Yet another unprecedented bombshell has rocked the already polarized world of American politics and class struggle. In a leaked internal memo drafted by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, the majority of that reactionary body outlines its case for the judicial overturn of Roe v. Wade, the historic 1973 decision that ruled that the US Constitution protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction. Now, as part of the cynical maneuvering by a segment of the ruling class to divert the class war into the so-called “culture war,” what should be a fundamental democratic right is to be unceremoniously trashed.
Alito’s argument is simple. Since the question of abortion is not explicitly enumerated as a federal power in the Constitution, it is a states’ rights issue. Roe v. Wade is, therefore, “egregious,” “exceptionally weak,” and above all, unconstitutional, regardless of the Justices’ personal views for or against abortion. So much for legal precedent!
The fact that such a closely guarded opinion was leaked by persons unknown is a graphic expression of the deep divisions at the cupola of society, as the ruling class tears itself apart searching for a way to square the circle of their system’s inherent contradictions. This is a sign of weakness, not of strength by the defenders of the capitalist status quo. But it doesn’t change the fact that virtually overnight, tens of millions of women living in a majority of US states would be thrust into the barbarism of an earlier century.
Without federal protection of this basic right, pregnant women who choose to have an abortion will be forced to rely on unsafe and unregulated providers, risking their lives, savings, and livelihoods to access the procedure. Of course, wealthy women can find a way to terminate a pregnancy, traveling out of state or out of the country as needed to pay for high-quality private doctors. But for poor and working-class women, it is another story altogether. This is the grim reality faced by billions of women worldwide. But even in the richest country on earth, the forces of capitalist reaction threaten to drag society into a dark age.
So while this is a particularly egregious attack against working-class women, it is fundamentally an attack on all workers and all basic rights. Absolutely nothing is guaranteed to the working-class majority if we leave our fate in the hands of the enemy class. It is time to draw some hard lessons and to get back to the basic premise of the labor movement—an injury to one is an injury to all!
Despite their posturing on the question of women’s rights, the Democrats have played a pernicious role in allowing the rolling back of abortion rights and access over the last few decades. For example, in 1973 Biden said he did not believe that “a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.” And in 1977, he used his political weight to block federal funding of abortions specifically in cases of rape and incest. During their election campaigns, both Obama and Biden made promises that they would sign the right to abortion into law—but failed to deliver even with the Democrats controlling the House, the Senate, and the White House.
After decades of “playing by the rules,” it should be crystal clear that the game was rigged from the beginning. That Roe is even in danger of being overturned should blow apart any illusions in the Supreme Court, the Constitution, the Democrats, and the entire structure of American bourgeois democracy. These are the institutions of an exploiting and oppressing class whose interests are diametrically opposed to the workers’. This is the result of relying on bourgeois legality instead of class struggle. This is the fruit of “lesser evilism” and class collaboration. The answer isn’t to fight for “less” evil for the working class, but to put an end to all the evils of class society! The way forward is not through collaboration between the classes, but through class independence and the formation of a mass workers’ party.
The right to choose what one does to one’s body is a basic democratic right. In that sense, we defend Roe v. Wade. But such a right should not hinge on unelected justices, courts, and other officials, or on the subjective, changing interpretation of a document drafted over 200 years ago by rich, male, white property owners to accommodate a minority of slave owners. Furthermore, we want more than the “right” to an abortion. The “right” to drive 12 hours to the nearest abortion provider to pay for an expensive procedure after losing wages or even your job is not a real “right.” This is why the IMT fights not only for full reproductive rights up to and including abortion, but for universal access to such services if chosen, in safe conditions, in hospitals, free at the point of service as part of a national, socialized health care system.
Should we hit the streets in protest and give vent to our anger? Should the labor leaders mobilize their members to support our class sisters who are under attack? Unequivocally, yes. But protesting will not be enough. Rights are ultimately only as good as the paper they are printed on unless they are backed up by force—in this case, by the mobilized working class fighting for political and economic power. If they were really serious about defending their members and the rest of the working class, the labor leaders would call a general strike and put all their resources on the line to make it a reality. Unfortunately, this is not about to happen anytime soon. Nonetheless, it is the perspective we must fight for.
News of the Supreme Court’s majority position is a stark wake up call for all workers. This is the “new normal” of life under capitalism—in reality, a return to the “old normal”—compounded by the convulsions of a terminally ill system that can temporarily counter its downward slide only by clawing back all gains won by past working-class struggle. So yes, we must protest, but above all, we should prepare for class struggle, class war, and socialist revolution. The road will not be easy, but there is no greater cause—and there is no alternative.