Welcome to the latest Women’s March, scheduled for Oct. 2, also in D.C., and in 588 other cities nationwide. Only this time the objective will be support for reproductive choice and against Texas’s abortion ban—and the GOP-named U.S. Supreme Court majority—not Trump. He’s not in the White House any more.
The marches will occur everywhere from Miami to Fairbanks, where Planned Parenthood, a march co-sponsor, is alerting Alaskans their legislature’s GOP wants to write an abortion ban into the state constitution. Same story, it said, in 48 other states.
Local marches are posted on the Women’s March website.
“This year, the Supreme Court reconvenes on October 4 and will be hearing a case on a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi,” Planned Parenthood explained. “With the addition of three new conservative justices it is possible the court will overturn all or parts of Roe v Wade and eliminate access to safe and legal abortion for millions across the country.”
Putting rights in danger
Their point: The misogynist, right-wing-male-led radical right and Republicans as a whole are putting reproductive rights—and the potential for true equality that goes with them—in danger.
The Texas law, enacted by an overwhelmingly Republican legislature, signed May 18 by radical right GOP Gov. Greg Abbott and allowed to stand—on a 5-4 vote—by the High Court, criminalizes a woman’s right to choice in almost all circumstances. It’s even worse than Mississippi’s statute.
No abortions if you can detect a fetal heartbeat, Texas declares. That heartbeat can often be heard as soon as six weeks into a pregnancy, a time when many women haven’t even realized they’re pregnant.
And Texas puts enforcement in the hands of self-appointed vigilantes who, for $10,000 bounties, could repress women, doctors, and anyone else who participates in a woman’s reproductive choice in any way.
That means not only the Texas woman who seeks an abortion is in danger from the “enforcers,” but so is her doctor…and the driver of the car or cab who brought her to a clinic…and the nurse who checks her in…and the allies who defend her…and others.
The result? Little to no abortion services available in Texas, the second most-populous state in the U.S.
Fearful Texan women who need reproductive healthcare are ringing phones off the hook, and driving hundreds of miles, to clinics in Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Louisiana.
And before the justices declined to strike down the Texas law—at least for now—they set a Dec. 1 hearing on Mississippi’s ban. Backers of reproductive rights, including several unions and the U.S. House’s Democratic majority, have already filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the justices, backing reproductive rights and opposing Mississippi.
No wonder Women’s March Executive Director Rachel O’Leary Carmona tweeted on Sept. 28: “We #RallyForAbortionJustice on Saturday, but the fight doesn’t end there. There’s no freedom without access. That’s why abortion justice can’t wait.”
In the weeks since the high court majority upheld the Texas law, women and their backers haven’t been silent. Democratic President Joe Biden’s Justice Department announced it would sue Texas for violating a woman’s right to choice.
And the Democratic-run U.S. House passed, on a virtual party-line vote, 218-211, the Women’s Health Protection Act (HR3755) writing Roe v Wade, the original Supreme Court ruling for reproductive choice, into law.
Only one Democrat, Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, joined all 210 voting Republicans in voting “no.” Two female Republicans, Wyoming’s Liz Cheney and Arizonan Debbie Lesko, were absent, along with Florida Democrat Al Lawson.
The Texas law “is shameful in every way to our country and what we are about,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., a strong and long reproductive choice supporter, told a press conference after HR3755 passed. Democratic President Joe Biden supports the measure.
Waited a long time
“Many of us have waited a long time to be able to pass Roe v. Wade into the law of the land, as it has guaranteed the constitutional right of women to choose, but now it will be the law of the land, codified,” said Pelosi. That’s because a pro-choice president, Biden, sits in the White House, other backers said.
“This is so exciting” but “our inside maneuvering can just get us so far,” Pelosi warned. “It’s the outside mobilization of so many families, women across the country, to speak out for respect, for dignity, for them to make their own decisions about the size and timing of their families.
“Let’s hear it for the mobilization,” she declared.
Planned Parenthood CEO Alexis McGill Johnson had choice words for the High Court majority, too.
“They embraced vigilante activities, dangerous to women’s health in the substance, dangerous to our communities,” she said. “The encouragement they gave to something so un-American…What were they thinking? Or were they thinking? Or were they just rubberstamping what they were sent to the court to do, which is to harm the health and well-being of America’s women? It’s a sign of such great disrespect,” Johnson said.
So did dissenting Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
“The court’s order is stunning,” she wrote. “Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.”
Biden’s Justice Department plans to crack down on the vigilantes Texas legalized, while it pursues other legal options to overturn the Texas law, Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Sept. 6.
“We will not tolerate violence against those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services, physical obstruction or property damage in violation of the FACE (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances) Act,” a 1994 law protecting clinics and their customers from anti-abortion zealots.
“The FACE Act prohibits the use or threat of force and physical obstruction that injures, intimidates, or interferes with a person seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services. It also prohibits intentional property damage of a facility providing reproductive health services. The department has consistently obtained criminal and civil remedies for violations of the FACE Act… and it will continue to do so now.”
The marchers may believe Biden, but they don’t trust state legislatures, or the Supreme Court.
“Abortion has been the law of the land for almost half a century—but Republicans across the country and the Trump Supreme Court are eagerly throwing away precedent to police and politicize our bodies instead. We can’t let that happen,” Carmona said in an e-mail to supporters.
“So we’re calling on everyone who cares about reproductive freedom to start acting with the urgency this moment demands, and join us in the streets on October 2nd to show our power and demand our rights not be trampled on.”
Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.