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Wednesday, 21 August 2013 00:00

Defying the anti-choice fanatics

by Lily Connor

Extremists are using dirty tactics to poison debate about a woman's right to choose

The US city of Albuquerque is home to the New Mexico Holocaust and Intolerance Museum, founded by Holocaust survivor Werner Gellert and his wife Frances to educate people about the Holocaust and genocides around the world.

Earlier this month, this admirable museum was descended upon by anti-choice extremists calling themselves the Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust (SAH).

Their mission? To demand that the Albuquerque museum include an exhibit on abortion alongside those on the nazi death camps, terming abortion "America's holocaust."

Needless to say, the museum refused to entertain the notion. However, SAH and its allies remained undeterred.

The anti-choice fanatics continued their protest, waving signs terming Albuquerque "America's Auschwitz," in reference to the availability of abortion services in the city.

Of course, anti-choice politics in New Mexico go beyond small groups of extremists staging anti-semitic publicity stunts.

The broader context in the state that attracted SAH is a ballot measure this autumn. Should it pass, abortion access in the state would be severely restricted.

Tellingly, among the measure's supporters are the infamous Operation Rescue as well as other anti-choice groups.

Operation Rescue is a militant anti-choice Christian group, which attracted controversy over its links to Scott Roeder, a fanatic who shot and killed an abortion doctor in Kansas in 2009.

Clearly, SAH feels that its attention-grabbing shenanigans can be deployed in tandem with political opposition to women's right to choose, in order to amplify its impact beyond their fringe status.

Regardless of whether more reserved opponents of abortion rights explicitly work with SAH, Operation Rescue and their ilk, the peripheral extremists nevertheless attempt to promote a cultural climate hostile to choice.

Without such a climate, political attempts to shut down clinics stand little chance of success.

Attempts to curtail reproductive freedom are not limited to New Mexico.

The far-right has attacked abortion rights in state legislatures across the US, from Texas to Ohio and beyond.

No wonder crusaders like SAH feel emboldened - with politicians across country attempting to kill Roe v Wade by attrition, they must see their cause as vindicated.

But is it? Will reproductive choice in the US soon be a thing of the past?

More and more, women and their allies are saying No.

Faced with these threats to their control over their own bodies, women and other pro-choice activists are working to defend access to safe, legal abortion.

Perhaps the most dramatic example to date has been Texas Senator Wendy Davis's heroic filibuster earlier this summer.

However, the movement goes beyond one moment, however powerful.

Indeed, there has been talk of Davis running for Texas governor, encouraged both by Texans and by pro-choice activists elsewhere.

And in Albuquerque, a coalition of women's organisations, health-care providers and other supporters of reproductive freedom have united to make sure that the ballot measure does not pass.

The pro-choice grass-roots movement has also come together to tell extremists like SAH that they and their agenda are not welcome in New Mexico.

The more the people make it clear to the far-right that women have a right to make decisions about their own bodies, and the more the people stand up to attempts to criminalise women's reproductive choices, then the safer and more empowered women will be.

The liberation of women, after all, is the cornerstone of universal liberation - and unless we stand up for ourselves, defeating an oppressive system becomes impossible.

This is a slightly edited version of an article that appeared at Peoplesworld.org

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