Today marks the 49th anniversary of the landmark 1973 decision that legalized nationwide access to abortion. If this year feels different, that is because Roe is under serious threat of being overturned, with a Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of a ban on abortion after 15 weeks expected in June. How far the right-wing court will go in this specific case is uncertain, but Roe will likely be further weakened beyond any practical application for individuals living in Mississippi today. The immediate effect could see as many as 25 other states issue similar or more restrictive abortion laws. Those most impacted by this potentially disastrous decision will be disproportionately Black and Brown in the southern United States, and Indigenous in western states. The strategy so far by non-profits and other groups affiliated with the Democratic party to protect Roe, which has largely relied on institutions like the courts to preserve this most basic and essential civil right, has left us in this perilous moment.
Since the Texas SB8 law passed last summer, left-wing activists and supporters of abortion rights who have been vocal for years about Roe’s long-term instability have started to find a larger audience who recognizes the need to mobilize on a much larger scale to protect abortion rights. In the last four and half months, Tempest has provided extensive coverage from the Left assessing the political terrain and how activists are starting to put an alternative, bottom-up defense of abortion rights into practice.
In mid-September, just weeks after the Supreme Court’s refusal to block the vigilante Texas law from taking effect, and weeks before a major organized protest by the national Womens’ March, Tempest co-sponsored a New York City protest with local activist groups, including NYC for Abortion Rights. Later that month, Tempest hosted an event on the legacy of abortion activism with Dana Cloud, a Tempest Collective member and abortion activist, Megan Lessard from NYC for Abortion Rights, and Lluvia (“Rayito”) del Rayo Rocha Perez, an activist for abortion rights in Mexico, where the federal court had just decriminalized abortion rights under pressure from Mexican activists.
In conjunction with this larger protest, a founding member of the group Chicago for Abortion Rights and new mom Moira Geary made the socialist case for abortion rights, arguing that it is not enough for us to be pro-choice, but necessary that we be pro-abortion in our politics. The mass protests that followed on October 1, just days before the start of a new term for the Supreme Court, came without much representation from the Left, primarily over disagreements with the organizers of the national protest and additional conflicts with local organizers in their immediate cities and towns. An opportunity to meet and win over sympathetic supporters to the Left’s position on abortion rights and strategy was missed. Tempest Collective members Emma Wilde Botta and Natalia Tylim shared their thoughts about this strategic debate in their article a few days after the Womens’ March.
We followed up with an article in November, with help from Tempest Collective members throughout the country, providing local reports on the activism taking shape in New York, Chicago, Austin, Long Beach, and Burlington. A reader of Tempest and a member of Chicago for Abortion Rights, Linda Loew, alerted us to a series of local protests that would be happening in her hometown of Chicago, Washington D.C., and Mississippi on December 1 as the Supreme Court heard opening arguments in the Mississippi case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This is the case that political observers of the court expect could deliver Roe a significant or catastrophic setback.
Tempest is proud to offer our full support as a co-sponsor of an online event Defend Roe! No Abortion Bans! Defend & Extend Abortion Access! being held by Chicago for Abortion Rights, Chicago Now, Chicago Abortion Fund, and Haymarket Books on Monday, January 24 at 6 pm EST. You can register for the event here. It will also be recorded.
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