A small victory for reproductive rights in NY

By Mercedes Petit and Malena Zetnik

On October 19, the fight for reproductive rights and women’s equality in New York took a step forward as a City Council-backed escort program to protect clinics was announced by Speaker Christiane Quinn. The volunteer program will begin on Nov. 1, according to the Daily News.

This measure came about after many grassroots mobilizations led by a number of activists and organizations throughout the city that confronted right wing bigots in front of abortion clinic providers. Among some of the organizations that are taking part in this struggle are New York Coalition for Abortion Clinic Defense (NYCACD), the New York chapter of National Organization of Women (NOW), Radical Women, Freedom Socialist Party, Socialist Alternative and Socialist Core.

We must win the right to legal abortion and defend it through struggle

The small victory for reproductive rights in NYC shows once again that any advance in abortion rights are achieved through mobilization; this is the only way to defeat the most reactionary and conservative sectors from a wide array of organized religions, the Republican Party and others. And when the struggle for abortion access moves forward, you have to defend it because there are systematic attempt to repeal decriminalization laws, and there are constant attacks on women who choose abortion or clinics that perform it. A case in point is Roe versus Wade, the victory of 1973 achieved through years of struggle and mass mobilizations which since then we have had to continue the fight since different many states seek to repeal it.

In 2010, Spain won one of the most overreaching abortion laws when protests forced the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE-the Social Democrats) to enact it in the parliament. But the new government of the right wing PP (People’s Party) has been announcing its intention to put limitation in the abortion access law since taking power.

Logo of the campaign to demand the legalization of abortion in Uruguay

Uruguay decriminalizes abortion

On October 17, the Uruguayan parliament approved the decriminalization of abortion. Politicians might want to attribute themselves credit for this step. In Uruguay, even with a limited law, this step is a result of struggle. Under the first Broad Front        ( Frente Amplio) government,  legalization was approved but this was vetoed by President Tabaré Vazquez. Current law does not legalize abortion; however, it allows the authorities to suspend legal sanctions if women are subject to a series of bureaucratic and humiliating measures that seek to prevent them from having an abortion. In fact, under the new law neither the state nor public health care services nor pre-paid insurance are under any obligation to perform it at no cost. Furthermore, the new law does not distinguish pregnancy by rape whose interventions should be more protected at a much rapid pace without red tape. For all this, Uruguayan women complain that it is a law that remains “half-way”.  The reality is that the [Catholic] Church and the supposedly “progressive” government of José Mujica are still making decision against the will and rights of women. Uruguayan women, however, are willing to continue to mobilize to achieve their full rights.

Cristina Kirchner’s government rejects abortion rights

In Argentina, clandestine abortion is the leading cause of death for pregnant women. For a long time, there is a growing women’s movement that demands the right to “safe, legal and free abortion” in which a wide array of different sectors including pro-government, Catholic women. But there is a complete obstinacy by Cristina Kirchner to legalize it and which the Catholic Church applauds. In 2011, the parliamentary majority led by the government maneuvered to prevent debate on the draft legislation. This is still the case today in parliament. However, on 13 March this year there was a very favorable ruling from the Supreme Court to permit abortion without restriction to women victims of rape with a notarized affidavit;  no time limit or authorization from the parents of minors (and also in the case of life threatening danger for the life of the woman and / or with mental disabilities). However,  under pressure from the Church, the Peronist government and other right-wing parties (such as the one governing the City of Buenos Aires) in many provinces  put roadblocks and hinder this important decision of justice which remains a partial victory but important for women nevertheless.

At the National Conference of Women –held in the city of Posadas (Misiones province) early October— 25,000 women attending various workshops and a mass mobilization demanded a right to legal, safe and free abortion.  Women said enough to the unjust deaths of young, poor and migrant women who pay with their lives the illegality of medical abortion procedures. Afterwards, another important mobilization was convened for November 1st to  denounce local governments and demand the legalization of abortion rights once and for all.


Written by Mercedes Petit and Malena Zetnik special for Socialist Core with collaboration from Emmanuel Santos and Rodolfo Tirrabaro.