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Abortion, Class, and Empowerment

Author(s): carol anne douglas

Reviewed work(s):
Source: Off Our Backs, Vol. 20, No. 2, CELEBRATING 20 YEARS with OOB (february 1990), p.
Published by: off our backs, inc.
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Accessed: 26/10/2012 15:00

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Abortion, Class, and

The issue of abortion seems to over to the cars of arriving started yelling at us.
have seized women's minds since the clients. Anti-abortion activists At the first mobilization on
Supreme Court's Webster decision hang over the fence by the clinic a day that OR was expected, the
last June. Many women who had parking lot, ready to start clinic defenders almost all turned
thought abortion was a guaranteed screaming as soon as the women get
their eyes on each woman as she
right now realize they could lose out of their cars. The anti walked from her car to the clinic.
it and are willing to do something abortionists scream about how the The experienced escorts saw that
to prevent that. Several elections women will be letting their this was very upsetting for the
have been decided by the issue of "babies" be torn in pieces, causing women, and asked the leaders of the
abortion, and the establishment the "babies" excruciating pain. mobilization to tell the defenders
media is therefore paying far more The escorts tell the clients that not to stare at the women. The
of volunteer work.
attention to abortion as an issue they have the right not to listen leaders did that, which somewhat
than it ever has before. Even if these tactical prob
Now, if a and walk with them to the clinic improved the situation. However,
state legislature is considering a door. women who are to have abor
lems could be overcome, the class
law restricting abortion, the A number of the women who are tions don't necessarily want to problem remains. How empowered
would working class and poor women
Washington Post and the New York coming to the clinic seemed have to walk through a crowd of
feel if they were sneaking into
limes write about it. That wasn't intimidated by the shouting. demonstrators to get one; it's much
the case before the Webster A raid by Operation Rescue is better than having the clinic shut white middle class feminists' homes
not to get abortions? Even though the
decision. much more dramatic than the usual down by OR, but it's still
both state and feminists probably would try to be
Actually, anti-abortionists' harassment. ideal.
federal lawmakers have been Operation Rescue sends out large It was clear that a number of empowering in ways like offering to
abortion rights ever the women were not middle class, show them their cervixes (which
restricting numbers of people who attempt to
since the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade close the clinics down by and a number were Latina, Asian or they might not want to see), would
decision in 1973, but most middle blockading them. Black. Virtually all of the clinic they really be empowered and
class women did not become alarmed I participated defenders were white and seemed to comfortable? The situation of
in some
because most of the restrictions defensive operations against be middle class?as were the anti getting an illegal abortion is in
were abortionists on the other side of itself disempowering.
aimed at poor women?bans on
Operation Rescue in November, when Would our abortion collectives
Medicaid funding of abortions--or the ORs were in town to counter the the fence. There were these white,
middle-class have members who spoke Vietnamese?
at teenage women?parental November 12 abortion rights groups facing up
notification or consent or even Spanish?
mobilization. The clinic where I against each other--I wonder what
was stationed was not actually the women waiting for abortions We can say that we would
Did they feel em share the skills of performing
attacked by OR, but I do have some thought of it.
abortions, so that women would take
a class issue observations, based particularly on powered? them to their own communities, but
the comments of women who have been
Abortion is a class issue. In would that really happen? Jane
this day of widespread legal
doing escort service
Abortion rights supporters
for years.
illegal abortions members have told that they devel
poor women, The feminist strategy on abor oped unspoken hierarchies based on
perhaps one-quarter of them
especially poor teenage women, are men, the rest women tion that distresses me the most is medical skills?wouldn't that be
more likely to need abortions than surround the entrance to a the idea being propounded by Sonia likely to happen again? If per
middle class women, simply because Johnson that Roe was no good, that forming illegal abortions would
building, standing about five
poor women have less health care empower women, which women would it
and medical information of any people deep, to prevent the ORs feminists should be out there pro
from gaining access to the door if viding abortions rather than trying empower? The clients, or the pro
kind. Although some of the viders? I'm not sure it would
restrictive abortion laws that they come. Some defenders may be to make them legal. The idea ap
excited, hoping for a scrap with empower both equally?or that going
states have or could peals to some because it sounds to trial for performing illegal
passed pass OR. to support legal
such as the new husband radical?working
When the patients arrive, a abortions by definition involves abortions would be very empowering.
notification law in Pennsylvania? few of the clinic defenders stand Another concern is how women
could affect middle class women working with the system. would even find out about our ser
aside to allow them to get through. This strategy is weak on lo
also, poor women will feel the are not that many vices unless they were already part
Clearly, keeping the clinics gistics?there of the feminist movement or lesbian
greatest impact.
open is important, both as a stra radical feminists in the country in
Although feminists want tegy and, immediately and impor the first place, certainly not community. Is having abortion
reproductive rights for all women, tantly, for the women who need to
available based on connections so
it does not seem to me that our enough to perform the 1.5 million much better than having it avail
use them that day. abortions needed each year. More
strategies always take into account However, even if they never over, we are mostly urban, not
able based on money?
the needs or feelings of the women I am not saying that consider
appear, OR does succeed in making located in rural areas where doc
who actually will be getting the the experience more unpleasant for ation of class differences should
tors willing to perform abortions
the women who come for abortions. are scarce even when abortion is keep us from forming feminist
This fall, I joined a feminist A number of the women at the clinic health care projects, or any other
legal. Not to mention the fact
collective that does monthly escort defenses in which I participated feminist projects. But I do think
that the anti-abortionists are much
services for a suburban clinic that seemed to be taken aback or intimi more active than they were 20 years that when we envision ourselves
performs abortions. Most of the dated by having to walk through a ago when the underground feminist playing glorious roles in the
women have been escorts much struggle for abortion rights, whe
longer large crowd in order to go to the abortion group Jane existed in
than I have, some for as long as even though the crowd may ther in countering Operation Rescue
clinic, Chicago?and they would seek femin
five years. be clinic defenders. A number of or in providing our own services,
ists out and get them arrested.
women did not realize we may not be empowering the women
at first that Also, Jane was staffed by volun
intimidation the people were standing there to teers, many of them housewives;
who need the abortions in the same
way that we are empowering our
An escort wears a huge badge guard the clinic; some thought we today, it is more difficult to find
were selves as activists.
saying, "clinic escort," and walks anti-abortionists, and one feminists who can do large amounts
by carol anne douglas

politicians oacKpedai on abortion abortion study suppressed

WASHINGTON, D.C.?After several should be legal and that abortions
elections have shown significant for poor women should be publically WASHINGTON, D.C.--Former Surgeon oob, feb. 1989)?but he refused to
General C. Everett Koop suppressed report the results of his study,
support for abortion rights, poli funded.
evidence that abortion is far safer
ticians are jumping on the band In Texas,
The subcommittee noted that
Republican guberna than childbirth when he refused to
wagon to appear at least "moderate" torial candidate Jack Rains said in the draft report that Koop never
write a report on the effects of issued had concluded that "abortion
rather than right-wing on abortion. October that he stood "shoulder to
Ohio Attorney General Anthony shoulder" with the anti-abortion
abortion, charges a report released does not pose a physical risk to
In by the House Government Operations the mother." The subcommittee also
Celebrezze, a Democrat who is run group Texans United for Life. Committee's subcommittee on human
ning for governor, has reversed his Rains said he opposes noted that the Federal government
November, resources and
long-time to abortion. restrictions on abortion. intergovernmental is spending virtually no money?
opposition legal
In his past three elections, relations, which is headed by Rep. $9.5 million last year and perhaps
Cele Even Marilyn Quayle has said
Ted Weiss (D.-N.Y.).
brezze sought and obtained the she supports use of the French pill $5 million this year?on contracep
Former President Reagan had tive and none on im
endorsement of the Ohio Right to RU 486 for rape and incest victims. development
Life Society. asked Koop to report on the physi methods of abortion.
Celebrezze has sup Later, she amended her statement to proving
cal and psychological effects of
ported amending the U.S. Constitu say that she supported a "morning
tion to protect fetuses and has after" pill for raped women but did
abortion. Koop was too honest to --info from Los Angeles Times 12/11
write what the Reagan administra
opposed public funding for abor not support RU 486 because it can
tion had wanted--a report saying
tions. This Celebrezze hot be used until a week
December, after.
that abortion women (see news compiled by cad
said he now believes that abortion injures
--info from Washington Post 12/25

offour backs/february 1990/page 5