Linda Gordon: Why Abortion Is a Labor IssueRoundup: Historians' Take
tags: unions, feminism, abortion, Linda Gordon, In These Times, organized labor
Linda Gordon is a University Professor of the Humanities and professor of history at NYU, teaching courses on gender, social movements, imperialism and the 20th-century U.S. in general. She has published a number of prize-winning works of history and won many prestigious awards, including Guggenheim, NEH, ACLS, Radcliffe Institute and the New York Public Library¹s Cullman Center fellowships.
On Dec. 11, 2012, Michigan passed two right-to-work laws, one for public and one for private employees. As even our president said, “right to work” in this case means “right to work for lower wages.” These laws do not free workers to reject joining a union, because they already have that right. Instead, the laws abolish the requirement that those who don’t join a union pay the equivalent of union dues, a requirement designed to prevent “free riders”—workers who benefit from union contracts without paying their fair share.
Three days later, the same lame-duck legislature passed the most extreme anti-abortion laws in the nation. These laws define abortion so broadly that it includes even the removal of a “fetus that has died as a result of natural causes, accidental trauma, or a criminal assault on the pregnant woman.” The laws prohibit any private or public insurance from covering abortion; charge physicians performing abortion with the responsibility of seeing that any piece of human tissue receive the burial due to a deceased person; and put the burden on the physician to prove that the abortion patient was not coerced. Perhaps worst, the laws place many arbitrary requirements on clinics, none of them health-related, that most of the state’s women’s clinics would be forced to close.
This coincidence of anti-labor and anti-abortion legislation is not a coincidence. They are part of the same right-wing agenda. If progressives are to build successful resistance to that agenda, our own agenda needs to include both labor and reproductive rights....
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