This is about choice--and more

February 15, 2017

In hundreds of cities across the country, supporters of women's right to abortion counterprotested against right-wingers who called for a day of action on February 11 to gather at clinics and demand that the federal government defund Planned Parenthood. Here, we republish a speech by Marie Coyle, who was among those protesting in Portland, Maine.

HELLO, MY name is Marie, and I stand with Planned Parenthood. I have been a patient there since I was a teenager and relied on their services for years.

I'm here today as a woman, as a socialist, as a person who has had abortions, and I am here to ask you to join the fight for reproductive justice. We need you.

It's amazing to see so many people here in support of Planned Parenthood, especially in a blizzard, but yet--something here isn't right.

We know Planned Parenthood provides necessary health services to millions of people every year, and that many rely on their sliding-scale fees. We know that reproductive health care is essential and that people have always needed, and will continue to need, abortions.

If these are the facts, how can Planned Parenthood still be under attack? Why are we still here fighting the same fight?

The answer is that as long as our world is build around profit and greed, instead of human need, we will continue to fight tooth and nail for access to all of our basic needs--including health care.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood rally at City Hall in Portland, Maine
Supporters of Planned Parenthood rally at City Hall in Portland, Maine

Despite the protections of Roe v. Wade, individual states can make it difficult or impossible for people to access abortion, by mandating waiting periods or simply closing clinics.

Abortion services are limited through private and state insurance, and for many, abortions are prohibitively expensive. While there is reason to celebrate how far we have come, the reality is that the right to choose remains elusive for many.

In a broken capitalist system of inadequate health care, bogus legislation and lukewarm reforms, we will be stuck in an endless cycle of begging for the most basic rights from those in power, instead of claiming our own power, as ordinary people, to make our own decisions about our own bodies and lives.

ADDITIONALLY, OUR goals must not end just with "choice" or the right to access abortion, although this is a critical right to fight for. We must expand our understanding of "choice," because what is a choice without real options?

Reproductive justice means not just the right to abortion, but the right to raise children in a safe world, where their basic needs are met. Where is the justice for families and children who are homeless, who are hungry?

Where is the justice for parents in Flint, Michigan, who have now gone two years without clean drinking water for their children? Where is the justice for incarcerated women who are shackled during childbirth, or for Black parents who live in fear of their children being shot in the street?

Where is the justice for trans and queer parents who face discrimination? What does choice mean for parents who are separated from their children by arbitrary borders, or for families torn apart by deportation?

Reproductive justice would include access to housing and health care, child care and education. It would include generous maternity and paternity leave for parents. And it would ensure that anyone who needed an abortion would be able to obtain one safely.

Reproductive justice must not end with the fight for choice, but the right for all children and families to be supported and empowered.

If these demands seem unreasonable, it is only because we have become accustomed to the way things are, with those in power making decisions that are profitable, but not responsive to actual human need. I am here to say that these demands are not unreasonable.

I'm here to say that the world belongs to all of us. We have the right--and now, more than ever, the responsibility--to fight for a better world.

We must be granted full autonomy and self-determination over our own bodies. Otherwise, we are being denied control over our futures and cannot be freely participating members of a true democracy.

I am not a walking incubator! I am a human being, and as long as this fact is challenged by legal and economic restrictions around abortion and reproductive health care, we will not have justice. As long as our culture relies on sexism, racism and other forms of oppression to weaken and exploit some of us, then none of us is truly free.

Now more than ever, we must stand in solidarity with each other. We must organize and work collectively to build a political and economic system based on human need, where our vision of reproductive justice can become a reality, where we ourselves create the lives we deserve.

We are Planned Parenthood, but we are more than that. We are the people, we are the future, and we are worth fighting for. Thank you.

Further Reading

From the archives