By Peg Strobel
Socialist feminists know that women deserve free abortion on demand, a full range of reproductive health care and family services and an economic system allowing for full employment and compensation for caring for the elderly and young. “Reproductive justice” is a concept that moves beyond the notions of “choice” and “rights.” It links the calls for reproductive choice (a woman’s right to control her own body) to the broader issues of economic justice and human rights (creating conditions that enable people to have children, not only to not have them). Access to abortion is one small, but critical, part of reproductive justice.
Although many of the legal barriers that anti-abortion legislators have enacted can only be addressed by long-term political organizing, supporters of reproductive justice can help women in need who lack the money to get an abortion. Realizing that we lack the political power to ensure the provision of abortion and other reproductive and family support services as a universal public good, DSA is supporting the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF), a coalition of groups that raise money to provide abortions for low-income women, by encouraging DSA and YDS members to bowl, or sponsor other bowlers, in April.
NNAF annually sponsors Bowl-A-Thons in the month of April. These events are open to sisters and brothers alike; they’re a great way to engage in solidarity work.
The NNAF makes it easy to participate in a Bowl-A-Thon. Their Bowl-A-Thon website (http://bowlathon.nnaf.org/nnafbowl/findevent.asp) lists cities where NNAF events are happening in April. If no Bowl-A-Thon is scheduled for your city, just organize a team to go to your local bowling alley and participate virtually in April. You might be able to get an ally feminist organization to field their own team, so you can make it even more fun AND build a relationship with a feminist group in your community. You can sign up the “virtual” team with the NNAF (at the bottom of the list of cities).
Anti-abortion activists have succeeded in drastically limiting access to abortion, particularly for poor and low-income women, young women and women in rural areas. For example, the Hyde Amendment, a rider attached to Congressional budget bills annually since 1976, limits the use of federal funds for abortions. The U.S. foreign aid policies are affected by such legislation as well, much to the detriment of women’s health initiatives world-wide.
Although abortion has been legal in the U.S., under some conditions, in the 40 years since the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, conservative forces have chipped away at access to abortion by passing laws at the federal, state and local levels. In 2013, The Daily Beast created an interactive map that in chilling detail tracks the locations of the 724 sites that currently offer abortions. It also notes the restrictions placed on abortions at those clinics.
State and local governments now severely limit access to abortion and women’s health care. Legislation that makes getting an abortion a lengthier and more complicated process especially harms women with limited financial resources. For example, a woman who must travel hundreds of miles to a clinic and then wait 24 or more hours between receiving counseling and receiving her abortion incurs expenses in travel, motel and, often, child care for children back home. And she must take additional time off work.
Since 2011, when Republicans took over many state legislatures and governorships, restrictions have grown. According to the Guttmacher Institute, which addresses sexual and reproductive health research, policy and advocacy, more anti-abortion legislation was passed in the 2011-12 period than in any previous two-year period (19 states, 43 restrictions). Guttmacher Institute also has produced an overview of state abortion laws as of February 1, 2014. Some state and local governments have limited access by requiring that clinics that offer abortions comply with the more stringent hospital building regulations instead of the regulations that affect all other medical clinics. Failure to comply will lead to clinic closure. Other legislation requires that doctors who do abortions have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Doctors who provide services from out of town find it difficult to get privileges. Also, in areas where there are substantial protests, hospitals do not want to make themselves a target and will not give privileges to abortion providers. Forty years after Roe v. Wade, 87% of U.S. counties do not have someone who provides abortion. Many states have only one clinic, and the abortion provider is an out-of-state doctor who flies in one or two days per week. And, at the outer reaches are the terrorists who assassinate providers and bomb clinics.
In light of this situation, we have much work to do. But it can begin with a small step: bowling.
Register, RSVP, and join us on the DSA website. http://www.dsausa.org/bowl2014
Peg Strobel is a member of DSA’s National Political Committee and co-chairs DSA’s Feminist Team.
Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership.