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Let us make no mistake. The Supreme Court’s attack on a person’s right to control their own body is an attack on workers rights. We, as working women, are not machines to be regulated by men regardless of their status within the halls of power. Just as we reject the notion of the worker devoid of agency, as a tool of capital, we also reject the subjugation of any body with a uterus by the elitist patriarchy. As women and as workers we must not now nor ever take even one step back from our hard earned rights without total resistance. As the Chairwoman of the Vermont AFL-CIO’s Woman & Gender Equity Committee, I vehemently denounce the U.S. Supreme Court’s intent to overturn Roe v. Wade.

As is now well known, on May 2, a draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito was leaked to the public. The document indicates that the Supreme Court intends to overturn Roe v. Wade. Such a ruling will mean that 49 years of federal constitutional protection of abortion rights will end and individual state legislatures will be given the power to determine the people’s access to abortion. The Center for Reproductive Rights labels 25 states as “hostile” to abortion rights, meaning that they would likely ban or severely restrict, or make it very hard to get one. At the moment, thirteen states currently have “trigger bans,” which would immediately ban abortion when Roe v. Wade is overturned. Nine states have pre-Roe v. Wade bans that could take effect, unless state legislatures pass a new law.

Abortion access is a labor issue. In a country where paid parental leave is a luxury, not a guarantee, where the cost of medical care, especially for labor and delivery, can leave families in crippling debt, and where there is no universal subsidized childcare, abortion restriction is a working class emergency. And any attack on bodily autonomy is an affront to the very idea that we live in a society which values personal liberty and the collective rights of all classes above that of the ruling few.

The fact is that we have sought abortions throughout all of history and will continue to do so - and when this ruling is overturned, we must see the reality that it will only be the working class who suffer while those in the upper class will continue to posses the financial means to access safe abortions in other states or countries. It will be the working class, poor women, and marginalized communities in the U.S., especially those in the Republican led South, who will be forced to risk their lives should they dare to envision a future where they refuse to serve as incubators for the many men (and few reactionary women) that write the rules for the rest of us.

As labor leaders, we must sound the alarm and fight back! We must refuse to allow the ruling class to advance their patriarchal attacks without resistance. Furthermore, Organized Labor must be prepared for a reality whereby, once again, the federal courts are not our friends and protectors. Instead, the National AFL-CIO must demonstrate that it stands by us. We need more than outrage; we need effective, material support. For those who live where abortion is outlawed, the National AFL-CIO must establish a fund for financial assistance to travel to states where they can get the treatment they seek under the safest and most supportive conditions. At the same time, we must practice solidarity by sharing the age-old herbal and natural remedies passed down by our ancestors for thousands of years to control their own destiny. And right here in Vermont, all Union members must make their voices heard and demand that the Vermont General Assembly enshrine the right to an abortion into our own State Constitution. And finally, as women, as workers of every gender, and as a Labor Movement we must demonstrate in the streets, in the factories, in the halls of government, and in our homes so that women and trans comrades achieve true equity and agency in this society we call the United States.

United!

Katie Harris is chairwoman of the Women and Gender Equity Committee and vice president of the Vermont AFL-CIO. She is also president of AFSCME Local 1674. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of Vermont News & Media.


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