Mass Editorial Board: DSA and Reproductive Justice

Last night, between pictures of the ultra-wealthy elite at the darkly ironic themed “Gilded Glamour” Met Gala, a draft Supreme Court opinion leaked to Politico exposed the Supreme Court’s impending decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The draft 5-4 decision offers glimpses of the Christian nationalist agenda to come, implying the illegitimacy of not only Roe but also Obergefell v. Hodges and Lawrence v. Texas. This blatant threat to bodily autonomy cannot be divorced from the growing backlash against the LGBTQ+ community and the wave of anti-trans legislation sweeping the nation. 

The opinion comes in the wake of 40 years of neglect and inaction by the Democratic Party and increasing numbers of pregnant people unable to access abortion care because of cost, distance, and misinformation. Indeed the Supreme Court decision must be understood as the ruling elite’s response to the waning salience of the anti-abortion culture war, which has, until now, conveniently obfuscated the underpinning logic of the anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ movements: social control over the means of reproduction. 

Marxist feminist analysis illlustrates why the ruling class has chosen this moment to strike down constitutionally enshrined protections to bodily autonomy. The deaths of 1 million people from COVID-19 in the United States alone thrust economic production into turmoil and prompted politicians to end early pandemic social protections to force people back to work. These realities have threatened capital’s control over the labor force and reliance on the coerced reproductive labor necessary to sustain the labor force. Understood this way, universal bodily autonomy threatens to allow people to opt out of gendered and racialized divisions of labor. People’s ability to live full, care-filled lives outside of the confines of the family threatens to topple ruling class control over the means of reproduction and, in turn, production. When people are not chained to family units through repressive law and economic coercion, they have more power in their relationships, and more power to exit unhealthy or abusive relationships and choose another path. Our fight must be to seize the means of reproduction. Bodily autonomy for all, cradle to grave.

We are in a critical moment, not only for securing abortion rights but also for preserving democracy as a whole. The Supreme Court, dominated by conservative judges, is an anti-democratic keystone of minoritarian rule. Democratic leadership could ignore the court, enact federal legislation to codify abortion rights, and abolish the filibuster to get there. Yet already, Democrats in the Senate have signaled opposition to these demands. The impotence of the Democratic Party is on full display for the whole country to see—despite controlling both houses of Congress and the presidency, our elected representatives can do nothing but issue mealy-mouthed statements and implore people to vote as our rights are taken away.

We thus find ourselves in a moment not unlike 2016, with people outraged, scared, and looking for answers, and we must learn from our past missteps to respond to the current political moment. DSA must take the lead to propose an alternative path forward, one grounded in an ethic of working-class solidarity and returning power over our lives to the many, not the few. We must fight tooth and nail to go on the offensive, not hem and haw about constitutional norms or throw our hands up and retreat into defensive measures. It is not a secret that as an organization, we have struggled to find a direction over the past year. Yet with the right’s renewed onslaught of attacks and Democrats’ failure to lead, our direction has been chosen for us. As people become radicalized by this life-threatening reversal of long-held rights, we have an important opportunity to help lead the struggle and channel rage and energy into something greater. There will undoubtedly be a wave of protests in the coming days that we cannot allow to become yet another blip or cathartic opportunity to register discontent that ultimately results in no material change.

As socialists, we have a unique and critical perspective through which we understand the fight to ensure abortion access, one that is often at odds with that of the liberal grasstop nonprofit sphere. We cannot be content to support existing narratives and strategies; we must offer a new path forward. We commend our comrades in Metro DC DSA for their swift leadership in organizing a rally at the Supreme Court itself last night. This has been followed with statements from the national organization and chapters across the country, calling for swift state action and elevating the local abortion funds which continue to provide critical abortion care in the face of increasing state repression. These steps, while important, cannot be the end strategy of our organizing efforts as DSA.

The Mass Editorial Board stands firm in our analysis that we as socialists have an imperative to use power to build a better world than that which we currently live in. We believe that DSA, as the largest socialist organization in the United States, must dedicate our finite resources toward the goal of seizing state power. We stand in solidarity with the individuals and organizations of the reproductive justice movement working to ensure that between the world we live in and the world we will create, all people are able to access abortion care using whatever means necessary. The best way DSA can support this lifesaving work is not by duplicating efforts but rather fighting to change the material conditions in which those on the front lines provide and receive abortion care. If we retreat from this fight, it will not be long before state repression makes even self-managed abortion unattainable. 

In the face of increasingly illegitimate, withering institutions and a full-blown constitutional crisis, part of our strategy must be to grow DSA into a vehicle for working-class power that will not only resist but ultimately overcome reactionary minority rule in the long term. At a national level, this includes levying existing infrastructure and connections from existing campaigns, such as the PRO Act and Green New Deal for Public Schools, to launch a national campaign to guarantee the right to reproductive freedom and justice for all. In doing so, the national organization can offer a clear path to revitalization for chapters, in tandem with the ongoing Recommitment Drive, struggling to amass the momentum to effectively organize. We do not claim to have answered all of the questions facing DSA in this political moment. Instead, we hope to spark further discussion among comrades across the ideological spectrum.