Working women must combat the abortion ban through vigorous class struggle
As imperialism enters a severe crisis, the bourgeoisie uses the coronavirus pandemic as a diversion and method to control the population with fear. Additionally, emboldened right-wing politicians in Texas and other states are exploiting this crisis to attack women’s rights.
In the face of falling profit the imperialist ruling class make working class women their sacrificial lambs. Class society deems women’s labor as non-essential– anything women can do, men can do better. It was shockingly easy to cut major sections of the service industry, which is majority women, in one fell swoop. Meanwhile, other sectors that are majority women, like healthcare workers, are suddenly facing elevated danger and exploitation which is presented as civic duty.
Since our labor is undervalued, our rights are as well. In an economic crisis, reproductive care is an easy target, portrayed as frivolous and expensive. Intensified right-wing attacks against abortion rights are an opportunistic maneuver to force women out of productive labor and back into domestic work. The ruling class knows that as proletarians, women are a force ready to organize for revolution, but as housewives, they are isolated, dependent, and disenfranchised.
The bourgeoisie in Texas is mistaken that we will accept the destruction of our democratic rights quietly and dutifully. Working class women are angry, ready to fight, and not in the least bit scared of a hyped-up health crisis. We know the pandering of non-profits will change nothing. The only way to stop politicians like Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton from stripping us of autonomy is to make sure they are too terrified of us to do so. We must take to the streets and let them know we are going to fight them, not just for abortion rights and wages, but for the power to destroy class society once and for all.
Updated Summary of the Legal Situation
Amidst ruling class-fueled panic surrounding COVID-19, politicians in Texas and Ohio opportunistically used the situation to ban abortions. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ordered increased restrictions against abortion on March 23, stating that abortions could not be performed unless the mother’s life is in danger until April 21. This triggered a legal back and forth between the Texas government and pro-choice Non-Governmental Advocacy organizations such as the Center for Reproductive Rights, who file lawsuits against anti-choice politicians and governments. For the past month, abortion services have been paused four times due to the legal back and forth.
The governor’s order expired on Wednesday, April 22nd. After which Paxton issued a second executive order which allows more medical procedures to resume as long as the facilities reserve a certain percentage of hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients and do not request any personal protective equipment from public sources. In the new executive order he stated every plaintiff facility in the lawsuit met the standards of resuming abortions. Of course, abortion meet all the requirements, abortions have never limited the resources of the grossly mismanaged ruling class health care system, that was never the main issue.
Working women already struggle to obtain abortions in Texas. Almost all procedures occur in independent clinics in large cities, making time off to travel and lost wages another challenge. Women are forced to undergo mandatory sonograms and waiting periods, which are medically unnecessary requirements to make the process longer, more expensive, and more inconvenient. Delaying an abortion by weeks can push the ability to access the procedure outside the legal window of already restrictive laws, which in Texas places a limit on most procedures after 20 weeks.
The legal battle of the past month was not any different when other abortion restrictions are passed in Texas– all challenges languish in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals– a reactionary federal court hostile to abortion rights.
Politicians like Abbott and Paxton succeeded in utilizing the opportunity presented by the economic crisis to further attack the rights of working women. While thousands of people in Texas have lost work due to public gathering limitations and business closures, these politicians used the frenzy to appeal to their reactionary base by restricting abortion rights.
Criticism of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that advocate for pro-choice politicians and provide social services to help pay for abortion procedures denounced the move by Abbott and Paxton but have done nothing but make empty appeals to their supporters to donate and vote for politicians who might one day enact laws to loosen abortion restrictions. The same NGOs have endorsed the government’s call for social distancing, and pushed women who are angry about the abortion ban to call the office of the Governor; as if simply making appeals to him would be enough to change his mind. Why would working women have any confidence in NGOs, when their staff won’t even leave their living rooms except for their own essential needs?
Chauvinists like Abbott and Paxton are able to use the imperialist economic crisis and the healthcare crisis to accelerate their attacks on working class women. If women want to end the repression by these reactionaries, they must fight the ruling class demands to isolate and instead organize resistance to the backward trajectory of US society, relying on unity with their class to fight for socialist revolution.
The Cultural Enforcement of Women’s Oppression
The private family is sacrosanct and reinforced everywhere in capitalist society—religion, laws, tax policies, popular media, advertising, and more. The role of mother and wife is the defining characteristic in most women’s lives and they are expected to do away with or mold every other part of themselves to serve these roles. Of course, it is good and natural to care for those closest to us—partners, children, siblings, grandparents–but class society reduces the private family to a black hole of self-interest. Everything else in society, everyone else’s well-being, comes secondary to one’s own immediate family.
The bourgeoisie encourages a deep hatred for sexual and bodily autonomy of women, autonomy that hinders their exploitation of women. The cultural propagation of misogyny and bourgeois anti-masses sentiment guarantees that at any given point there will be right-wing support for criminalizing abortion. As the imperialist crisis deepens, the exploited working class craves revolution and the ruling class produces both proto-fascism and phony socialism as false prophets of change. Backward sections of the masses will be drawn further to the right and the call to return to “traditional family values” becomes louder.
The Private Family and Women’s Oppression
The fundamental cause of this oppression of women is not religious zealotry or traditional family values. Women’s oppression and the private family were originally rooted in ruling class families’ need to produce heirs to perpetuate their families’ ownership of accumulated property. The accumulation of significant capital ultimately relies on the ability to pass wealth from one generation to the next. Inheritance laws and practices generally depend on a man taking a wife, producing children through her, and being reasonably confident that his offspring and his alone will receive his wealth. Class society developed because once men controlled women, they were able to identify which babies were theirs, and then make sure those babies (and those babies alone) received their wealth. Those babies grew up and were able to exponentially expand their fathers’ wealth and become part of the ruling class of that era.
Defining women primarily as mothers and forcing the role of caregiver onto them is an effective way of controlling and limiting their independence and influence outside of the home, and reduces their lives to producing and raising heirs inculcated with bourgeois values, thus handily continuing the cycle of wealth accumulation. The whole system began when the prehistoric pioneers of private property discovered a competitive edge by imposing monogamy on women through aggressively controlling their faithfulness and reproduction, and imposing many other forms of oppression, from the subtle to the brutal.
Capitalists use pregnancy and motherhood against working women to extract even more profit from their labor. Single mothers, desperate to provide for their children, make excellent low-wage workers. Bosses especially prey upon mothers with children under one-year-old. These women are made to feel easily replaceable and a burden because they are unable to work long hours or because they must miss shifts if they can’t find childcare. Often, women with babies under one-year-old are unable to work full-time. Jobs that come with full-time benefits are already difficult to attain for most working women, but young mothers are especially excluded from the very benefits that would help stabilize their lives.
What does this mean for the fight against women’s oppression?
The private family structure does not fundamentally benefit the vast majority of people, but only perpetuates our oppression by propping up the exploitative system of capitalism. The only way to effectively combat women’s oppression is to join the international struggle against capitalism and imperialism.
Revolutionaries know that the fight against institutional sexism and against other manifestations of women’s oppression requires a people’s war that is only won by defeating the ruling class. Even after the working class defeats capitalism and replaces it with socialism, women must continue the fight against bourgeois ideas. The cultural enforcement of women’s oppression will not just fade away without continued revolution under the rule of the working class. Working class women must militarize ourselves so we can conquer real power to use against those who would exploit us and our bodies. We must be our own advocates and become staunch enemies of class society and the misogyny that accompanies it. Organizing with oppressed and exploited women will transform all that we touch into powerful weapons. Together we can defeat the politicians who think they can remove our democratic rights.
The reality is that women must transform ourselves into warriors for women’s emancipation and vindication, joining the working class and people oppressed by imperialism in their fight around the world. No great change has ever been accomplished without vigorous struggle. We will not truly be free until the proletariat has seized power and destroyed the bourgeois class. Working women must educate ourselves in the history of class struggle and become a part of a historical trend of fighting for a better world.