth control. It took seven more years for single people to legally use birth control in Massachusetts, and not only there. Bill Baird, a heroic fighter for women’s right to abortion and contraception, spent three months in jail in Massachusetts for giving a package of contraceptive foam and a condom to a Boston University student as a challenge to the law. Baird’s case later went to the Supreme Court and helped lay the basis for the right to privacy—the main legal argument behind Roe v. Wade (see “Fifty Years After the Pill: Still a Long Way to Go,” WV No. 968, 5 November 2010).

Democrats No Answer to Christian Right

The just outrage of most women over the fundamentalist barrage on their rights is likely to be reflected in the November presidential election in a manner that will not please the Republican candidate. As G.O.P. strategist Alex Castellanos told Maureen Dowd of the New York Times (25 February), “Republicans being against sex is not good. Sex is popular.” To be sure, at present the Republican primary scene has been peopled with seeming troglodytes, as exemplified by the quip from Rick Santorum’s wealthy benefactor that in the good old days cheap birth control consisted of “gals” putting an aspirin between their knees. Santorum’s war on sex moved Dowd to write three days earlier: “Rick Santorum has been called a latter-day Savonarola. That’s far too grand. He’s more like a small-town mullah.” (Girolamo Savonarola [1452-1498] was a Dominican monk who, as the leader of a Christian state in Florence, led mobs in burning books and crusaded against vice and frivolity.)

As they openly dish out bigotry and contempt for working people, women and minorities, the Republicans are making it easy for the Democrats to strike their pose as the last refuge for labor and the oppressed. It is to be expected that the feminists, along with the sellout labor bureaucracy, will do their bit for the re-election of the Democrat Obama as Commander-in-Chief of the capitalist order.

It should be recalled that it was not a Republican president but the Democrat Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) who hyped the virtues of Christian fundamentalism as a weapon to roll back the gains of the civil rights and other social struggles of the 1950s and ’60s. For America’s capitalist rulers, who had suffered a huge defeat at the hands of the Vietnamese workers and peasants, the radicalism associated with the 1960s was a dangerous bubble. Above all, they feared that a recurrence of social protest could spill over into an aroused labor movement.

To counter “permissiveness” and restore confidence in the U.S. ruling class, in the 1970s a major ideological assault was launched, aimed at instilling an unquestioning acceptance of capitalism, God and family, including the desirability of dying for one’s country. It was under the “born again” Carter that the Hyde Amendment cutting off federal funding of abortions for poor women was enacted, coinciding with a rollback of black rights.

Since that time, bourgeois politics under both the Democrats and Republicans have moved even farther to the right, and today Obama & Co. occupy ground once claimed by mainstream Republicans. As columnist Glenn Greenwald put it, “Because Obama has governed as a centrist Republican, these GOP candidates are able to attack him as a leftist radical only by moving so far to the right in their rhetoric and policy prescriptions that they fall over the cliff of mainstream acceptability, or even basic sanity” (London Guardian, 27 December 2011).

In response to the bishops’ outrage at being supposedly forced to fund “sin,” Obama renegotiated the terms, leaving the women workers of Catholic affiliates to find contraception elsewhere, supposedly via insurance companies. The “compromise” is patently at the expense of the women workers involved. Yet it hasn’t silenced such opponents as the attorney generals of Texas, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Carolina, who jointly filed a suit in a U.S. District Court seeking to block even the compromised requirement that insurance plans cover contraception.

During last April’s budget fight, the Republicans fought to ban federal funding for Planned Parenthood and to reinstate a ban on the District of Columbia using its own money to fund elective abortion through Medicaid. The first was temporarily set aside, but the Obama White House okayed the ban on D.C. funding for abortions, particularly sacrificing the rights and health of black women. In fact, the Democrats have ensured that for most of the last 20 years the ban was in effect. Clinton signed the ban into law six times, and Obama and the Democratic-controlled House and Senate upheld it in 2009. As we noted in our article on the D.C. ban: “In regard to abortion, the ‘pro-choice’ Democrats’ strategy has been to keep it safe and legal for the wealthy, but to hell with the poor and minorities” (WV No. 979, 29 April 2011).

And to hell with young people. In December, Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA when that agency approved the “morning-after” pill for over-the-counter sales to anyone, regardless of age. So now women younger than 17 must chase down a doctor immediately after intercourse and beg for a prescription. Obama claimed patriarchal privilege “as the father of two daughters” in justifying the ban, an obvious ploy to cater to Christian fundamentalist voters for this year’s elections. Above all, the Democrats want to avoid the “A-word” (abortion). Since Roe v. Wade, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, access to abortion has been rolled back to such an extent that nearly 90 percent of counties have no abortion facilities at all. On top of that, 36 states require minors to get parental consent.

Obama and the Democrats created a health “reform” package that insurance executive-turned-whistleblower Wendell Potter quipped might more aptly be called “The Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act.” In May 2009, speaking at the Notre Dame commencement, Obama proclaimed his support to a “sensible conscience clause” that would allow health care providers to withhold abortion or other services that conflicted with their religious beliefs. Forsaking any semblance of a genuine “public option” let alone the kind of “single-payer” system as exists in Canada and much of Europe, Obama also made clear that the plan would not cover “illegal” immigrants and their families and that no federal dollars would be used to fund abortions, in line with the reactionary Hyde Amendment.

People in this country—including immigrants—need free quality health care with no exceptions. Free abortion and contraception must be available to all, irrespective of age. These necessities will not be gained through playing the shell game by which the interests of workers and the oppressed are tied to the “lesser evil” Democratic Party of American capitalism. Such gains for women as have been wrested were not due to the electoral pressure politics of the bourgeois National Organization for Women but rather through mass struggle. What is needed is a fight to build a workers party based on the understanding that the working class shares no interests with its capitalist exploiters. Acting as a tribune of the people, a class-struggle workers party would champion the liberation of women, the emancipation of the black population from its race-caste oppression and the elimination of all social inequality in the fight for socialist revolution.

Capital, Church, Family: Unholy Trinity

The great French utopian socialist Charles Fourier observed: “Social progress and changes of period are brought about by virtue of the progress of women toward liberty, and social retrogression occurs as a result of a diminution in the liberty of women” (The Utopian Vision of Charles Fourier). Writing in the aftermath of the French Revolution, when priests were driven out of the churches and sometimes executed, Fourier would see in the U.S. today a profound retrogression. On a world scale, the counterrevolutionary overthrow of the October Revolution in the USSR in 1991-92 fed the bonfires of social reaction.

Religious fundamentalism is by no means restricted to the Islamic world. From Santorum’s obsession with sex and Satan to Obama’s pious quotations of Christian scripture at the National Prayer Breakfast—itself an annual affront to the separation of church and state—American bourgeois politics have been and continue to be increasingly saturated with God. This type of rampant religiosity is often a characteristic of decaying societies.

Religion—especially but not only the Roman Catholic church—is the strongest ideological force against birth control and abortion in its upholding of the sanctity of the family. Woman-hating strictures against contraception and abortion, poisonous bigotry against gays, witchhunting of “deviant” sex, relentless pressure on youth to somehow refrain from giving in to their raging hormones—all these emanate from and reinforce the institution of the family as well as religion, buttressing the rule of an exploiting class. As communists, we oppose attempts to fit human sexuality into legislated and decreed “norms.” We say: Government out of the bedroom! The guiding principle for sexual relations between people should be that of effective consent—that is, nothing more than mutual agreement and understanding as opposed to coercion. Defend the separation of church and state!

The family is not an immutable, timeless institution but rather a social relation subject to historical change. In his classic 1884 work The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, Friedrich Engels traced the centrality of the family back to its role in ensuring “legitimate heirs” for the patriarchal inheritance of property, which required women’s sexual monogamy and social subordination. The revolutionary overthrow of the imperialist-dominated world order by the proletariat will lay the material basis to free women from age-old family servitude and reorganize society in the interest of all. The social functions of the family—housework, child rearing, preparation of food, etc.—will be replaced by collectivized institutions.

Even under conditions of dire scarcity, imperialist invasion and civil war, the Bolshevik Party under Lenin and Trotsky strove to implement such collectivization in the early Soviet workers state. It is the goal of the International Communist League to build Bolshevik–type workers parties around the world to lead the fight for new October Revolutions. As we wrote in “In Defense of Science and Technology” (WV No. 843, 4 March 2005): “Communism will elevate the standard of life for everyone to the highest possible level. By eliminating scarcity, poverty and want, communism will also eliminate the greatest driving force for the prevalence of religion and superstition—and the attendant backwardness, which defines the role of women as the producers of the next generation of working masses to be exploited.”
Defend Abortion
26 Jul 2014
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Whenever I flinch at yet another reactionary U.S. Supreme Court decision I am reminded of Anatole France’s famous observation, “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, or steal bread.”

In late June, in the now infamous Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court of capitalist America applied the “personal protections” of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to “closely held” for-profit corporations—in this instance, to the Green family-owned Hobby Lobby’s 500 craft stores, with more than 13,000 employees. The medical plans afforded these low-paid workers will now, based on the Green family’s religious beliefs, exclude them from contraception coverage as specified by the Affordable Care Act.

The Obama administration’s response was to note that the decision was of little consequence because the government could find ways to pay for the now excluded corporate coverage. That is, what the Court has now granted to employers with regard to lesser costs would be passed on to taxpayers in higher taxes.
Some observers quickly concluded that the Court’s decision might well be followed by a sudden “taking to religion” by many of America’s “closely held” corporations to meet the Hobby Lobby’s now “legalized” freedom to exclude contraceptive coverage.

But no, interpreters of this “narrow decision” were comforted that it was conceived by the Supreme Court as an essentially exceptional exclusion—that is, until a week or so later, when the same Court ruled similarly in a case brought by Wheaton College, another religion-based institution. Here too, contraception is now eliminated from the college’s responsibility, with the cost again to be passed on to the government.

The slew of reactionary Supreme Court decisions over the past month includes exclusion from union dues check-off of thousands of home-care workers and the striking down of Massachusetts’ 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics, which was enacted to stop the harassment, not to mention physical attacks, of patients exercising their right to choose abortion. Within days, the fetus fanatics were back at clinic entrances, supposedly exercising what the Supreme Court so liberally described as their “democratic right to free speech and assembly.”

Socialists have
long noted that capitalist courts, absent massive social movements fighting to defend and expand democratic rights, are not likely to champion these rights. Indeed, the same courts that today allow women to be physically and verbally affronted when entering abortion clinics, in the name of free speech and assembly, have no problem striking down these basic democratic rights when activists apply for permits to protest the never-ending U.S. imperialist wars.

The courts regularly recognize “buffer zones” to “protect” capitalist institutions, as with the present restrictions on demonstrations near the Supreme Court itself. In New York City, the courts have consistently upheld broad restrictions on the right to march and rally—excluding vast portions of the city, like the Central Park area, from demonstrations.

Restrictions in many cities include forcibly penning in demonstrators block by block with police barricades with restricted access, limiting the use of sound amplification, and more. What was taken for granted 50 years ago, having been won in mass struggles, as with the Vietnam-era and civil rights protests involving millions, must be fought for tooth and nail today.

In the case of the right to abortion, the mass protests and clinic defense of the 1980s and after, organized by the women’s movement, were the only reliable way of ensuring women’s basic rights under the law. Tens of thousands mobilized at that time to defend the abortion clinics from right-wing fanatics operating in the name of religion, like Operation Rescue.

Meanwhile, police mobilizations were routinely organized to protect the anti-abortion fanatics’ “right to protest.” The lion’s share of those arrested at that time were the women who organized to defend clinics against violent attacks by anti-abortion protesters. Of the hundreds of clinic bombings, physical assaults, death threats, and murders committed by these elements, few offenders were prosecuted and convicted. The Court’s decision today will undoubtedly serve to once again convince pro-choice activists that the reliance on the courts or the twin parties of capital are no arena to protect women’s basic right to choose.

Undoubtedly, the June decisions of the Supreme Court, supposedly limited to the particular instances that were litigated in Hobby Lobby and Wheaton College, will now be taken up across the nation as “similarly situated” institutions seek to press for their own exclusions.

This will undoubtedly be the case with a recent California Superior Court decision that struck down teacher tenure and seniority. In his instance, the court argued that failure by Black and poor students was a result of laws that prevent “incompetent” teachers from being fired. Citing the “democratic right” under the state’s constitution to an equal education, the court ignored society’s institutional racism that inflicts poverty and hopelessness on the nation’s increasingly re-segregated and under-funded youth, and placed the blame on teachers and their union contracts that protect them from administrative abuse and discrimination.

In a matter of weeks a similar suit was filed in New York City, with the objective of eliminating teachers’ tenure. No doubt the virus of capitalist injustice will spread across the country as the ruling rich seek to blame capitalism’s failure on its victims.

Ruling-class hype over “democratic rights,” the “right” to deepen the attacks on working people and the oppressed and exploited, is today used to line the pockets of the corporate elite, as with the present efforts to privatize public education and the U.S. Postal Service.

A July 4 New York Times headline proclaimed, “Hiring Is Strong and Jobless Rate Declines to 6.1%,” to indicate that the economy is recovering after six devastating years of recession/depression. The Times neglected to note that first-quarter GDP growth declined 2.9 percent.

While pointing to Wall Street’s high-flying all-time stock market records, with the Dow Jones average for the first time closing at above 17,000, it felt compelled to state: “Despite broad gains, [in the stock market] the economy is still a long way from its peak before the housing bubble burst and the recession began at the end of 2007. The broadest measure of unemployment, which includes people who are working part time because full-time positions are not available, stands at 12.1 percent. And the proportion of Americans in the labor force has been stuck for three straight months at 62.8 percent, a 36-year low, and it’s down sharply from 66 percent in 2008.”

In truth, the real unemployment figures are much higher, given that the government’s calculations exclude millions who have dropped out of the labor market entirely and/or who are no longer eligible to receive unemployment insurance.

The above figures are important indicators of the crisis of capitalism, which has no alternative but to deepen the exploitation of the vast majority in order to rip off an increasing share of the wealth that working people produce.

This transfer of wealth to the rich has reached historic proportions in the U.S. and across the capitalist world, and with it, an ideological offensive has gained ground wherein reactionary ideas are clothed in populist or “democratic” garb.

In the name of religious protections, corporations profit by attacking women’s rights, and unions lose their rights for the same reason, as “legal” technicalities are forever found to justify corporate greed. Billionaire elites form “radical-sounding” solutions to the racist and classist-induced failure of public education, with never-ending diatribes as to why private corporate-run schools are superior to public education.

In all these matters, “liberal”-sounding politicians like President Obama position themselves as defenders of the poor, while leading the U.S. and worldwide capitalist offensive that produces war, racism, and poverty for the overwhelming majority. The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent string of reactionary decisions merely reflects the overall needs of the ruling elites, who require the subordination of the needs and desires of the vast majority to the private profit system.

All the hoopla attendant to the “dissenting opinions” of the Court’s four Democratic Party appointees is nothing less than the veneer of democracy and debate placed over a sick social system, whose inherent evils can only be remedied by its revolutionary replacement via the conscious organization of a socialist alternative representing the 99 percent.