From Abortion to Reproductive Freedom: Transforming a Movement

By Marlene Gerber Fried | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Marlene Gerber Fried

Abortion rights are in danger, the most serious since legalization in 1973 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade. Not only has the existing Court shown itself willing to strike at the very core of the Constitutional right to abortion, but every state legislature will have a shot at it.

This is a crisis, but one which is full of possibilities. The ongoing attacks at abortion clinics and the gutting of Constitutional protections for abortion by the Supreme Court in the Webster decision ( July 3, 1989) have created strong general support for "choice." Ironically, the willingness of the Supreme Court to seriously curtail abortion access may have been the spark needed to prevent further erosion. Thousands of women and men, many of whom have never been active before, have become involved. The membership of large national groups like NOW ( National Organization for Women) and NARAL, ( National Abortion Rights Action League), as well as that of independent grassroots groups and coalitions, has soared. The public has been galvanized. But for what -- freedom of choice circumscribed by race and class, removed from feminist demands about women's autonomy, and shrouded in "privacy," or reproductive freedom for all women? Will it be a movement that confines itself to the legal right to abortion or one that fights for all of the rights needed to make reproductive choice a reality? What will be the politics of this movement?

Answering these questions involves us in turmoil, confusion, and political struggle. We have an opportunity to move ahead with a positive reproductive rights agenda. Doing so requires that we build the kind of movement we have not had in the past -- one that is broad-based in its membership, its leadership, and its politics; a movement that goes beyond reaffirmation of Roe to demand access not just to abortion, but to the full range of reproductive rights; a movement that is based on a class- and race-conscious feminism.

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