We Need Honest Debate, Not Unprincipled Attacks:
A Further Response to the Attacks On Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights
by Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights co-initiators Merle Hoffman, Lori Sokol, Sunsara Taylor
When a journalist wants to run a panic-inducing story but lacks the facts to back it up, one cheap tactic they can deploy is to put their headline in the form of a question. This allows them to plant an outlandish idea in readers’ minds, without the burden of having to show that there is any proof to the idea at all. Such is the case with Will Sommer’s irresponsible piece in the Daily Beast on July 11 titled, “Is This Communist ‘Cult’ Trying to Hijack the Abortion Movement?”
Never mind that Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights already thoroughly rebutted the dishonest claims against it that Sommers elevated and attempted to legitimize. Never mind that, from their own perspective, the Revcoms rebutted the attacks on them and their leader, Bob Avakian, as well.
It is necessary for organizations and individuals to substantively debate differences of analysis and strategy. This is a process that everyone can learn from and which serves to forge unity in the fight against injustice. But it is something else entirely to traffic in lies, slanders, and libel, as do the attacks Sommers is legitimizing.
People should also be aware, that Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights is represented by counsel, and this counsel has already put all parties on notice to refrain from disseminating false and defamatory information about RiseUp.
These kinds of unprincipled attacks objectively do the dirty work of the fascists and the repressive agents of the state in attempting to destroy serious movements of opposition. The rebuttals linked above, each from their own perspective, make this case well.
Anyone with an ounce of principle, devotion to the truth and/or desire to forge the broadest unity in the fight against injustice, should read both of these responses now and tell those spreading these attacks to cease and desist.
When you read these rebuttals, you will quickly notice that rather than presenting a substantial excerpt of either of these rebuttals, Sommers quotes only 14 words from them combined!
Instead, he cites the fact that Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights was “ever-present at rallies responding to the [Supreme Court’s] ruling” as if this is something nefarious. To the contrary.
There is a very simple reason that Rise Up was “ever-present” at these rallies. It is because Rise Up organized the great bulk of them. Like it or not, this is an irrefutable fact. Why did we do this? For the very reasons that are made clear on all of our signs, in our speeches, on our website, through our social media, in every fundraising letter we ever sent, and through all our media exposure.
From our founding statement:
The attack on abortion rights is part of a patriarchal Christian fascist program that takes aim at contraception as well as LGBTQ rights. Denying the right to abortion hits poor women, and especially Black and other women of color, with vicious consequence – tightening the chains of both white supremacy and the subjugation of women.
Denying the right to abortion forces women to bear children against their will. This does grotesque physical, emotional, societal, and psychic violence to women by reducing them to baby-making machines…
Forced motherhood is female enslavement. When women are not free, no one is free.
Preventing this nightmare is why we poured our time, experience, energies, resources, and hearts into mobilizing tens of thousands of people in protest over the last six months. It is why we involved artists and writers, communities with ties to the Latin American Green Wave, thousands of students and young people, many older women with the courage to tell their pre-Roe abortion stories, and a great many more. It is why we put it on the line, nonviolently disrupting business-as-usual, some of us going to jail, and fighting to unite all who could possibly be united from many diverse political perspectives.
It is why we fought even up to the very last days to mobilize the vast majority in this country who support abortion rights in nonviolent resistance powerful enough to stop the Supreme Court from overturning Roe, protesting every day of a potential decision in front of the Supreme Court for weeks. And when the decision finally came, just as we did with others at all of our protests, we welcomed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez when she showed up and happily gave her a turn on the mic to speak from her own perspective.
So, we must ask, exactly what “movement” is Sommers claiming we might be “hijacking”? The unfortunate fact is that the only reason we felt the need to initiate Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights back in January was because the vast majority of the women’s “movement” was capitulating in advance to the fall of Roe.
Again, from our founding statement:
[A]ll too many pro-choice leaders and Democratic Party politicians preach a “realism” of accepting the Court’s gutting of abortion rights. They tell us to dig in for the “long-haul” of the electoral process or to focus on helping women induce their own abortions. Whatever their intent, this amounts to capitulating in advance to the enslavement of women and an overall nightmare for humanity.
This, too, is an irrefutable fact. Most of the “movement,” in one form or another, had already moved on and accepted the fall of Roe as “inevitable.” This is why it was Rise Up, not these other organizations, mobilizing mass protest in a consistent way.
We sincerely wish this hadn’t been the case and repeatedly reached out to others, both inside the “movement” and very far beyond it. Such was the case in the open letter issued by Rise Up co-initiators following the leak of Samuel Alito’s draft decision that made clear the Court was on track to overturn Roe, calling for the greatest unified protest in the streets. This is also the case in the much-distorted polemic issued by Sunsara Taylor, one of Rise Up’s initiators, making the case from her own perspective (not in the name of Rise Up) that Abortion Funds provide a crucial service, but are not a strategy to defeat the escalating attack on abortion rights and have no chance of keeping up with the demand that would be created by the overturning of Roe.
If more people – including some of the very groups that sat on the sidelines and now are attacking Rise Up – had joined them in mobilizing truly massive nonviolent sustained protests, we might have stopped Roe from being overturned. Even outright fascists and woman-haters worry about losing the perceived legitimacy of their institutions when faced with un-ignorable and truly relentless, unceasing mass protest.
We know some won’t agree. Some will believe Rise Up was wrong for ever thinking it might be possible to stop the overturning of Roe. Some will believe that this proves that the other organizations were right to spend the last six months (and for many, much longer) focused on preparing for post-Roe. Some will argue that instead of continuing to demand as Rise Up has that the federal government take action now to restore legal abortion nationwide now, it is time to turn the focus to the state-by-state battle and the upcoming elections.
To those who think that way, have the courage of your convictions. Make your argument with substance. Whatever you do, stop hiding behind lies and McCarthyite scare tactics that can only weaken serious opposition at a time when it is more urgent than ever.
Merle Hoffman is the Founder and CEO of Choices Women’s Medical Center.
Lori Sokol is the Executive Director of Women’s eNews.
Sunsara Taylor is the co-host of the RNL – Revolution, Nothing Less! – Show.
All three are co-initiators of RiseUp4AbortionRights.org