DSA Launches National Campaign For Reproductive Rights Following SCOTUS Leak
As abortion rights head to the chopping block in the hands of a Conservative Supreme Court, with the Democrat controlled Congress offering up a predictable failed vote to codify abortion rights into law, the Democratic Socialists of America announced it will be prioritizing reproductive rights as a primary campaign for the next several months.
In a public statement and petition published on May 3, DSA called on “organized labor, workers, and unionists to recognize that banning abortion is class warfare and join this fight,” demanding an end to the filibuster and for Congress to pass legislation protecting abortion. At their meeting on May 6, the National Political Committee passed a resolution to establish a Roe v. Wade Committee (RvW), which will administer the campaign for the the foreseeable future.
The resolution was drafted by NPC Steering Committee member Sydney Ghazarian and came to the table amid visible tensions within the organization. Two separate coalitions of national working groups had unofficially begun to form since the SCOTUS leak published in Politico on May 2, both developing independent plans for a campaign in response. One informal coalition consisted of the Green New Deal Campaign Committee (GND), the National Electoral Committee (NEC), the Democratic Socialist Labor Commission (DSLC), and the Medicare for All Committee (M4A); the other comprised the Socialist Feminist Working Group (SocFem), the Mutual Aid Working Group (MAWG), and also M4A.
These two coalitions each held meetings on the evening of May 3, which NPC member Justin Charles characterized as “the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing.” Sydney Ghazarian, who had been liaising with one coalition (GND-led), and NPC member Jen McKinney, who had been doing the same for the other (SocFem-led), both pushed back, indicating that there was intention behind the lack of coordination. During debate, Sydney indicated that the GND committee had already done groundwork for the campaign, including securing and designing a website (protectabortion.org). Jen M. asked that the National Tech Committee (NTC) be looped in on this website, as they had not been informed or included in the decision-making.
Regardless, the resolution passed unanimously. An amendment from Jen M. altered the objective of the resolution from “prevent the Supreme Court from overturning Roe v. Wade and/or get Congress to pass legislation codifying it into law” to “primary objective to be determined.” She motivated the change by asserting that large-scale legislative campaigns are beyond DSA’s capacity to win, and their losses are having a mounting demoralizing impact on members. The NPC agreed that other Working Groups would be pulled into the work as it developed.
The campaign was formally launched on a public call on May 12. The call featured speakers from the reproductive justice movement, including writer and activist Jenny Brown (Birth Strike: The Hidden Fight Over Women’s Work; Without Apology: The Abortion Struggle Now). She urged the audience to take a materialist approach to reproductive justice, calling the “moralist right” a front for capital, which requires an expanding population of workers to continue its endless and unchecked growth.
She spoke on how the ban on abortion and the coming bans on birth control are a capitalist response to rapidly declining birth rates. She compared the American austerity response to that of European social democracy: one forces birth by punishment, one incentivizes it with social safety nets. Brown called on the audience to “become ungovernable” while also urging for coherence into a much broader social movement, including coalition-building “even with liberal NGOs… we have to call them in rather than calling them out.”
Kim Varela-Broxson, an abortion rights organizer and DSA member from Texas, spoke about the realities of abortion access. For people in states operating under some of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country, such as the six-week ban in Texas, this often means the window closes just two weeks after a missed menstrual period. She urged members to support their local abortion funds, act as clinic escorts, and work to dispel the myth that self-managed abortion is dangerous.
Attendees were called on throughout the night to review the DSA chapter toolkit, to commit to take to the streets that weekend, and to tie the campaign to DSA’s current Recommitment Drive. The Drive is working on contacting former DSA members asking them to re-join and will now center reproductive rights in those conversations. The toolkit is a living document, the hosts explained, which they will add to it as materials become available.
At the time of writing the toolkit includes significant and thorough background on the legislative and judicial fight for abortion access. Sample emails and social media posts, print-ready palm card and poster designs, a petition template, and links to more general DSA resources like rally planning checklists and onboarding guides were also enclosed.
Chapters across the country participated in rallies and actions on Saturday, May 14. “Free Abortion. On Demand. Without Apology.” was the core message and it made its way onto hundreds of signs in dozens of cities. Chapters continue to organize on behalf of reproductive rights, like hosting a growing number of Abortion Fund-A-Thons, which raise money to support abortion care. Since the wave of anti-abortion laws now in effect in many states, these funds now often help people travel out of state to get abortions.
In Austin, TX members are packing and distributing reproductive health kits. In New Orleans organizers are demanding that the city remain an “abortion sanctuary city” by shutting out state police in the city limits. In Washington D.C. activists and leaders are tying abortion to broader demands, like D.C. statehood, which would allow D.C. residents a voice in the fight for abortion access.
After last weekend’s protest the NPC’s plan will now turn members to recruitment and retention. The primary objective of the priority campaign resolution is currently to be determined. It’s expected members will have more clarity once all the national committees with a stake in the campaign sit down and hash out a common plan of work.
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