“Not Big on Abortion:” Joe Biden Pretends to be in the Vanguard of the Struggle Against Forced Motherhood

You women should take off your high heels or just lie down.

– Joe and Jill Biden on the one one-year anniversary of the anti-abortion Dobbs v. Jackson decision.

CrocoDem Tears: “This Fight Really, Really, Really Matters”

Oxford Languages Online defines the term crocodile tears as follows: “tears or expressions of sorrow that are insincere,” as in “they weep crocodile tears for the poor and disadvantaged but are basically happy with things as they are.”

It’s a good description for how top Democrats and their media and Democratic Party-affiliated “choice” organizations have been marking the first anniversary of the Christian fascist Dobbs v. Jackson decision, which ended women’s constitutional right to an abortion in the United States one year ago today.

Listen to Joe Biden, speaking last Friday (June 23rd) at the White House, where he thanked the top liberal choice and bourgeois-feminist groups NARAL, Planned Parenthood (PP), and Emily’s List for their endorsement of his 2020 and 2024 presidential runs:

“ Jill said you women should take off your high heels or you should just lie down…To state the obvious — even though it’s clear by now; it’s almost redundant to say it — this fight really matters.  It really, really matters. Since the day the Dobbs decision came down one year ago tomorrow, we’ve seen the devastating effects all across the country: women turned away from emergency rooms, denied lifesaving care; moms, college students, teachers, nurses traveling hundreds of miles to get basic reproductive healthcare. And we just heard from [Biden’s wife] Jill, who’s heard the stories firsthand.  You know, we’ve all heard the stories firsthand.  People come up to you — people you know and people you’ve grown up with.”

“Clear by now?” When was it NOT clear to any supposed/self-declared feminist that women’s right to an abortion “really, really, really matters”? And, actually, many of us foresaw “the devastating effects” the minute the Christian Fascist Supreme Court majority took up the Dobbs case in December of 2021. The then recently consolidated far-right-composition of the Court and that Court’s decision to hear the terrible case from far-right Mississippi in the first place told you all you needed to know.  Any doubt about what was in store – the reimposition of the female enslavement that is forced motherhood in much of the United States at the hands of a women-hating far right Republi-fascist Party that clearly seeks nothing less than a national abortion ban – should have disappeared when the Dobbs decision was leaked in early May of last year.

Top Democrats including the First Lady, Vice President Kamala Harris, and former US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke at last Friday’s White House event. They joined Joe “It Really, Really Matters” Biden in bemoaning the terrible consequences of the Dobbs ruling, which has greenlighted the toxic spread of abortion bans across Red State America and badly compromised freedom, opportunity, and health care for millions of women and girls.

Dobbs as an Electoral and Fundraising Asset

The bigshot Democrats are right to denounce the attack on females, but how sincere are their declarations of outrage and concern?  How genuine, really, is their purported determination to “fight back” against the sexist right-wing assault on abortion rights, which is opposed by two in three US Americans and more than four in every five US females, including a third of Republican females?

Where were the Democrats and their allied choice organizations NARAL and Planned Parenthood between December of 2021 and June 24, 2022, when it was clear that the monumentally illegitimate and Donald Trump-and Mitch McConnell-created High Handmaid Court was going to reverse Roe v. Wade? Did they use their prominent positions to join the militant organization Rise Up for Abortion Rights in working to spark and unleash the fury of women by calling thousands and millions of people into the streets and public squares to make it clear to the Court and the rest of the ruling class that ending women’s hard-won half-century constitutional right to an abortion in defiance of public opinion would mean the destabilization of society and the end of business as usual?  Did they properly question the legitimacy of the absurdly lifetime-serving Court, appointed by a president who lost the popular vote in 2016 and approved in crassly partisan and rushed ways by an absurdly powerful and malapportioned, right-tilted US Senate? Did they mount a remotely relevant popular resistance to the extremely well-telegraphed Dobbs decision in accord with majority public sentiment?

No, they did none of that. It is only a slight exaggeration, perhaps no exaggeration at all, to say that they looked forward to the Dobbs ruling.  They made no serious attempt to block it in the streets. They surrendered to it in advance while raising funds off it and eagerly anticipating it as their ace in the hole in the coming 2022 Midterm elections. They capitulated to the reactionary divide and rule power of states’ rights, gearing up to do legal and direct service battle at the state level rather than to fight in any serious way for the preservation of abortion rights on a national scale. They downplayed the severity of the attack by upholding and exaggerating the sanctuary power of blue states. They saw the coming and arrived Dobbs decision as an asset that would help them win money and votes within the Minority Rule US electoral and governance structure, where the popular will is trumped on one key issue after another by an 18th Century slaveowners’ Constitution wedded to contemporary capitalist plutocracy.

The Democrats and their bourgeois “choice” and feminist allies played their traditional establishment role of pacification, channeling/Judas Goating popular anger into the killing confines of a political superstructure and culture that regularly demoralizes the masses by thwarting majority policy preferences in the deeply deceptive name of “democracy.”

“Repro” Pill Games

Numerous faux-radical “repro” activists downplayed the relevance of Dobbs by foolishly claiming that the availability of medical abortion pills would render it moot. Really? The pills are outlawed in numerous states now. Thanks to a ruling by a handpicked Christian fascist federal district judge in Amarillo Texas, earlier this year, the far-right Fifth Circuit US Court of Appeals and/or High Handmaid Supreme Court could well nationally ban the leading abortion pill mifepristone, declaring it an unconstitutional violation of the archaic and puritanical Comstock Act  this or next year.

Pretend Powerlessness

Biden last Friday spoke about the Dobbs decision as if he couldn’t have mightily fought back against it the minute it came down. That is utterly disingenuous. Biden had the power to immediately issue  executive orders proclaiming the war on abortion a public health emergency, providing abortion services on federal properties across the entire nation, and commanding the safe and legal delivery of abortion pills to every state in the nation. That’s what Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights called for the minute Dobbs came down. This obvious and just demand received no attention in the dominant media and was never given serious consideration in the Democratic Party and “choice” establishment.

Biden still has that power, just as he has the authority to order the Federal Drug Administration to ignore any coming Court rulings meant to repeal federal approval of mifepristone – a  power he has signaled he will not use.

“Each of You Has Worked Tirelessly to Fight Back”

“Since that dark June day last year,” Biden told NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and Emily’s List’s  leaders last Friday, “each of you has worked tirelessly to fight back.”

Not really.  None of those three groups ever joined Rise Up in demanding that Biden use the executive branch powers I just mentioned.  None of them of them called for a mass mobilization and rebellion appropriate to the vicious patriarchal atrocity that was the Dobbs ruling.  None of them dared call the decision an act of female enslavement. All of them played along with the states’ rights game, thereby writing off much of the nation’s female population and standing in public denial of the obvious fact that the women-hating Republi-fascist right has always been determined to pass a national abortion ban.

And none of them called Biden on the crassly dishonest nature of his promise to sign a federal law codifying Roe v. Wade as national law if Democrats won the 2022 Congressional mid-term elections. As a longtime veteran of the US Senate, Biden knew very well that such a bill would have required something beyond possibility: 60 votes in the absurdly mal-apportioned, right-tilted upper branch of Congress. Biden’s promise was pure campaign gaslighting.

“Not Big on Abortion”

None of the leading Democratic Party-captive choice or feminist organizations issued any angry statements about the fact that Biden despicably and tellingly dedicated just thirty seconds — half a minute! – to the abortion issue in his 2023 State of the Union Address. I doubt any of their leaders will say anything critical in response Biden’s recent acknowledgement to wealthy donors in Maryland that he’s “not big on abortion” because of his Catholic faith.

Gosh, might the lethal lifelong influence of the arch-patriarchal Catholic Church on the president be part of why Biden has been just a lame and cynical defender of abortion rights?

“In the Dobbs decision,” Biden added, “the Court practically dared the women of America to be heard.”

Sloppy Joe says he wants women to be heard. But where and how? Not in the streets and public squares. Not in powerful and radical social movements like the ones that arose to protect and advance abortion rights in Latin America.  No, Biden and his fellow top Democrats and allies in the bourgeois choice establishment wants women to pretend to be heard in the voting booth, during the nation’s savagely time-staggered, narrow-spectrum major party candidate-centered electoral extravaganzas.  He wants them to think they are well heard by marking ballots for corporate and imperialist Democrats within the killing confines of an electoral and governance order tilted well to the right of the populace on one issue after another, from climate change to gun rights, labor rights, health care, abortion rights, and …well, you name it.

Translation: Joe “I Really Really Mean it” Biden doesn’t really, really want women to be heard.  He doesn’t really, really want them to seriously fight back against patriarchy. Joe Biden really, really wants them in high heels and lying down before the Minority Rule slaveowners’ system, which could well deliver us a triple branch Republi-fascist federal government in 2025.

“You know all along what Kamala and Jill and I knew as well,” Biden  had the chutzpah to tell the “high-heeled” leaders and member of NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and Emily’s List last Friday: “The American people would not stand by and let the Court take away the right that’s so fundamental, that we’d fight — we’d fight to restore these protections of Roe v. Wade and make it the law of the land once again.”

That’s a nice Orwellian inversion of historical reality.  “Stand by and let the Court take away” abortion rights without a real fight is exactly what Biden, other top Democrats, and the nation’s leading bourgeois choice and feminist organizations did. Today, as when it was formed in late 2021, Rise up for Abortion Rights has it right: relying on the Democrats and hopelessly compromised mechanisms of bourgeois democracy, American-style, is thoroughly inadequate to the task of women’s liberation. And for that it was subjected to a truly shameful venomous and slanderous COINTELPRO-like red-baiting smear campaign by a number of liberal and left “repro” and “choice” groups and journalists. It’s long past time to unleash the fury of millions of women and their allies in a mass movement for revolutionary change beneath and beyond the periodic capitalist-imperialist electoral extravaganzas that are disastrously sold to the masses as “politics,” the only politics that matters.

*A shorter version of this essay appeared on The Paul Street Report.

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).