These are the ways in which we can fight for our right to choose





The Big Story

How do you strip away cherished rights? The best strategy is incrementally and undramatically, a death of a thousand cuts. That’s how Republicans were hacking at voting rights until recently, when the rest of us woke up and began to pay attention to the cumulative impact of voter ID laws, the shuttering of polling places, restrictions on voting by mail, and all the rest. Reproductive rights have been under attack for more than 30 years – by rightwing terrorism against abortion providers all through the 1990s and as recently as 2015 in Colorado Springs, but also by a sort of attrition, narrowing down access by shutting clinics, limiting how many weeks pregnant you can be, and other such measures. Overturning Roe v Wade upends all this stealth and incrementalism. Judging by the reaction, it may be exactly the kind of overstep that leads to a backlash. After all, the great majority of Americans support the right to choose. There are many kinds of actions to take in response to this likely overturning of a fundamental right to bodily self-determination and privacy. (And it’s bitterly amusing that a court that wants to set policies reaching into the uteruses of people across the country apparently feels violated by having its own internal workings exposed with this leaked draft opinion.) Direct support for the poor and unfree people who will be the most affected is already under way – and by unfree I mean those who are under the domination of a hostile partner, family, church or community. People have organised to offer travel to clinics for those far from them, access to abortion pills, and other forms of support. But by backlash I mean and am hoping for the kind of backlash Trump’s election and subsequent outrages provoked, the 2018 election that swept the Squad and many other progressives into office and took back the House of Representatives. A Democratic majority in both houses could make abortion a right by law, and it’s worth remembering that Mexico, Ireland and Argentina are among the countries that recently did so. What is striking this time around in the US both about the rightwing agenda and the response is that it is broad enough to build powerful coalitions. The human rights activism of the 1990s was siloed: though the same voters and politicians might support LGBTQ rights and reproductive rights and racial justice, largely separate campaigns were built around each of them, and the common denominators were seldom articulated. This time around – well, as I wrote when the news broke: “First they came for the reproductive rights (Roe v Wade, 1973) and it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a uterus in its ovulatory years, because then they want to come for the marriage rights of same-sex couples (Obergefell v Hodges, 2015), and then the rights of consenting adults of the same gender to have sex with each other (Lawrence v Texas, 2003), and then for the right to birth control (Griswold v Connecticut, 1965). It doesn’t really matter if they’re coming for you, because they’re coming for us.” “Us” these days means pretty much everyone who’s not a straight white Christian man with rightwing politics. They’re building a broad constituency of opposition, and it is up to us to make that their fatal mistake. It’s all connected. If Texas wasn’t suppressing voting rights so effectively, rightwing politicians might not be running the state. If non-Republican turnout can overcome the restrictions, Texas itself – now leading the attacks on abortion rights and trans rights – could elect Beto O’Rourke governor in November and turn Texas Democratic. O’Rourke tweeted today: “If they want states to decide, then we must elect a governor who will protect a woman’s right to abortion.” The right knows that it represents a shrinking minority as Americans as a whole become more progressive and as the country becomes increasingly non-white. They have made a desperate gamble – to rule via minority power, for the benefit of the few, which is why voter suppression is so crucial a part of their agenda. It cannot be a winning strategy in the long run. But in the short run it can perpetrate immense damage to too many lives and to the climate itself. The revelations should strengthen our resolve to resist by remembering our power and strengthening our alliances, winning elections, and keeping eyes on the prize •