The Southern Workers Assembly stands in solidarity with the many thousands who have taken to the streets to demonstrate outrage at the Supreme Court’s imminent attack on women’s rights.
We also recognize the special importance of the South in the fight to keep abortion safe and legal.
Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that declared it unconstitutional for states to restrict abortion rights unduly, was a Texas case. Justice Alito’s draft opinion that would overturn Roe vs. Wade pertains to a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. If it goes forward, the new ruling will overturn the federal precedent that has protected women’s right to have an abortion. All abortion rights would be determined at the state level.
Like racist “right to work” laws, which undermine our collective bargaining rights, and like restrictions on voting rights, these sexist attacks on abortion rights originated in the South. They will have the greatest impact here. Many Northern and Western states have laws in place that will protect women’s right to choose. Of the states that don’t have such laws, most are in the South. In fact, in all Southern states except, for now, Virginia, women’s right to a safe, legal abortion will be curtailed—in some cases immediately—if this ruling goes forward.
Restricting access to abortion cripples women’s right to self-determination, and threatens decades of hard-fought progress toward gender equality. It jeopardizes all women’s physical, emotional, and economic well being. It puts one of our most important life choices—whether and when to have a child—in the hands of a few wealthy, powerful men who have no business making it.
But this ruling would disproportionately impact women of color, who already have worse outcomes and less access to healthcare, and working class women, who are less able to travel to another state where abortion remains legal. As is too often the case, wealth inequality will determine who is and who is not subjected to an unjust law.
The ruling would also open the door to wide-ranging attacks on other basic democratic and civil rights, including voting rights. The most reactionary elements of the right-wing continue to gain and consolidate power. Our movements must confront this rising threat directly and put forward our own program for a just society that workers can take up and use as a basis to fight on.
Oppression takes place everywhere, but the U.S. South has a long history of legalizing it. Slavery and segregation, anti-worker, anti-immigrant, anti-trans and anti-gay measures have made our beautiful landscape into a series of battlefields. Yet what starts in the South doesn’t stay in the South. Racist “right to work” laws and Jim Crow voting laws began here, but they have undermined unions and democracy everywhere. On the other hand, as the Civil Rights movement demonstrated, when people win in the South, the impact is profound.
The SWA stands with those who oppose this ruling, and oppose right-wing politicians who want to restrict rights that give people autonomy: to get an abortion, to vote, to collectively bargain. Those politicians don’t represent the people. They represent the desire of a few to dominate and control historically oppressed groups. To fight them, we must continue to build a powerful, united working class movement that embraces the women’s movement, alongside the Black liberation, immigration rights, and LGBTQ movements, as central to the working class struggle.
The South fights the hardest. It has the hardest fights. When the South loses, the country loses. But when the South wins, the working people of the world will win.
At SWA’s recent Workers Assembly Organizing School, we discussed a political program as a basis for the working class to unite and organize. Stay tuned as we release this in the coming weeks.