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The fight for reproductive justice is a fight for us all

Rally for reproductive justice at Queen's Park May 2019
Carolyn Egan

June 7, 2019

The horror of what is happening in the United States to women and all those seeking control over their bodies and their lives is causing a reaction worldwide. Although it represents a minority of the population, the anti-choice movement is extremely well funded and has been putting pressure on state legislatures to pass bills taking away the most basic rights of those seeking abortions.

As countries like Ireland, that had been dominated by the Catholic Church, break free through strong campaigns overturning restrictive anti-abortion laws, people are horrified by the steps backward by states in the US. The contempt for women and all those who have been struggling against oppression in this exploitative system is obvious. The anger of progressive peoples everywhere has shown itself in demonstrations around the globe.

Where there is a Republican majority, there is a clear strategy by anti-choice forces to have state after state enact anti-abortion laws in the hope of eventually overturning Roe versus Wade at the Supreme Court. The Trump administration is enabling this with its racist, anti-woman, Islamphobic, anti-immigrant policies that have impacted millions.

Alabama is the third-poorest state in the union and has only three abortion clinics. The director of one of them, a Black woman obstetrician/gynecologist Dr. Yashica Robinson, spoke to Democracy Now saying that vulnerable women will be the most affected. Black women and poor white women don’t have the resources to travel out of state and they will be forced to carry to term a pregnancy or seek an illegal abortion, putting themselves at risk of dying or having severe complications.

In the late 1970s, after the Rowe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, the Hyde Amendment was passed which denied the use of Medicaid funding for abortions. The first who died was Rosie Jimenez, a young Latina woman from Texas, who went to an illegal abortionist and developed septicemia.

A chant that was often used in Canada was, “Campaign Life Your Name’s a Lie, You Don’t Care If Women Die”. That is the reality. The most recent statistics show that 47,000 deaths occur worldwide each year due to illegal abortions.

The reproductive justice movement in this country has made it clear in its organizing that to have real choices we must have childcare, decent jobs, affordable housing, birth control available in our own communities and our own languages, an end to forced or coerced sterilization, an end to racial and gender harassment, and of course full access to free abortion.

The trade union movement has historically worked along side the women’s movement to fight for reproductive justice and it must come out strongly in the United States against these retrogressive steps attempting to roll back all the gains that we have made. These measures are racist and class biased and must be stopped.

We also have to do all we can to protect reproductive freedom in this country. An anti-choice premier, Jason Kenney, has been elected in Alberta. New Brunswick will not pay for abortions at the only clinic in the province. Hospital amalgamations and reduction in service all affect access. Attacks on public health will cut funding to sexual health clinics that provide both birth control and abortion referrals without requiring a health card. Our gains are fragile as well and we must maintain a broad-based movement to protect what we have and go on to win greatly needed improvements so that everyone has full access to the all services they require.

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