My name is Merle Hoffman and I identify as a second-class citizen of the United States.
I salute all of you who are here today testifying with your bodies that as long as one woman is not free to access legal abortion in this country, as long as one woman in one state is under the rule of local and state politicians deciding when and whether to reproduce none of us are free.
How dare they—how dare they attempt to relegate women and girls to second class citizenry?
How dare they play theocratic and ideological politics with our lives and dreams?
Shall we have the right to free speech left to the states—the right to worship—the right to vote?
Legal abortion is an integral core of women’s health and the necessary condition for women’s freedom.
Women are full moral agents with the right and ability to choose when and whether they will be mothers.
The right to abortion is often an act of love and always an act of survival.
We demand legal abortion nationwide in the name of all our daughters, mothers, sisters, and grandmothers who alone and in pain lost their lives in back alleys or on dirty kitchen tables for their right to choose.
So today I am not celebrating International Women’s Day with smiley faces or urging you to buy some product that allows you to perform feminism. I am demanding that you look around you and look at the reality of women’s lives and struggle for survival and freedom.
Look towards Iran.
Look at how Mahsa Amini’s torture and death in prison for showing some hair under her head scarf has unleashed a wave of protests under the slogan “women, life, freedom”. Look how many young women have thrown their headscarves into the fire—they do not burn books but the symbols of oppression—and put their lives on the line every time they do it.
And now there are reports of hundreds of girl students becoming seriously ill from poisonings at schools across Iran. Who is behind this is unclear—but what is perfectly clear is that misogyny kills.
And look towards in Afghanistan where our worst fears have been realized. It is increasingly obvious that Isis’ treatment of women and girls is gender genocide and a crime against humanity.
And now come back home where “it could never happen”—and “they would never overturn Roe”— could and did happen.
It would be wise for us to believe what our enemies say when they say it, and not minimize their commitment, persistence, and ruthlessness.
Since the overturn of Roe, more than a dozen states have banned most abortions either by prohibiting them completely, with limited exceptions, or after six weeks of pregnancy.
The attacks on abortion pills and proposed bills to prosecute women who have abortions for homicide, show that our enemies are totally committed to continuing their assault on our bodies and our ability to live free from forced motherhood.
Do not think that New York is a safe place. If there is not legal abortion nationwide —there are no safe places for women and girls.
Will we accept this? Will we continue to compromise and capitulate?
Or will we resist?
It is time for courage commitment audacity daring persistence and real struggle.
For as long as it takes.
The power of the state must stop at our skins. We have to draw a line in the sand.
Women’s rights remain in a state of emergency. If not now, when? If not you–then who?