“There is no simple reform. It really is a revolution. Sex and race because they are easy and visible and visible differences that have been primary ways of organizing human beings into superior/inferior groups and into cheap labor on which this system depends. We are talking about a society in which there will be no roles other than those chosen or those earned. We’re really talking about humanism.” Gloria Steinem
The Supreme Court’s 2014 decision to reduce the distance between those who protest abortion, and those who using the benefit of abortion with their protestations is an indication that Roe VS Wade is under attack. It puts at risk, some of the distance from the 1973 decision of that Supreme Court with just the few feet taken away that provide a buffer between those on either side of the question of abortion. Many see this result from the Supreme Court as yet one more attempt by those who do not agree with the law of the land: Roe VS Wade 1973.
The work of the years of social change and legal process came through the work of many who lives in the atmosphere of revolution and what the 60’s were about. Women, since the days of the earliest feminist gathering in Seneca Falls in 1848, had always been about reform-in the prisons, in the factories, on the streets. But the turbulence of the Viet Nam War and Civil Rights movement in the South provoked participation by women. They worked again for reform in a war that spent young men’s lives in Viet Nam, reform in civil rights if not in the cities of Montgomery and Memphis, then behind the scenes organizing and supporting the civil rights action through protests and demonstrations. Who and what was important was in the process of change and flux and and that chaos stirred throughout the country. Nationwide democracy was challenged in the streets of the cities and college campuses by a counter culture that questioned the status quo of authority. Many universities across the country, in the college classrooms, and from churches , a movement made up of people working to promote the end of the draft, against the war came together. Historians note that women in anti war and civil rights movement began to bring to bring to focus the principles and demands of the women’s movement in mid 60’s.
1964 also brought the birth control pill into the doctor’s offices and into the reach of married women, allowing choice in pregnancy and childbirth. Women gaining the right to birth control provided an undeniable liberty that freed them to determine their life’s course was how it was perceived at the time. Around the topic of women’s rights, a counter culture developed in how women perceived their roles as women and as members of society. In 1964 also, the Civil Rights Act for the end of discrimination based on sex, country of origin or sex. With it, the Affirmative Action law which required employers and colleges to account for entry of those who had been excluded due to race or sex. The effects of the factor of birth control, women’s’ rights and access given to minorities in jobs and eduction provided a whole new platform that brought about the world we live in today. It is a work in process for sure. But more to the point, it is under attack in policy and practice in various states of the nation. The process and goals of humanity to allow sexual freedom and the demands for equality are underway and a tedious balance politically, economically and as is evidenced by the Supreme Court decision today, not a certainty. The buffer that has been there for women to not be personally attacked for their choices has now been reduced.
Valuing how it came to be that women gained the right to choose may an unknown to the generation born after 1977 because they have always lived with those rights and privileges. How was it then for women, and the society that brought this change of freedom to choose to women. In the late 60’s, Television news was full of racial struggle, war in Viet Nam, and the protests and demonstrations around the country around civil rights and the war. Families were driven apart by the different ways these conflicts were held; those who supported the change in the conditions of race and inequality and those who saw the threat of changes they weren’t comfortable with, women “being just like men” was one such threat. No other choice but to go to war and serve in war was considered to be the only possible alternative in the post world war II world. Yet the turmoil and violence around the war in Southeast Asia yes, but on the college campuses presented the marks of a very difficult time in our democracy. Women came to have a voice through their participation in the antiwar and civil rights movement, and brought feminism into its second wave of changing the culture inside out.
The loud and brash women speaking from the black and white televisions, the Bella Abzug’s, Gloria Steinem’s, Jane Fonda’s were considered by some to be dangerous, by many just and not taken seriously by women as well as men. First Lady Jackie Kennedy in 1965 shared in a television interview that her husband found these women espousing liberation to be “unfeminine, and thought they might be lesbians.” The country was in an uproar as roles and choices by men and women were being recalibrated, reconceived and for many reborn. Many women did not identify with the movement, and alienation to the strident demands of feminism did not resonate with all women. Yet as the opportunity to higher education and job advantages of Affirmative Action took hold, women gravitated if not to the women’s movement to experiencing the value of being the director of their own fate.
But this day, June 29th, 2014, today we have in every day’s event, news of abortion centers that are under fire, state legislation bills are attempting to reduce choice for women’s ability to choose, and ultimately to continue on the path of this portal to bright the goals of equality and empowerment to those systematically excluded. It is clear that many women having had the freedom to choose their destiny are not about to turn back now. But it may be time for those unaware of these political moves and their consequences to know this struggle is underway. The argument that women need to have decisions made for them was common in the 1920’s. Just like removing the opportunity for education for girls in Somalia makes sense if you want to reduce women’s access to full participation and choice as if that choice alone is somehow evil. Many women have not chosen and will not choose abortion, and they don’t need the protection of a law that takes that choice away from them. Their integrity will guide them, just as it has over the past years since 1973. A recent film Obvious Child renders a good look at the process and integrity involved in those choices. Women don’t need to be directed to make the choices right for them, and the Supreme Court’s decision today have ruled by reducing that barrier, the number of feet between vulnerable women, and those who show them terrible projections to discourage their decision. To harass, attack and humiliate these women for their decision just a few feet closer may be just a few more feet closer to the privilege women have held since 1973 and Roe VS Wade.