AnalysisBreaking the Chains

Pro-abortion majority resists across U.S.

Since the Supreme Court released its final decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade on June 24, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in protest. People of all genders, races and occupations have come together to fight against this egregious, undemocratic attack on abortion rights and gender equality.

Following a leaked draft of the ruling in early May, people all over the country braced themselves for what they knew was coming: a total loss of abortion protections at the federal level, leaving the rights to their own bodies at the mercy of their state governments. Right-wing forces have long been preparing for this moment by packing local governments with anti-choice legislators and implementing unpopular state-level “trigger laws” that classify abortion as a felony once the overturn of Roe is solidified. In the nearly two months between the leaked draft and the final ruling, it seemed that everyone was taking action — everyone except the Democratic Party.

While the masses of pro-abortion people began organizing abortion fundraisers and support networks, the Biden administration and leaders of the Democratic Party have used every excuse to avoid taking action, including refusing to dismantle the filibuster that would have allowed them to codify the right to abortion into law. Little changed after the final ruling was released. By substituting DNC fundraisers and “Vote Blue!” messaging in lieu of actual leadership, the Democrats quickly disenchanted a massive base of supporters.

Photo: Laurie Shaull. (CC BY 2.0)

The people’s demands for the Biden administration at large have morphed since the release of the final ruling, but the principle is largely the same: federal action can be taken TODAY to legally protect abortion! Through executive action, Biden could instantly and legally declare a public health emergency, open federal facilities to offer abortion care, and much more. He has already deliberated over these possibilities, and many Senators and others in the Democrat Party are urging him to put them into action immediately. But the president has made it crystal clear that he lacks the political will to do the right thing.

Even through these demoralizing, constant failures of leadership, the people have valiantly refused to accept the loss of abortion rights. Public support for abortion has consistently polled around 60 percent, meaning those who are outraged right now are in good company. More and more people every day are coming to realize that the Supreme Court — in addition to all of the political actors legitimizing its decision — is wildly undemocratic, unpopular and misogynistic.

And people are acting accordingly. On the day of the official ruling release, some large cities in the United States had well over 10,000 protesters taking the streets. Even small cities and towns showed up in full force and held their own demonstrations. June 24 marked some of the largest coordinated protests nationwide since the historic 2020 uprising in response to the murder of George Floyd.

A new, growing milieu of organizers everywhere are refining their tactics and strengthening the mass movement in the face of total abandonment by the government. Protesters in Denver, for instance, marched to post a list of demands on the Governor’s Mansion, including calls for emergency abortion clinic funding. Four days later, Colorado’s governor signed executive orders implementing most of the protesters’ demands. Philadelphians demanded their city be turned into a “sanctuary city” to protect and aid abortion seekers in illegal states. Organizers in Kansas are working hard to defend against further attacks on abortion at the local ballot box in August. National Nurses United, the largest nurses union, has called for the suspension of the filibuster to enable passage of federal legislation to legalize abortion.  All of these tactics vary by state or city, but they signify that people are energized and ready to confront power in new, effective ways.

Even within the Democrat Party, the majority that supports reproductive justice is agitating for more and working to shore up rights at the state level. U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Seattle has floated the idea of a women’s strike around this issue, which if it could truly be manifested, would be a tremendous step forward for this struggle. 

The states of New York and Washington, where abortion is already protected by state law, are seeking to add abortion as a right under their constitutions. And all three West Coast states, Washington, Oregon and California, have formed a pact to refuse to extradite providers to anti-abortion states. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has also instructed the Washington State Patrol to not cooperate with anti-abortion prosecutions and has encouraged local law enforcement to follow suit. Such initiatives should be defended, supported and emulated elsewhere.

Protests and demonstrations are still occurring daily across the country. As we move further from June 24, the number of protests and attendees may be dwindling in some areas, but that does not mean the fight is over. Many first-time protesters are getting involved in new ways, channeling their energy and passion into organizations where they can make a long-lasting difference. They are building community, coalitions and aid networks. 

Even if the Biden administration will not commit to protect working people, abortion advocates living in the United States are not alone. Global struggles for abortion rights are emerging everywhere — and the people are winning. Looking to the Green Wave movement for reproductive rights in Latin America, which just achieved historic victories in Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia, can be a source for education and hope.

The struggle for justice is a marathon. But with record numbers of young organizers entering the scene, thousands of people coming around to revolutionary change, and global solidarity with working people everywhere, the odds have never looked more in our favor.

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