This week, graduate students from more than fifty colleges and universities across the United States launched the Graduate Student Action Network (GSAN), a coalition centered around fighting for abortion rights and other forms of reproductive justice. GSAN’s first action is to coordinate a National Student Day of Action for abortion rights, to be held on October 6, the anniversary of the day a federal judge first blocked the draconian anti-abortion law in Texas. The network includes graduate student unions, graduate student governments, and student advocacy organizations like Socialists of Caltech and CUNY For Abortion Rights.
When Dobbs vs. Jackson was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, overturning Roe v. Wade, the case drew all eyes to reproductive rights issues in the United States. For half a century, advocates around the world looked to Roe v. Wade as a landmark decision and advocacy model for reproductive justice. But the Dobbs decision now places the United States behind other countries that center women’s autonomy and human dignity in the regulation of abortion. As Latin American feminist advocates, we have seen firsthand how the lack of access to safe and legal abortions has impacted the life and health of many women, girls, and pregnant people across the Western hemisphere. Making access to sexual and reproductive health services a reality is a matter of social justice, democracy, and human rights.
On July 29, Louisiana reinstated a controversial abortion ban, which led to the immediate cancellation of procedures in the state. Following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in late June, a number of states across the country have moved to outlaw abortion, and in Louisiana, women in poverty will bear the worst burdens of the newly reinstated ban. These women are the true experts regarding the fatal risks of taking away reproductive freedom in the state — not anti-abortion politicians. The politicians gutting abortion rights likely don’t understand the pain of holding a friend as she sobs on the bathroom floor, assuming it’s the worst menstrual cycle of her life, only to discover that she is experiencing a missed miscarriage and her life is at stake. But I do.
New York City, New York - On every first Saturday of every month, anti-abortion protesters gather to harass patients at the SoHo Planned Parenthood in the heart of New York City, supposedly a “safe city” for abortion rights. In response, local activist group NYC for Abortion Rights organizes a monthly clinic defense and counter-protest. The NYPD always go out of their way to protect the anti-choice crowd, enabling them to harass patients trying to enter the clinic, as well as physically assault abortion rights activists. In that regard, today was no different. But today, the end of the morning, five clinic defenders were in handcuffs. The anti-choice mob usually leads a procession from the Basilica of Old St Patrick’s Cathedral to the nearby Planned Parenthood, but today they chose to forgo the procession.
Kansas - Kansans have voted to protect abortion rights in their state. Yes, Kansas — the deep red state where Trump won by more than 15 percentage points last election cycle has voted to protect abortion rights. In fact, Kansas has a history of violence against abortion providers, including the murder of abortion doctor George Tiller in 2009.But the vote wasn’t even close. At the time of publishing, the vote was roughly 60% in favor of abortion rights and 40% against. It was overwhelmingly in favor of protecting abortion rights in the state, with a huge voter turnout and by a wide margin. Amidst the dystopian chaos that is the post-Roe world, legislators in Kansas tried to slip one past Kansans, holding a referendum in the middle of the summer, during a mostly Republican primary, in an effort to capture a repeal of the state’s constitutional protection for the right to abortion in a low-turnout event.
From the outset, the gutting of Roe by Dobbs is so devastating for, of course, the constitutional reasons, that at one time, Roe codified and really affirmed that abortion was a basic right. Dobbs, in overruling that, overturning that, has laid open states to pick and choose whether they will allow abortion providers and individuals that kind of right. But we’re in a very different moment now in 2022 than we were in the 1970s, and that’s really because of the rise of the digital age. With it, as you mentioned in your opening, is that the Internet is our primary pathway for almost everyone, I think, to information, to healthcare to, you know, telehealth appointments. And so there are these huge questions now about how people will access both just information, and then who is going to have access to that data that we are all of us engaging in and creating a footprint for.
Minneapolis, Minnesota - On July 21, 435 Planned Parenthood workers from Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska joined the Service Employees International Union, Healthcare Minnesota and Iowa (SEIU HCMN&IA) in a resounding 90.1% yes vote. 238 workers voted to join the union, and only 26 voted not to. The Planned Parenthood workers began working with organizers at SEIU HCMN&IA in early summer of 2021. Over the next year they built an organizing committee among their coworkers with workers from all five states represented on the committee and wide representation from the 28 locations involved. In May of 2022 they felt they finally had a strong enough organizing committee to move forward and began talking to coworkers and having them sign union cards committing to join the union.
University of Michigan medical students walked out on a speech Sunday by an antiabortion speaker during their “white coat day” to mark the start of medical school. In the weeks before the speech, students petitioned to have the speaker changed. The speaker was Kristin Collier, an assistant professor at the medical school. She has spoken out many times against abortion. “While we support the rights of freedom of speech and religion, an anti-choice speaker as a representative of the University of Michigan undermines the University’s position on abortion and supports the non-universal, theology-rooted platform to restrict abortion access, an essential part of medical care,” said the petition. “This is not simply a disagreement on personal opinion; through our demand we are standing up in solidarity against groups who are trying to take away human rights and restrict medical care.”
On July 1st, Chris Reyes and other forced birth activists posted a flier for a “Babies Lives Matter” event on Saturday, July 9th. About one hundred responded to the call, gathering at the Santa Monica pier, harassing and threatening passersby, and then marching on Planned Parenthood. Those in attendance included Proud Boys and known J6 rioter and violent fascist Tony “Rooftop Korean” Moon. Moon gained prominence after assaulting several women, including a journalist, unprovoked, at a Proud Boys rally in Southern California. He later made stickers of the attack, changing the image of a female journalist to that of an antifascist to bolster his violent image. When the second event on July 16th was announced by the far-Right, antifascists immediately began planning and spreading fliers to defend the clinic that same day.
In the few weeks that have passed since the United States Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade on June 24, stripping abortion rights from millions of women, the people of the United States have continued to fight back. Despite assurances, the response from the Biden administration to protect the fundamental right has been deemed resoundingly inadequate. “The mass of the people will have to flood into the streets, and will have to remain in the streets,” Monica Illyrich, a young organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation, told Peoples Dispatch. “We will have to do everything they can to let these politicians know that they will not be able to quietly and peacefully go on with their lives, trying to jeopardize the lives of so many millions of people.” Illyrich, alongside others, participated in an 18-hour protest in front of the Georgia Judicial Center in Atlanta, from July 4 to 5, in order to protest a pending Georgia abortion ban that would prohibit most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.
In May 2022, a memo was leaked to the media which indicated that the Supreme Court would overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion. Despite the warning, the announcement of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision sent shockwaves across the country. The 6 to 3 conservative majority is doing just what republicans promised they would do if they were given electoral control of the presidency, Senate, and state legislatures. The shock that a 50-year old right has been eliminated produced the expected reactions. There were protests at the homes of justices, at federal courthouses, and at the Supreme Court itself. Curiously, there were no protests planned at the home of Barack Obama, the person who could have acted to protect the Roe decision.
On June 27, The Supreme Court, by a 6-3 Majority took the extreme step of denying an existing constitutional right by overturning Roe V. Wade. This decision to deny women the right to an abortion is an attack on all women, is an attack on all working people The statements below by numerous labor organizations all make that point and all point to the necessity to resist and to organize. The Coalition of Labor Union Women was founded in 1974, the year after Roe v Wade confirmed a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. The CLUW founding mothers believed in a woman’s right to a safe termination of her pregnancy and we still believe every woman has that right.
Since the end of Roe v. Wade, numerous European political leaders have lamented the decision. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson labeled the Dobbs decision a “big step backwards,” and French President Emmanuel Macron said abortion “must be protected,” as his country prepared to place a nationwide right to abortion in its constitution. In response, conservatives have cried hypocrisy, both to deflect criticism and to cast doubt on European institutions in general. “Many of the leaders who criticized the United States for the decision have laws that are either comparable to the Mississippi law at the center of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which outlawed abortion past the 15th week of pregnancy,” Charles Hilu writes at National Review. “Americans should be very skeptical of the opinions of leaders across the pond.”
Between the lack of action around police brutality, the threats to Roe v. Wade, increasing mass shootings, and the ever looming threat of climate catastrophe, desperation and despair have become the emotions of the day. Polling shows most Americans still care about these issues, but they’ve long lost faith in mainstream institutions and their capacity for change. It can be difficult to know how to respond in moments of crisis like these. Besides panicking, one traditional approach is what is called the “ladder of engagement,” which relies on a series of actions that increase in intensity over time to win over supporters and apply pressure to people in power. This usually begins with gathering petition signatures and holding educational events while gradually building the support and capacity to move towards rallies and eventually, though rarely, more confrontational protests like occupations.