My social media, my thoughts, my life are all filled with terrified women. We’re worried about what will happen to our daughters if Roe v. Wade dies (or if it slowly bleeds to death as the Supreme Court steadily hacks away at it). But lately, I’m seeing a new flavor of worry that seems designed to demoralize, not inspire action: assurances that abortion rights absolutely are going to end.
We need to stop writing eulogies for choice before it’s even dead. Hopelessness is exactly what the far right wants from us. Hopeless people don’t fight back.
The far right has never been hopeless in its quest to end abortion rights. They’ve inspired one another, mobilized one another, worked together to beat back whatever progress we could build, to tear down choice rights bit by bit.
If we want any hope of a future where our children enjoy choice, if we want to reverse the gains the far right has made, it’s time we learn from them, then use their tactics against them.
Understand the Harms of Demoralization
When Justice Anthony Kennedy retired, I wrote that authoritarianism thrives on demoralization. A demoralized group is easy to dominate and control. They give up rather than fighting back. That’s truer now than ever before. We’ve seen how hope can mobilize people, how it empowered the left to push back against unprecedented racist and classist voting restriction to win back the presidency. We need to heed the lesson when it comes to choice.
Stop telling people it’s hopeless, and start looking for paths to a brighter future.
We, too, can nominate judges who won’t compromise. We, too, can force the other side to fear us and negotiate with us. We, too, can rule as a minority and do everything in our power to stop every evil thing the right wing wants to do. If only we’re willing to learn from them.
Roe might die. That doesn’t mean choice dies forever. The death of Roe could mobilize an entire generation, inspire laws that prevent the criminalization of abortion, perhaps even one day lead to a constitutional amendment to protect abortion.
Change happens bit by bit, and requires a sweeping vision for a better future. Demoralization has no place in that vision.
Make Being Pro-Choice Non-Negotiable
Being pro-choice doesn’t mean you like abortion, or that you would have one. It doesn’t even mean you are judgment-free about other people’s abortions, or that you think all abortions are ok.
It means one thing, and one thing only: That in the only wealthy country in the world where maternal mortality is increasing, the government should not be able to force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term.
That’s the bare minimum for caring about women’s equality and well-being. Because anything less means you believe it’s reasonable to turn women into human incubators, even when they die.
This position has no place in the Democratic party. It has no place in any democracy. Yet we continue to welcome anti-choice Democrats into our party.
The Republicans would never do such a thing. A few decades ago, it was commonplace for Republicans to support choice rights. Those pro-choice conservatives were pushed out if they couldn’t be pushed right. The result is a party in lockstep opposition to abortion, that has the power to oppose pro-choice judges and significantly shift the political tides even when they are in the minority.
Develop a Plan for a World Without Roe
Republicans have done everything in their power to make accessing abortion difficult. They’ve created fake clinics. They scream at pregnant people outside of clinics. They even use crisis pregnancy centers to gain access to medical information that would otherwise be legally protected. Just as they showed up ready to fight in a world with choice rights, we need to do everything we can to push back as choice becomes further constrained.
Each and every one of us needs a plan. Some options include:
- stocking up on emergency contraceptives now, since Republicans will come for that after they destroy abortion
- stocking up on abortion pills, which are now available via telemedicine through the mail
- networking with places like Auntie Network to develop a path to abortion for those living in red states
- donating money to abortion access funds
- punishing everyone involved in anti-choice politics, with boycotts, primary campaigns, and personal consequences such as no longer speaking to the family member who believes 12 year olds should have to give birth to their rapists’ babies
Expand Your Understanding of Reproductive Justice
Reproductive justice isn’t just about choice. Across all sectors of healthcare, women’s bodies and reproductive freedoms are under attack. In many states, it remains legal for doctors to perform vaginal exams on unconscious women without their consent. Maternity care in the United States is a joke that includes coercive care, abundant malpractice, incredible sexism and racism, and little concern for pregnant people or their children. CPS continues to be weaponized against women generally, but BIPOC and poor women in particular, when they make choices authority figures disagree with (especially during birth).
The fight here is fundamentally about the right of women to choose their own destinies, to raise families in ways consistent with their values, and to be safer and healthier. If you don’t care about the full scope of reproductive rights, then you don’t really care about women.
Republicans understand this. They’re ready to constrain women’s choices across the board, whether by limiting access to birth control or demanding that mothers in Texas force their trans kids to conform to gender norms.
Learn as Much as Possible About Abortion Rights
The right has done a great job spreading anti-choice propaganda. The media has gobbled up the right’s propaganda, and researchers consistently find that media coverage of abortion features far right lies as fact. We need to educate ourselves to counteract these lies. I’ve written a number of pieces on recent abortion studies that may help:
The far right’s strategies are working. They elected Trump, one of the most reviled and unpopular candidates in presidential election history. And now, they’re very close to destroying abortion rights, even though the overwhelming majority of Americans, including most Republicans, support choice. Just 22% of Republicans in the most recent Public Religion Research Institute survey said abortion should be illegal in all cases.
If a vocal minority can do so much damage, then an even stronger majority can fix it.
Learn from the right.
Demoralization won’t save us.
A strident commitment to a better world just might.