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A demonstrator holds a placard saying "My Body My Choice" as they gather at the Sample Gates at Indiana University to rally in support of womens reproductive rights, in Bloomington, Texas. (Photo: Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Those Who Love and Respect Women in This Country Will Rise Up

This crisis was manufactured by hate-mongering ideologues. It will be solved by those who nurture, care, and refuse to back down.

Thea Paneth

The impending doom of overturning Roe v Wade has sent shock waves through our society. For those of us old enough to remember when abortion was illegal (I am barely in that age group) a heavy sense of dread immediately settled across our backs.

If we love our country and if we love the women in our lives, especially our daughters, we will rise up to protect their lives and well-being.

All week I've been thinking about a moment from my past. In June of 1986, I went to New York to see my mother who was not well. One of the days I was there, I went down to Greenwich Village, my old stomping grounds. The village was preternaturally quiet, with many shops closed, so I walked east to see if I could figure out what was going on.

Masses of people were lining Fifth Avenue for Gay Pride. As I watched, the People with Aids Coalition came down the avenue, carrying a banner that stretched across the street. Every man with AIDS walking that day had a woman walking with them, a sister, a mother, a lesbian. Women stepped up to walk with young men who were suffering the illness, so they shouldn't have to walk alone. Great cheers erupted from the crowd as they walked by.

In the mid 1980's the Reagan Administration was ignoring the Aids Crisis. There was no help available for the people getting sick, no medical care, little or no research into the illness, it was called "the gay disease" and people said those sinners were getting what they deserved in a vituperative atmosphere. 

This changed over time as more people were affected by the crisis. Celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor spoke out, Rock Hudson died, other celebrities contracted AIDS from blood transfusions. The New York City arts community was decimated. Medical research that eventually began after protracted struggle and public outcry has had positive results not only for AIDS treatments, but for the current pandemic and for other terrible illnesses as well.

That day, when women walked with the young men who would not be around so much longer, was a watershed moment for me that I will never forget. I went home and told my mother about it, how moving it was, and in her incisive way she said, "So they shouldn't feel alone."  This is what women do. They tend to others, they care-take, they step up so a vulnerable, suffering person is not alone. They clean up other people's mess, they teach the children, change the diapers, mop the floors. For all their labors they are still not paid a fair wage. Housework should be remunerated, healthcare should be provided to everyone, birth to death, education should be free, everyone has a right to a place to live and clean water. Such things would make women's lives easier and would be the hallmarks of a decent society, which sadly we are far from being.

I can see clearly the additional damage that will be done to our fractured, struggling society if in these "united states" women have different rights across the country. In itself, this will deepen the fractures in our country in a most terrible way. And as is being said by legal scholars, it is unlikely to stop here, more rights will be rolled back and much chaos, crisis and disaster will ensue.

In 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution was not meant to include American citizenship for people of African descent, free or not, in the Dred Scott case; the Civil War erupted a few years later and the second original sin of our nation, slavery, came to an end. The crisis of this moment is not dis-similar, we are facing a reality in which women will not have autonomous rights over our bodies, fifty years after a court ruling that said women do have autonomous rights over our bodies. This has nothing to do with fetal heart beats, it is not "pro-life," not when institutional power is used to wage wars, dropping bombs, killing children, maintaining the first original sin of genocide that afflicts our national character. 

Children in our country go to bed hungry and wake up hungry daily, the intolerable is tolerated. And be reminded, every day across the globe, a woman or girl is killed by someone in her family every eleven minutes, which comes down to three women a day in the U.S. The intolerable is tolerated. This moment is about intentionally destroying the autonomy, the freedom of millions of women, as if our lives aren't hard enough.

What can we do?

Protest has already begun and likely will continue. It must be maintained, organize rolling protests so that a street presence is maintained daily and weekly across the country. Sit in at all congressional offices with the clear demand to pass the Women's Health Protection Act (failed in the Senate in 2021), not acts to abrogate our rights, as are ominously being readied by ill-meaning congress persons rubbing their gleeful hands together at the impending overturning of Roe v Wade.

This crisis was manufactured by hate-mongering ideologues who put themselves above the law enough to misuse their power by seizing the law-making apparatus to control the most private, personal decisions a person can make.

It was manufactured when Mitch McConnell did not allow a vote on an Obama Administration supreme court justice nominee and when he forced through a hasty vote on a last-minute nominee after Ruth Bader Ginsburg died just prior to the Biden Administration being sworn in.

McConnell was just re-elected to the Senate. His actions as a senator do not fulfill his oath to support and defend the Constitution, his actions actually undermine the Constitution. The crisis brought about by his political machinations needs to made so hot for him that he is forced to resign.  Do the same with Senator Collins.  Constituents sent her hangers for her votes to confirm the lying, corrupt nominees Gorsuch and Kavanaugh (a justice who was disgustingly seated despite bearing a taint of sexual misconduct). Collins is not representing the interests of women in the state of Maine and should be forced out. 

The justices who assumed their duties, having indicated in confirmation hearings that Roe v Wade is precedent and should not be over-turned yet now indicate they will vote to overturn it, should be tossed off the Court. They lied, apply some accountability.  

Only a political climate of great enough outrage over such betrayals will suffice to achieve these necessary aims.

One more harkening back to U.S. history:  in 1850, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act, creating a climate of terror. States that did not have slavery were forced to capture and return slaves, with extraordinary penalties imposed for abolitionists who were assisting escaped slaves. There were riots in Boston over the returning of captured slaves. Great writers and thinkers of the day, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Bronson Alcott (father of Louisa May) were abolitionists. The Thoreau and Alcott homes were stations on the Underground Railroad and after the Fugitive Slave Act was passed, Emerson provided the funds for escaping slaves to get to Canada, they did not back down in the face of state repression. 

If we love our country and if we love the women in our lives, especially our daughters, we will rise up to protect their lives and well-being. Abortion is a matter of healthcare, a private, personal decision, and sometimes a medical necessity. Five ideological Supreme Court justices some of whom were placed on the court through a corrupt use of power, have no right and no mandate to interfere with, or destroy women's lives. It is inevitable that women will die if this decision is enacted. We cannot let it come to pass.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Thea Paneth

Thea Paneth

Thea Paneth is a coordinating committee member of United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), a national peace coalition founded in 2003.

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