Tori: I have never called anyone “Sister” as a term of solidarity. Part of this is because I have grown up hearing either very little about feminist history, or only hearing about the negative aspects of it; one of the most disparaging being that the Women’s Liberation Movement was a “movement of rich, white, straight, women.”
To those new to feminist histories our Second-Wave foremothers were awesome. Their passion, grassroots organizing, and coalition building changed history. Part of their strength was in the Sisterhood movement, acting as a driving force behind 1970s activism. Even today at pro-choice rallies you can hear women shout, “WOMEN UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED!” That battle cry is a pretty good summary of the philosophy behind Sisterhood. Women are sisters in a revolution. Women need to come together because regardless of where we have come from or our socioeconomic backgrounds all women have the same basic wants and needs, such as access to abortion.
The unification of women behind legalizing abortion helped pass Roe V. Wade. When Marcy called us her Sisters I felt. . . a sense of being united to all the women who have fought for reproductive rights and justice before me. I enjoyed being called her sister. I am incredibly thankful to the women who have come before me.
I had to ask Marcy about the Hyde Amendment and what Second-Wave feminists did when it was proposed. I’ve always been confused about how we managed to make abortion legal but then only a couple years later reproductive rights were already being chipped away at.
The Hyde Amendment was drafted by Representative Henry Hyde. He was a tad bit upset about women having bodily autonomy so he decided to attack low-income people. The Hyde Amendment bans the federal health program Medicaid from covering abortion. This amendment has accomplished two things. One is that if you are on Medicaid, meaning
you are low-income, you will have to find some other way to pay for your abortion. Or you could forego having an abortion in a safe, clean, medical facility and seek out an illegal, unsafe, but affordable abortion. The Hyde Amendment also sent the message that abortion is not healthcare. It is the only medical procedure not covered by Medicaid.
So what happened? How did this pass?
Though we are all people, and we all deserve respect and basic human rights, all our needs and wants are not exactly the same. Marcy talked about how the Sisterhood movement did consist of primarily white, middle class, straight women. These were women who were not on Medicaid, who didn’t need it. Without this language of intersectionality Second-Wave feminists could not see how access to abortion or reproductive rights could change for women in different socioeconomic classes, of other races, cultures, or who did not identify as women. So, yes, abortion was legal, but it was only accessible to some.
Second-Wave feminists were so powerful because they stood together, but separately. They did not rally with their Sisters on Medicaid or women of color, but with others like them who had privilege–and, consequently, the Hyde Amendment passed.
That’s why activists like Loretta Ross of SisterSong have moved away from the idea of being “pro-choice” to striving for Reproductive Justice–the fight for reproductive rights focusing on the framework of intersectionality. Abortion should not just be legal but it needs to be accessible to all individuals.