The Leak — What it Means for Abortion Rights
by Marcus Otono
The recent leak of a “first draft” of a majority opinion from the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), repealing the Roe v Wade judgment that legalized abortion rights throughout the United States, has caused an explosion of anger and protests nationwide. The Court will deliver its final ruling in late June or early July.
The draft, by notorious right-wing Justice Samuel Alito, stated that the original Roe vs Wade decision in 1973 was “egregiously wrong from the start” and consequently should be overturned, along with the 1992 ruling on Planned Parenthood vs Casey, that endorsed RvW as settled law and precedent. In the USA, such an overturn by the Supreme Court is rare and historic. For more than 50 years, these rulings were based on the Fourteenth Amendment’s right to privacy from governmental interference in personal choices. It would allow many states to pass draconian laws effectively ending a woman’s right to choose whether to continue with a pregnancy.
Half of the US states are expected to outlaw abortion in most, if not all, cases, even where the life of the mother is in danger. In the other half, even if it remains legal, the pressure on clinics and medical providers from out-of-state patients will be immense, creating waiting lists that would prevent women accessing the procedure in time.
The effects of this cruel move by right wing politicians and the all-too-powerful forces of religious bigotry, will hit poor and working-class women and their partners, families and friends particularly hard. Combined with the recent Texas law allowing “interested parties” to sue providers of terminations and gain financially from these lawsuits, this attack will also endanger anyone who assists women seeking an abortion, even in a state where the procedure remains legal. In Texas, a woman has recently been charged with murder for performing an abortion on herself.
Even an Uber driver could be sued for driving someone to get an abortion; husbands could be sued for providing funding if an anti-abortion state allowed lawsuits against them, despite the procedure being carried out in states where it was still legal. Misnamed Right-to-Lifers will do all in their power to outlaw the procedure everywhere. They will also move to outlaw so-called Plan B drugs and IUDs which are also abortion inducing. And any state laws seeking to mitigate or evade this could be overturned by an appeal to the same Supreme Court that overturned Roe vs Wade in the first place.
The leaked SCOTUS decision does not reflect the views of most ordinary Americans. In fact, the last CNN poll showed 69% of the US public were opposed to overturning RvW. This even included 72% of Republican leaning voters. But, in our great democracy, the views of the majority – even when formed against the pressure of the right-wing media, the churches, etc, are systematically thwarted.
Bourgeois “Democracy”- not for the Majority
With gerrymandered legislative districts, massive voter suppression for people of color and the working class and outright authoritarian oppression, all completely legal according to the SCOTUS, the right-wing, as personified by the Republican Party and abetted by the Democrats, a majority of old white men in black robes (and one token woman) can overrule the wishes of almost 70% of the population.
The Democrats are not much better. In his response and call for a federal law to protect abortion rights nationwide, Biden felt compelled to begin by condemning the leak. The second party of US imperialism has had 50 years in which to pass such a law but did nothing at all. It would be much more difficult to get a majority of 535 legislators to repeal a federal abortion law than to change the makeup of a 9 person, unelected body of jurists to do the same thing. Yet they did nothing, preferring to pass the buck to the Supreme Court rather than risking their electability by protecting abortion rights.
They are long on talk about women’s rights, especially when they have no power to affect the outcome but, in the end, it amounts to vote and donate more for Democrats. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s reaction embodies this. “I am angry, upset and determined” she said to a demonstration outside the Court. Her answer? “The United States Congress can keep Roe vs Wade the law of the land – they just need to do it”. She was referring to the Women’s Health Protection Act, which fell in the Senate in March, opposed by every single Republican plus Democratic senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a bitter enemy of every progressive social reform or democratic measure Biden included in his legislative program.
Even the heroes of the “far” left in US politics, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez did not go beyond “vote harder and donate more” by calling for abolition of the filibuster and passing a federal law protecting abortion rights. All well and good as an auxiliary action, of course, but useless given the makeup of the current Congress.They should be addressing millions on the streets rather than making speeches in Congress.
The basis for the original ruling was inferred from the “privacy” provision enshrined in the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. Alito’s draft ruling and the majority’s agreement with it, trashes all rights that have been based on this important amendment. If it is not explicitly stated in the Constitution, it cannot be inferred, is the twisted logic of the current Supreme Court majority. What this means is that any state that wants to pass any law restricting or regulating the private behavior of an individual will be free to do so. Some examples of personal behavior that could be restricted include, but won’t necessarily be limited to, gay marriage, trans rights, interracial marriage, individual sexual practices, gun rights for the oppressed, and a whole host of other behaviors that could be considered “deviant” by the legislatures in various right-wing states.
The right wing and its super rich enablers will do everything they can to roll back any progress made in the advancement of individual rights, all in the service of keeping the white, male supremacist settler state on top. The final arbitrator of these laws will be the court that opened the floodgates to oppression.
What a majority believe is “fair” does not apply when it comes to wielding state power. Majority rule was always a myth, but one that could be sustained in periods when capitalism’s profit rates meant the attacks weren’t too egregious. The veil that protected the myth from scrutiny is being torn and tattered so that the ugly truth of authoritarianism is revealed. The task of revolutionary socialists is to draw the conclusions for US workers; that the goal of a working class democracy and a socialist economy must become the goal of millions.
How to Resist?
Despite the action being planned by the Supreme Court having been flagged up for months, the leak has shocked millions. The big challenge is to turn outrage into action. Waiting for Biden or the Democrats, with their wafer-thin majorities in Congress, or concentrating on the midterms in November, would be fatal.
Only direct action by millions, halting the machinery of government and profit making, ready to face down the courts and the police, can force the judges, the politicians and the police to back down and recognize women’s sovereignty over their own bodies (and that of LGBTQI people) in every state of the Union.
Spontaneous demonstrations have gathered outside the Supreme Court in Washington and in many other cities, but huge mobilizations will be needed, as rapidly as possible, involving not just the women’s movement we saw under Trump, but all progressive forces threatened by this decision.
This means mobilizing the working class in the unions, almost half of whom are women, and reaching out to unorganized workplaces, to take actions that hit the economy. Rolling strikes, workplace sit-ins, informative pickets, and more, all should be under consideration until a federal law is passed that protects a woman’s right to choose what she does with her own body. If possible, the actions should be coordinated on a local, state-wide, regional, and national basis in order to achieve maximum effect.
In the long term, we need a political party that will stand up to the bosses, not only in the legislatures, but also in the streets, workplaces, and communities across the country. We need a political party of the workers and the oppressed and that is definitively not the Democratic Party. They’ve had their chance and, in their slavish devotion to capitalism and the bosses’ state and system, they have proven themselves to be worthless in a literal fight for our lives.
In the short and medium term, socialists need to be on the front lines of any movement to put together an “underground railroad” for bringing abortion seekers to where they can attain the medical care that they need, whether it is another state or another country.
We also need to be on the front lines of militant demonstrations on a continuous basis across the country. This cannot be a “one and done” situation. Making the country “ungovernable” does not mean the liberal idea of going to a demonstration and then on to a champagne brunch. It means daily, weekly, monthly demos and sit ins, workplace occupations that disrupt “business as usual”. It means risking arrest and worse over and over again. It means asking for a jury trial in order to disrupt the court systems and worker tribunals to convict and condemn the worst of the offenders against women and the people.
The Democratic Socialists of America, DSA, as the largest self-described “socialist” group in the USA, should be taking a leading role in all of these actions and not just shilling for the Democratic Party in elections and fund raising.
Unions and DSA locals should coordinate actions to bring unorganized workers into the fight. The eventual goal should be an indefinite general strike until the tyranny of the minority on this issue is overwhelmed and overthrown. This would point the way towards a true, that is, a “workers’ democracy” to be established in the United States.
All of these actions and more will be needed in this fight. Now is not the time to think this ruling doesn’t apply to you. The ramifications of Alito’s draft ruling will eventually apply to everyone, one way or another. The state and political class are against us, and we need to be united in being against them. We need this to be an international movement against capitalism and for the formation of a new Fifth International. Join us in this fight.