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International Women’s Day 1975
by Ad Hoc Committee on International Women’s Day
On March 8, 1975, a dozen Science for the People members from Boston participated in the celebration of International Women’s Day by joining a march sponsored by the anti-imperialist International Women’s Day Coalition in New York City. The coalition was composed of the Congress of African People, Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization, the October League, two Ethiopian student groups, the Haitian Women’s Study Group, and two other Haitian groups, making the march half women, half men, half Third World, halfwhite. Some 300 strong the march proceeded from historic Thompkins Square on the Lower East Side — scene of a police massacre of peacefully assembled unemployed women, men and children in 1874 — to the United Nations Plaza 40 blocks away. Along the march route, which took us through a Puerto Rican working class neighborhood, leaflets were passed out and those of us who were in the rear section of the march could observe the very positive response of most bystanders. Many stopped to read the leaflets printed in English, Spanish, and French and bought buttons. The crowd was decidedly friendly rather than indifferent or hostile.
Most of the participating groups had speakers at the rally who made clear the connection between women’s oppression and imperialism. The atmosphere was festive, generating enthusiasm with many colorful banners, and topped off by a rousing performance by two revolutionary Third World singing groups, so that one can almost literally say that we were dancing in the streets.
Science for the People had been asked to report on the Edelin case in Boston. Joan Weisberg delivered a collectively written speech the text of which is reprinted below.
Boston has recently become the arena for a massive attack on women, Third World and working class people. The racist anti-busing movement has provided a cover for violent attacks on Third World people. The anti-abortion movement focuses its attack on women, especially poor women. The general attack on working class people is reflected in one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. These are not isolated events. The recent trial of Dr. Kenneth Edelin is an example of this threefold attack.
On October 3, 1973, Dr. Kenneth Edelin, the first Black Chief Resident at Boston City Hospital, performed a routine abortion at the request of a teenage woman. As a result of this action, Dr. Edelin was brought to trial and found guilty of manslaughter. In other words, he was charged with murder for the normal consequence of a legal abortion. The state’s contention is that the fetus was viable. They claim that Edelin kept it from breathing while still in the uterus after being separated from the mother. The verbal technicalities of the case represent only one of the many ways anti-abortion forces around the country are still trying to wipe out the 1973 Supreme Court decision upholding the right to abortion.
It is clear that this outcry of viability is just a tool to obscure the real issue. This is a political trial which clearly involves more than just one abortion. The prosecution paraded a host of self-proclaimed right-to-life activists before the all-white predominantly male jury in an attempt to conjure up anti-abortion sentiment. Thinly veiled racist attacks on the rights of poor people, and the connections between the right-to-life partisans and the segregationist “anti-busing” movement have all been evident. Thayer Fremont-Smith, a lawyer for one of the prosecution’s star witnesses is involved in the anti-abortion group “Massachusetts Right-to-Life”, as well as the Home and School Association, which is organizing the white boycott of schools in Boston. The American Party which polled a plurality in a recent gubernatorial election in South Boston supported the racist anti-busing forces and voiced strong opposition to the right to abortion. There is no question of whose rights they have in mind when they campaign under the slogans: against abortion, against busing, and against communism. [See “Behind the Boston Busing Crisis“, SftP, Vol. VII no. 2, March 1975.]
We believe that the Edelin case is a direct attack on the rights of women, Third World and working class people. Women have the right to make decisions affecting their bodies and their lives. This right was fought for and won. It is absolutely necessary to defend it because abortions were taking place and will continue to take place regardless of their legality under conditions extremely dangerous to the women involved. Boston City Hospital stopped doing abortions during the Edelin trial and several other Boston hospitals have restricted their abortions to the first trimester. However, safe abortions are available to the ruling class, as they have always been, in private hospitals. This is a blatant attack on our right to a safe clean abortion on demand.
Dr. Edelin, a Black physician, has been scapegoated by the racists of the ruling class. His dedication to medicine and his patients, his excellent relations with the staff at Boston City are well documented by co-workers who were not permitted to testify at the trial. The blatantly racist remarks made by some jury members are indicative of the attacks on Third World people in Boston and all over the country.
Bringing Dr. Edelin to trial has had direct detrimental effects on poor and Black patients at the hospital. Boston City Hospital is the only medical facility accessible to working class people from Boston’s communities. Cutting back services there prevents people from exercising their rights.
It is necessary to examine these events in Boston in the context of the world-wide struggle against imperialism and also in the context of women’s rights. Population control programs, pushed by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, forced sterilizations, all victimize women (especially minority women) as does the distribution of unsafe contraceptives both here and in the Third World. These strategies, and the right-to-life forces, are tools of the ruling class that decides which sectors of the population are to be controlled and how. They are fighting for their own right to life even if it means death to working class and minority women. It is imperialism, not overpopulation, which is denying so many the right to life. [Many back issues of Science for the People have articles on these subjects. Write to us for more information and a complete Index.]
We can be sure that this repression will come down in other parts of the country. In Boston we have been mobilizing for demonstrations in support of Edelin as well as building for a forum to take place in the Spring. The temporary victory of the fascists in the Edelin case has served to unify us to keep fighting for our democratic rights. We will continue to fight and we will expose the larger issues of this racist frame-up in Boston. We will continue to fight in every part of the world until we have defeated imperialism.