" Indeed, the Christian fundamentalists who have been spearheading the anti-abortion drive hail the Senate vote for bringing them within range of "final victory" in their reactionary crusade."


Marxist Working-Class Biweekly of the Spartacist League

E-mail: vanguard@tiac.net No. 669 - 30 May 1997

`Down With All Bans - Free Abortion On Demand'


Following an earlier overwhelming vote in the House, on May 20 the Senate passed a measure to outlaw a late-term abortion procedure by a vote of 64 to 36. The Republican bill, which carried with significant Democratic support, would ban "intact dilation and extraction" abortions, misleadingly labeled "partial birth" abortions by bigots. The lopsided Senate vote means the bill only needs three more supporters to override President Clinton's anticipated veto.

Meanwhile, Clinton has long made it clear that if a few words in the legislation were changed, he too would support the ban. To this end, Democratic Senate minority leader Thomas Daschle put forward an "alternative" bill to outlaw _all_ abortions once the fetus is supposedly "viable except when the woman's life is endangered or there is no risk of "grievous injury to her health." Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer of California and leading liberal Carol Mosley-Braun of Illinois proposed a similar ban, but with a slightly better "health exception"! On the day of the Senate vote, most of the supposedly "pro-choice" liberals refused to even verbally object to the Republican measure, as the New York Times (21 May) reported, "letting the clock tick during most of their allotted debate time without a single senator on the floor making their case."

For the past two decades the exercise of a woman's right to abortion has been severely limited, through denial of Medicaid funding to poor women, squeal rules requiring women under the age of 18 to get the consent of a parent or judge, and outright terror attacks resulting in fewer and fewer hospitals and health facilities willing to provide abortions. What is immediately at stake with the current legislation is the first direct rollback of the Supreme Court's 1973 _Roe v. Wade_ decision legalizing abortion nationally, as part of a relentless campaign to ban abortion entirely. Indeed, the Christian fundamentalists who have been spearheading the anti-abortion drive hail the Senate vote for bringing them within range of "final victory" in their reactionary crusade. Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed gloated, "Clearly the momentum is with us."

As Dr. Warren Hern, a courageous fighter for abortion rights whose Boulder, Colorado clinic has been fired on by "right to life" terrorists, notes in an op ed piece in the New York Times (24 May), "The intent of the bill [is] to keep doctors from performing _any_ abortion." Hern cautioned that one "would do well to be suspicious of all such attempts to limit late-term abortions -- even those `compromise' proposals from legislators who claim to support abortion rights."

What gives politicians any right to decide when and if a woman can have an abortion? It should be a purely personal question, as all individual medical decisions ought to be. We Marxists say that women should have the absolute right to free abortion on demand, as part of free, quality health care for all.

Another sinister straw in the wind was the sudden decision by the board of the American Medical Association (AMA) to support the Republicans' abortion ban. Only one day before the Senate vote, the AMA announced its decision, made by 20 board members in a consensus conference call (it was not reported whether this was via cell phone from the golf links). It's the capitalist way of medicine for profit. To be sure, the AMA has a history of reactionary positions, opposing anything smacking of "socialized" health care, at one time including Medicare. But you'd think this doctors' organization would at least take a stand against a bunch of politicians telling them what they can and can't do when it comes to medical procedures. In its own way, the medical profession in this society functions as a kind of elite, arrogant secular "priestly caste," dispensing high-priced medical care to the rich, ignoring the poor, and raking in big bucks.

The AMA's decision is a big boost to the anti-abortion bigots. In many parts of the country, abortions are already effectively banned because there are no doctors willing to perform them. And it could get worse. Take Poland, for example, where abortion was recently legalized after the _Solidarnosc_ government had abolished it. But most women still can't get abortions there, because doctors in public hospitals refuse to perform them under the new law's "freedom of conscience" clause, which was adopted to appease the obscurantist Catholic church.

The recent sordid Senate vote shows that the "lesser evil" is still plenty evil. Carol Mosley-Braun's proposed abortion ban couldn't be a clearer example of that. More broadly, it should be increasingly clear that it will take a fundamental break with all brands of bourgeois politics to mount a successful challenge to the wave of reaction sweeping this country. For women's liberation through socialist revolution!