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No One Has to Ask Permission to Fight For Women’s Equality

The headline, “In Texas, Activist Group ‘Stop Patriarchy” Draws Criticism’ and the first two paragraphs might first appear like an objective report; however, your blog, reprinted in Bitch is not a report, but a trash job. Come clean, Katie Klabusich, Texans for Reproductive Justice is you and your buddies in an ad hoc group formed for the sole purpose of opposing Stop Patriarchy and their mission to come to Texas, protest the TRAP laws that are closing down Texas clinics and their goal of linking this to the nationwide emergency facing abortion rights.

I’m on the advisory board of Stop Patriarchy and I went on the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride for one week.

So, you have not given me or anyone else one good reason not to support Stop Patriarchy. Your criticisms are baseless; if anything, they are reasons to support Stop Patriarchy.

It is great that we attract media attention because we go to where the Patriarchy is crushing women down; our demonstrations are photogenic; we have good slogans, “Abortion on Demand and Without Apology”; we have attention-arresting enlargements of photos of women who have died from illegal abortion and great props dramatizing that enforced pregnancy is unconstitutional “involuntary servitude.” We have great fliers and dramatize women’s abortion stories. We get national and local media response, in addition to getting out broadly into the communities across Texas and talking to real people – not just people in the existing “movement” – the majority of whom know nothing about the clinic closures and have never heard anyone speak positively about abortion. I saw this have a real positive impact on people’s thinking. What is not to like about that?

You ask where the money we raised went? $30,000.00 is not much these days, especially when dozens of you fly or drive to the destination and you have to use cars and stay in motels, but if you sleep on the floor and cook your own food, you can make it stretch. What money do you think is not accounted for?

You all call Stop Patriarchy racist because we say that forced motherhood is female enslavement? A woman accepts the pains and dangers of wanted pregnancy and labor, but when we are forced to endure them, what would you call it? A walk in the park? You call us Islamaphobic because we condemn the patriarchy that forces women to wear the burka? We condemn Western patriarchy that pressures women to be sex objects and wear body-restricting clothing like thongs. Is that Islamaphobic? And, who says Stop Patriarchy is against sex workers because we are against pornography? Is being against sweatshops also being against underpaid laborers who work in unhealthy conditions?

None of these are good reasons for opposing and seeking to sabotage Stop Patriarchy.

Let’s get to the meat of what is burning your buns. We did not get permission from you all to come protest at the Federal Courthouse in Austin at the hearings to decide whether to let the restrictions on clinics go into effect this September 1st, did we? Katie, did you notice that we demonstrated at the FEDERAL courthouse? That’s because the question before the court was whether the law violated the U.S. constitution, and that affects all of us, doesn’t it? Just because it happens on Texas soil is irrelevant. We don’t have to ask permission. Get over it.

Also, you are upset we did not use our money to pay for women’s abortions now that Texas women are being forced to travel and incur extra costs. Well, that is a political decision. Most people who call themselves reproductive rights groups consider themselves “political.” Political means engaging in the political process. Protesting is a time-honored way of being political, and while we are all consternated at the injustice against Texas women that is being perpetrated, social change will only come about through political organizing, which costs money.

What really makes me question your ad hoc group’s opposition to Stop Patriarchy, Katie, is that you want to keep SP from protesting in Texas, because they are “disreputable” and many of them support the Revolutionary Communist Party. Why do you think this disqualifies us from being part of the reproductive rights movement?

I have been a reproductive rights activist and an abortion provider for over 40 years, and I am on the advisory board of Stop Patriarchy. I am aware that Stop Patriarchy is an effort that Sunsara Taylor and other supporters of the RCP initiated which also includes others who believe in the goals of Stop Patriarchy, such as I. I believe that we need a revolution in this country, but think it has to be a feminist-led revolution that transforms our society, therefore I am not a communist, but I have known these folks since before 1979. I esteem them as fellow progressives that share my opposition to U.S. imperialist wars, and mass incarceration of poor, black and brown people, and I condemn your red-baiting.

The red-baiting brings up an interesting question, Katie, are you guys against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the blatant use of our law enforcement machinery to imprison so many young men of color and the murder of Trayvon Martin and now Michael Brown? Or, are you all the kind of reproductive rights activists that believes that the women’s movement is just about raising women’s status in our society, and not about broader social justice. That might explain your group’s slurs.

I have to wonder if you folks have lined up with the Democratic Party who continues to support Hyde Amendment restrictions and the mealy-mouthed “choice” people whose only goal is to reduce female fertility, and you do not want us “disreputable” protestors to raise hell about these TRAP laws.

I would like to say why I came to Texas at this time to protest these laws. First, I have watched our defeat in Texas with dismay, and I wanted to come join in with the protests of Texans and to voice my own outrage. Second, I see more and more attacks coming around the country, and I see very little visible protest occurring. Mostly everything is left up to Planned Parenthood and the Democrats, and I am sick of it. I think it’s time for outspoken protests saying “Abortion on Demand and Without Apology.” I respect that Texans have been working hard on this issue, but it has not been enough. We need to do more. In L.A., in NYC, everywhere. I invite Texans who are working for Reproductive Freedom and Justice to come to California. We need some help too.

Carol Downer, an American Feminist Lawyer and Non-Fiction author who has focused her career on abortion rights. She is the co-founder of Feminist Women’s Health Center which began doing abortions in 1971.

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