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Stand up for women’s health: The lesson of Albuquerque

(Editor’s note: As this article was being prepared for publication, Republicans in the House of Representatives withdrew the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and instead passed what the Washington Post called a “watered-down” anti-abortion bill, prohibiting federal funding for abortion–a moot point as the federal government is already prohibited from paying for abortion. The move to drop the more extreme bill was spearheaded by Republican Congresswomen, for whom it appears the extremism of the anti-woman far right of the GOP had gone too far. The scuttling of this heinous legislation does not in any way negate the need to engage in a militant and united struggle in defense of reproductive rights.)

Congress recently reintroduced the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which was initially shot down when first introduced in 2013. What does that mean? The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is a mouthful, but what it really means is that this is a measure that would enforce a national ban on abortions past 20 weeks on the basis of the unscientific notion that the fetus can feel pain and the false claim that the fetus at 20 weeks is capable of surviving outside of the womb.

In fact, doctors agree, fetuses cannot survive outside the womb until 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy, which is considered to be the legal point of viability. Records show that at less than 21 weeks, no delivered baby has ever survived. Scientific research has repeatedly confirmed that fetuses cannot feel pain until after they are viable. This attack is in direct violation of reproductive rights won in the Roe v. Wade court ruling stating that women have a constitutional right to legal abortion up until the fetus would be viable outside the womb.

Democrats have been inconsistent in defending reproductive rights and Republicans are open about completely undoing reproductive rights, which is why the Republican-controlled Senate is anticipating the bill to pass. This can be viewed as nothing other than a continuation of attacks on women’s rights to chip away at the gains won under Roe v. Wade.

Late term abortions make up 1 percent of the overall total and often involve desperate circumstances. There are innumerable examples that include fetal abnormalities that were not evident earlier in the pregnancy, cases where women of lower income were forced to delay abortion until they can save up enough money for the procedure, or situations in which women who live in states where the procedure is banned they have to travel to other states to receive a safe procedure. Congress should protect women’s health and not interfere with women’s personal medical decisions. These decisions should be kept between a woman and her doctor.

This is a continuation of attacks on women’s rights from the most reactionary forces of the patriarchal system. These forces have unleashed an intentional organized campaign to undo reproductive rights that were won in the 1970s. As part of their strategy, they have avoided dense urban areas where the women’s movement is more organized and have initiated hundreds of attempts to undo reproductive rights in the most isolated areas such as Texas, North Carolina, South Dakota, Mississippi, and elsewhere.

The same forces in Congress have introduced many similar anti-women bills in the past four years. Just to name a few of the nefarious attacks: TRAP (targeted restriction of abortion providers) laws, late term abortion bans, denying access to birth control, criminalizing miscarriages and drug use during pregnancy. The result of all this is that 73 abortion clinics have closed
in 2014 alone. Millions of women in the United States have extremely limited, or no access to reproductive healthcare, which includes access abortion and birth control. Reproductive rights are healthcare. Their ultimate goal and they are open about this, is to completely undo the victory of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which can only be viewed as an accomplishment of the militant women’s movement of the 1970’s.

We saw this happen here in Albuquerque. Forces such as the “Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust,” an organization that compared late term abortions to the holocaust, caravanned to our city in attempt to pass a city ordinance that would put a ban on abortions past 20 weeks. WORD confronted this initiative my launching an education campaign by speaking out at city
council, organizing public forums, plastering the city with posters, and reaching out to other feminist groups doing door to door canvassing. When the bill was initially introduced, public polls showed it was likely to pass. However, as the campaign continued the whole city woke up and was rightfully outraged. The total votes surpassed the mayoral election the month previous with women claiming 55 percent of the vote.

Albuquerque was victorious in that fight and the struggle continues to confront the sexist, bigoted, violent system that benefits from the inequality of women. That same fight is needed to this day. All the gains won are due to militant organizing and action. Women have been critical in intervening in every struggle for civil rights, against war, LGBTQ rights, and the fight for full equal rights must continues to this day. Our weapons are education. We fight back by being involved, and organized. This is why we started WORD and we invite all to join us in the struggle.

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