Tens of thousands marched for women’s right to choose abortion Oct. 2 in some 660 demonstrations in cities and towns, large and small, across the U.S. and some internationally. The rallies were called by Women’s March, and coordinated with more than 100 organizations, including Planned Parenthood, NOW and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice.
They took place on the eve of the fall term of the U.S. Supreme Court, when it will hear arguments on cases challenging the constitutionality of abortion. Roe v. Wade, passed by the high court in 1973, legalized abortion until fetal viability, then considered around the 24th week of pregnancy.
Thousands attended the protest at the Supreme Court Building in Washington, carrying homemade signs and chanting, “Abortion is health care!” Then they marched down Pennsylvania Avenue chanting, “My body! My choice!” In New York protesters marched across the Brooklyn Bridge joining an action of thousands in Manhattan, and many more rallied in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.
In Texas where a new so-called heartbeat anti-abortion law came into effect Sept. 1 that restricts abortion to the sixth week of pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant, large demonstrations were organized in Houston, Dallas and Austin, and in smaller towns around the state. Marchers spanned generations. In Dallas, 74-year-old Vivi Sooy, who came with her friends, said, “We are so happy to see so many young people here, really.”
“There were over 100 abortion clinics in Pennsylvania when Roe became the law. We have less than 20 now across the entire state,” Signe Espinoza, interim director for Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania, told a rally of over 1,000 in Philadelphia.
Patricia Khan, a registered nurse, talked about working in a hospital emergency room before abortion became legal and treating women who died from botched procedures. “I’m here today because this should never, ever, ever happen again,” she said.
Lori Hoag and her daughter Jessica came from Berks County. “We have to be more willing to debate, to express our opinion and stand up for it,” said Jessica. Lori told the Militant, “There is a lack of leadership in the fight for abortion rights,” noting she didn’t see any trade union banners at the event.
‘We need more actions like this’
At City Hall in Jersey City, New Jersey, 16-year-old student Aleyna Kilic and her classmates at McNair Academy organized a rally of 150. “We need more actions like this. The more people who are in the streets, the more we show the support that exists for choice,” said Kilic. “Of course, some classmates disagree. They remain to be convinced that it’s about the right to choose, about women’s safety.”
Joanne Kuniansky, Socialist Workers Party candidate for governor of New Jersey, spoke at the rally. “A woman’s decision about when or if to have children must be a private, personal decision — not the decision of a legislature or court!” she said. “This right is fundamental to winning full social, economic and political equality, uniting the working class and building our unions.”
Signs carried by some demonstrators at protests around the country, and speakers at the rallies, said the road forward for abortion rights supporters is to vote for Democratic Party candidates.
“Our rights were chipped away no matter which of the bosses’ parties — Democrats or Republicans — were in the White House,” Kuniansky said. “Without the fight for women’s equality the solidarity the working class needs to fight the bosses and to wage a revolutionary struggle to take political power out of the hands of the capitalist class is impossible.”
After decades of protests that changed the outlook of working people, in 2018 in Ireland a referendum victory ended the longstanding ban on abortions. Protests took place Oct. 2 in both Dublin and Belfast, as well as in London.
In Dublin, demonstrators carried signs reading, “Dublin to Dallas.” Ailbhe Smyth, one of the leaders of the 2018 abortion rights campaign there, told the crowd, “We understand your struggle. We know your fight. We are here to do whatever we can. We have been through it and we do not want it to happen again.”
The nonstop and all too often unanswered propaganda campaign against women’s right to choose has had an impact on the consciousness of working people. Millions of workers today are convinced life begins at conception, even if they do not support all restrictions on abortion.
“We need to fight for the right of all women to family planning services, including safe and secure birth control and abortion, essential for winning women’s emancipation,” Kuniansky told the New Jersey action. “The only way to stop the assaults on our right to choose whether or not to have an abortion is to fight to win the support of the vast majority of working people.”
The latest Pew poll shows 58% favor a woman’s right to abortion, among both women and men, across all age groups.