NEW YORK: The New York-New Jersey branch of AF3IRM resolutely opposes the decision by the Supreme Court to reverse the Roe v. Wade decision. The right to decide whether to be pregnant or not is pivotal to reproductive justice and the fundamental right to bodily integrity. Womankind has resisted this control of her uterus since gender roles were defined by class society, resorting to even riskier means of terminating an unwanted pregnancy. Roe v. Wade did not allow abortion, which had long been practiced; what it allowed were safe abortions in deference to the health concerns of the female of the species. And it came after 152 years from the first law banning abortions in the US for the justice system to catch up with women’s health concerns. Moreover, it took three years for the Supreme Court to take up and resolve this case. This issue was not decided on the spur of the moment but was the outcome of women’s long and sustained struggle to own their bodies, of which the right to be pregnant or not has been a major component since 1800 BC, when Egyptians created the first contraceptive diaphragm.
Roe v. Wade was not simply about abortion; it was also a direct challenge to the criminal, racist, and misogynist judicial atmosphere of the state of Texas. Wade was the state’s district attorney at a time when the prevailing principle was “convict at all costs.” So flawed was the judicial process over which DA Wade presided that thus far, 15 people convicted by this system have been exonerated since, with 200 more cases under review by Project Innocence. It was no mean feat for Roe (Norma McCorvey) to take on the Texas legal system which had illegalized abortion.
The review of Roe v. Wade comes at a time of a similar surge of racism, sexism, and classism. On the one hand, there is the coordinated push to legalize prostitution and the rest of the sex trade as simply “work,” to redact trafficking to a matter of “choice,” and to view capital’s sexual assault on the female, the young, the vulnerable, the poor, and the powerless as par for the course of profit-making. Indeed, then as now, laws depriving women of control over their bodies can be linked to capital’s need for labor and surplus labor. In 1821, when Connecticut passed the first abortion ban, the US was headed for its first banking and financial crisis, and the westward population movement was depleting the East Coast of labor. Today, with one million dead from and 83.9 million cases of Covid and a labor force reluctant to continue accepting the intolerable work conditions of capitalism, women are being positioned as breeders, whether they like it or not, in a redo of 1821.
Abortion is illegalized and criminalized, ostensibly out of “concern for the unborn” — an assertion rendered hypocritical by Authority’s refusal to deal with the epidemic of mass shootings in schools. Texas, where 19 children, ages 10–11, the majority of them girls, were murdered, cut its mental health budget a month before closing down reproductive service clinics. Moreover, the country as a whole has paid little attention to the fact that the number one health hazard for a pregnant woman is homicide and that 3.5 women are killed on the average per day in an enduring femicide, Add to that the cost of childbirth in the US is from a low of $5000 to as much as $30,000; that the average child care cost is $14,117 annually, rising 41% during the pandemic. These amounts cannot be met by the paltry federal minimum wage of $7.50.
So no, we do not see this reversal of Roe v. Wade as any indication of “concern.” We view it as yet another brutal attempt to wrest control of the female body from its owner, in subservience to the profit-maximization schemes of patriarchal capitalism, and to further enshrine the legacy of Virginia’s slave breeding farms.
As the organization of transnational women dedicated to the relentless fight for women’s rights and freedoms, AF3IRM is committed to the principle of reproductive justice — which encompasses the right to have or not have a child, as well as the right to raise a child safely and with all the services needed for the child’s health. AF3IRM is also committed to the principle of bodily integrity — which encompasses self-ownership, personal autonomy, and the right to decide on the good of one’s physical health and well-being.
In place, therefore, of the contemplated forcible pregnancy and birth and unwanted children, which would be the inevitable consequences of the restriction of abortion rights, AF3IRM NY-NJ demands that:
*Total respect for bodily integrity, including the right to decide when to be pregnant, the right not to be bought and sold, the right to be free from violence and threats to life, and the right to health care and child care;
* Sufficient support system for the care and nurture of children;
*Stringent regulation of gun ownership, especially assault weapons;
*Just wage and working conditions; and equal job opportunities;
*Responsible gender equity in the creation and raising of children.
These are but logical and sane demands. These are “doable” practical demands which for many developed societies in the world, are already operational. We must muster the political will to root child-bearing and child-rearing in reason, so that no child is ever unwanted, deprived, or deemed disposable by anyone.
We call on all women to speak up now, so no woman will cry over this issue a hundred years hence.
No liberation without bodily integrity; no liberation without women’s liberation.