Protesting a war on women

By Natalie Johnson

DALLAS--Some 60 protesters gathered for a Speak Out Fight Back rally on August 27 in response to legislative attacks on women, from abortion restrictions to the deteriorating job market.

Representatives of several groups turned out for the demonstration, including the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance from the University of North Texas, Dallas Radical Alliance for Gender Equality, the Texas Equal Access Fund, the International Socialist Organization and the Women's Interest Network from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. The Houston Feminist Movement held a solidarity event the same day--a panel discussion that turned out about 20 people.

Protesters in Dallas kicked off their event at 5 p.m. next to the JFK memorial in Dallas, with representatives from all participating organizations speaking to why a rally was necessary. The U.S. government has used this time of economic downturn to open up an all out assault on the working class, justifying mass austerity all in the name of a "balanced budget." These austerity measures have been devastating to the working class as a whole, and women are facing the brunt of attacks.

In the first six months of 2011 alone, 80 abortion restrictions were enacted, including required counseling and waiting periods, sometimes up to 72 hours, gestational bans, the "heartbeat bill," banning abortion coverage in new insurance exchanges, and defunding women's health clinics that provide abortions such as Planned Parenthood and Whole Women's Health.

These restrictions assume that all women have the ability to take off work, find child care and transportation to a clinic that provides abortions, which is sometimes several counties away, wait 72 hours, and then go back to have the procedure. They assume that all women have the money, upward of $400, for an abortion. They assume that women don't have the intelligence to make a decision about their own bodies and lives.

"We are not mere instruments of the state--our bodies are our own and as human beings," said one rally speaker. "We demand the right to all forms of health care and access, specifically reproductive care."

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THE RALLY not only took a stand against the abortion restrictions, but the disgusting rhetoric coming from government officials who promote legislation that would criminalize a woman for her miscarriage if doctors could somehow prove that she had "caused" it.

A 15-year-old girl in Mississippi with a cocaine habit was charged with the "depraved-heart murder" after she miscarried. Instead of asking, "What kind of society do we have that creates pregnant 15-year-olds with cocaine addictions," they criminalize her actions and lock her up, destroying any future she might have.

Protesters also highlighted the violence that the right wing promotes against abortion providers, for instance, with "justifiable homicide" bills that justify the murder of abortion providers. This sends the message loud and clear: the government is not on the side of women, and if you are an abortion provider, you might end up like Dr. George Tiller, who was murdered in 2009 by an anti-choice bigot.

This violence is very real. A month before the rally, a Planned Parenthood clinic in McKinney, Texas, was bombed with a Molotov cocktail. Fortunately, no one was in the clinic at the time, but this kind of bigoted attack so close to home shook up many activists. When the state tolerates and considers bills that would justify murder, ban women from making free choices about their bodies and criminalize 15-year-old girls for their miscarriages, why should we be surprised when state-sponsored legislative violence turns into individual acts of physical violence?

The Speak Out Fight Back rally emphasized the necessity of organization and militancy in the face of these attacks. During the speeches, protesters lined the street to hold up signs at passing cars. We want North Texas to see that there is an opposition that is determined and growing. A group from the rally spontaneously snatched up bullhorns and marched around downtown Dallas declaring our message: "We have had enough!"

We say, tax the rich and end the wars--including the war against women within our own society.