It is a fundamental stance for socialists to oppose the subjugation of women in any form. We oppose their being viewed socially, politically, and economically as lesser than their male counter-parts. One basic precept of this attitude is the unconditional right to reproductive services, whatever they be, including abortion. This means a fundamental right to seek an abortion free from legal restraint and physical attack, as well as from being restricted economically from making the best choice possible. The legal right to abortion is one of the cornerstones in the struggle to end the oppression of women; in actual, material terms, it gives women control over their reproductive destiny, which otherwise would leave her at the mercy of nature.
There are many reasons, medical, social and economic why women feel that they can't go through with a pregnancy and therefore abortion should be available. Contrary to the despicable opinions expressed by the ruling class, women are not going to treat abortion in a light-minded manner. There must be the right to have an abortion; that doesn't mean we want women to have abortions. The women facing such a choice undoubtedly "want" an abortion least of all. The reactionaries who present a woman's right to abortion as a choice similar to selecting different goods from a supermarket shelf are very keen on the right to life before birth, and on the right to life after death; what they care less about it seems is the right of the majority to live while they are alive. There is no real right to choose in a society that does not provide women or anyone else with the right to a job, the right to a home, the right to education and a decent life.
Of course, if rich women are faced with an unwanted pregnancy, they can quietly go to a private, clean hospital, and have an abortion in privacy and safety – regardless of the law. But working class and poor women generally are often faced with dirty, unsanitary, unprofessional abortions, in secrecy, humiliation, and sometimes even under threat of physical attack. This double standard shows the true attitude of the ruling class towards the rights and conditions of working women and workers in general.
There would be no need for abortion if the social conditions that guarantee poverty and hunger for the masses were abolished. There would also be no need for abortion if free contraception were made available to everyone who wanted it. By opposing contraception the Catholic establishment creates the conditions that drive desperate women to abortion. But there are two kinds of abortion – that which has always been available to the daughters of wealthy families who have an "accident", and that which is available to women from poor peasant and working class families. The first takes place quietly in hygienic and well-equipped private hospitals, the second in squalid backrooms down back allies where ignorant old women probe with dirty needles, causing pain, injury and horrific death to a large number of unfortunate women and girls in India and many other countries.
Marxists stand for the rights of the poor and oppressed everywhere. We stand for the abolition of poverty and exploitation that makes such horrors inevitable. We also stand for the right of a woman to dispose of her body as she sees fit. The scientific use of contraception, and a proper sexual education for the young, free of religious mumbo-jumbo, hypocrisy and prejudice, is a precondition of a civilized attitude to the relations between men and women and for the freedom and equality of the female sex. Those who oppose this and place obstacles in the way of contraception are acting against the interests of women and above all of the most disadvantaged sections of society. Such reactionary attitudes are contributing to the perpetuation of poverty, the enslavement of women and the spread of AIDS, with all the horrors that means.
No-one can pretend that abortion is a good thing. We want a society free from the desperate social conditions, the poverty, the lack of housing, adequate childcare and so on which leads to unwanted pregnancy. More, we want a society where the relations between men and women are freed from the impositions of economics. A society where humanity can flourish, no longer restricted by the constraints imposed by prejudice and oppression. We want a society where the right of abortion would increasingly not need to be used. We are fighting for such a socialist society. Until it is established however, we must fight too for every basic right and reform which can improve the conditions of life for ordinary working people.
All sexually active females and males must have unconditional access to all birth control services, this is not a moral demand, this is a material necessity. This is the only way to ensure the full development of individuals free from unwanted pregnancies and the hardship that can follow. We must also eliminate the conditions that produce these hardships including: full leave from work upon pregnancy without recriminations, and up to 3 years leave after giving birth. For the right to safe, fully accessible abortion on demand if a woman so chooses! This must form part of a nationalized system of health care which can take care of all aspects of our health and well-being!