Protest against Arizona Supreme Court anti-abortion decision. Photo: Fibonacci Blue/CC
Protest against Arizona Supreme Court anti-abortion decision. Photo: Fibonacci Blue/CC

Amy Sage, Bristol North Socialist Party

Protesters gathered outside the Arizona Capitol building in Phoenix on 11 April to oppose a further attack on the right to abortion in the USA. The demonstration was called following a decision by the Arizona Supreme Court that a 1864 law, which bans abortion in nearly all cases, may be brought back into effect. Under this statute, anyone who is found to have performed an abortion could face up to five years in prison. If reenacted, abortion in Arizona will effectively be banned from the moment of conception, except where it is necessary to save the life of the mother. No provisions, however, make exceptions in the case of rape or incest.

This recent attack on the rights of women was made possible by the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade in 2022, which reversed the constitutional right to an abortion. Since this ruling, 14 states have completely banned abortion while two more have introduced laws banning the procedure after six weeks. This has resulted in a patchwork map of where the procedure is legal in the US and has left millions of women and girls at risk.

However, even where abortion was protected under the constitution, provision and access to clinics was also patchy, with many women being denied access to an abortion, not by the law, but by the cost. Abortion has never been free in the USA, with women paying as much as $500 for a termination, excluding travel and childcare costs, and loss of wages for taking time off work.

The 1973 Roe v Wade ruling signified a crucial victory for the women’s movement in the USA and the working class as a whole. However, this latest attack on reproductive rights in Arizona following Roe’s reversal shows us that, under capitalism, any reforms won will always be temporary and partial. The ruling class can be forced to make certain concessions under the pressure of mass movements, but as soon as these movements subside, the capitalists will move to claw back the reforms.

Therefore, we cannot rely on capitalist politicians to secure real reproductive freedom. This includes the Democratic Party which is seeking to make abortion a central issue in the upcoming presidential election, yet failed to introduce legislation that would have backed up Roe and prevented the 2022 Supreme Court attack. Securing gains for women and bringing about the end of oppression means fighting to end the capitalist system itself, which perpetuates reactionary ideas, and to replace it with a democratic socialist society.