Roe v. Wade becomes State v. People

On May 3, leaked documents indicated that the Supreme Court of the United States is preparing to strike down Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision which guaranteed abortion rights for women. In doing so, the state (through the court) has launched an attack against women that is a massive salvo in its overall war against social, economic, civil, democratic and labour rights.

Roe v. Wade represents social gains that have been in place and accepted for decades. Among them are equality rights for women including reproductive choice and pay equity, civil rights like enfranchisement and an end to segregation, labour reforms like health and safety legislation and the right to bargain and strikes, and environmental protection laws. These gains were won through sustained and difficult struggles by working people. 

But Roe also represents decades of counterattack. From the very moment the decision was issued, conservative organizations began to mobilize opposition. The most visible symbol of this is the annual “March for Life” (sic) which descends on Washington on the anniversary of the decision. But there is deeper opposition at play, one which has secured court decisions and legislation at the state level in the US, that places increasingly strict limits on abortion rights and access. This effort is mirrored by movements targeting labour rights (right-to-work legislation), civil rights (voter suppression), environmental protection and other gains. 

In the case of Roe v. Wade, this counterattack has now extended to the Supreme Court, where it threatens women’s rights across the country.

While this battle is taking place in the US, this is a war that extends to Canada and beyond. Women in this country had to fight for a full 15 years after Roe, before the Supreme Court of Canada finally struck down legislation limiting abortion, through the Roe-inspired Morgentaler case. Furthermore, as anyone who has participated in an abortion clinic defense or fought against right-to-work campaigns knows, there is a strong and direct link between right-wing movements in the US and Canada. 

This publication has long argued the importance of fighting for progressive reforms, like full abortion rights, and has called for their vigilant defense against rollback. So, we stand with women in the US, as they fight the current attacks aiming to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Gains by working people are always tenuous in capitalist society, which relies on inequality to reproduce itself, so we constantly need to fight the same battles. Ultimately, working people have to struggle for and win state power, to build socialism. Fighting to win, protect and expand immediate reforms is part of the effort to gather and strengthen the forces necessary for that struggle. 

[Photo: NARAL Colorado]

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