"Women are still doing that?" my friend questioned after I told her about an upcoming demonstration to defend abortion rights in Mississippi. Living in a "blue" state like New York City, it seems that too many women and men remain uninformed about the rights that are being taken away from women in states blanketed in red.
This is not the case, however, for women living in states like Mississippi where Diane Derzis, owner of its last standing abortion clinic, the Jackson Women's Health Organization, says, "We are losing this right." In an interview with Sunsara Taylor, founder of Stop Patriarchy, an organization built upon the mission of "Abortion On Demand and Without Apology!," Stop Patriarchy's next freedom ride, called Take Patriarchy By Storm, will begin in Mississippi on Friday, July 31st and last nine full days.
So, yes, women are still "doing that," but this time, unfortunately, it's harder, much harder. In contrast to the protests and demonstrations leading up to the Roe v. Wade landmark decision in 1973, when the entire country was aware that abortion was previously illegal, too many are still unaware that a women's right to abortion is being slowly chipped away.
And even though current polls show that most Americans support abortion, a sizable minority consistently manages to pass policies that limit abortion's availability, especially for the women who need it most. For example, Congress is once again threatening to defund Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of health care to U.S. women. Additionally, one week after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced his campaign for the presidency he signed a law limiting abortions to fewer than 20 weeks of pregnancy. The law, in fact, makes it a felony for a physician to perform an abortion at 20 weeks, and doesn't include a rape or incest exception.
Further, although the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently struck down a North Dakota statute that banned abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected (which could be as early as six weeks into pregnancy -- long before most women even know they are pregnant!), the court's ruling included a request for the Supreme Court to revisit its precedents on abortion laws, as well as give states more flexibility to restrict women's access to abortion.
So, as Stop Patriarchy plans to fan out around Mississippi, it will be mobilizing outreach and disruptions to businesses against all forms of patriarchy and women's oppression -- from abortion rights to eliminating rape culture. "We will be escorting women into the clinic on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday , and on Friday night, August 7th, we will be live-streaming a People's Hearing at StopPatriarchy.org," Taylor says. Further Diane Derzis will be speaking at this hearing, as will other women who will be testifying about friends who have died from illegal abortions, and about the obstacles women currently face as abortion becomes more difficult to access. On Saturday, August 8, Stop Patriarchy will host a rally at the Jackson Women's Health Organization to support 'Abortion On Demand and Without Apology!' "We are calling on people around the country to hold satellite actions of support," Taylor adds.
"We've relied too much on the courts," Derzis says. "I think we've all known that for many years, but we're on a course where there really wasn't any other option. Until we see organizing of grassroots people who are demanding their rights as women and men and families'" she adds, "it's only going to worsen." Hear that, New York City!
Lori Sokol, Ph.D., is an educational psychologist and publisher of Difference Matters magazine.