ABORTION RIGHTS AND THE INDIE MUSIC WORLD
Marisa Dabice of Mannequin Pussy speaks on women's rights at Terminal 5, NYC, September 23, 2022
Interviews by Jason Gross
A decades-long fever dream of the US Republican party has been to strike down abortion rights, established in the 1973 Roe Vs. Wade case. Sadly, this came to fruition in the recent Supreme Court case, Dobbs Vs. Jackson, made public on June 24th, which tore away this right from women all over America.
The consequences for this horrendous, poorly thought-out SCOTUS decision are enormous and wide ranging. In the medical field, because of legal fears, obstetrics (childbirth) doctor training will be inadequate/incomplete and may lead to a shortage of care professionals in that field. Also, doctors will be forced to deny women lifesaving care, even in states with "lifesaving' exceptions," while some doctors are already warning that they will have to create "death panels" to deal with ethical/legal considerations about abortions. We're already seeing that certain prescriptions for drugs related to pregnancy may be denied, even in cases where pregnancies aren't involved (just on the suspicions of one). Legal fears will also mean that potentially life-saving medical research will be adversely affected. If that wasn't bad enough, there's the prospect of increased infant mortality rates, domestic violence and sick premature babies, not to mention the traumatic mental health issues for women involved. If this sounds too speculative, there's already stories of stories of death threats, underage pregnancies, forced birth for rape victims, and denial of divorce as well as news that some doctors are being told not to treat pregnant women because of certain medical complications. And it's not as if men are off the hook- many guys are rushing to get vasectomies and may be caught in financial binds because of unplanned pregnancies (not that they shouldn't pay child support). The prospects for a 1984-type police state to seek and punish women is very real as there's now the possilibity of police investigating miscarriages as well as social media being used to track women seeking abortions and the prospect of "abortion refugees," where red states may hunt down and jail a woman who flees to another state for an abortion. If all of that wasn't horrifying enough, there's also all of the effects that the SCOTUS decision will have on many other parts of US society: we'll likely see a huge strain on an already far-from-perfect foster care system, workplace inequality will increase, as will the poverty rate (unwanted pregnancies disproportionately affect low-income women). To top it all off, we're already seeing the start of an exodus of families, seeking to flee states with strict abortion laws.
In the music world, reacting to SCOTUS' Dobbs decision, there were angry and defiant statements coming from artists at their shows (including Halsey, Megan Thee Stallion, Kendrick Lamar, Billie Eilish and Billie Joe Armstrong, plus see the video above from Philly punk band Mannequin Pussy) and social media posts (Taylor Swift, Jack White, P!nk, Brandi Carlile). Particularly striking were very personal posts from Waxahatchee and Sunflower Bean and this statement from Maren Morris. Taking it even a step further, several artists put their moola where their mouth are, donating thousands of dollars to reproductive rights groups, including Rage Against the Machine and Lizzo, along with Paramore donating tour profits to reproductive care support group ARC Southeast and Courtney Barnett putting out a label compilation to support these groups too.
To gauge some personal reactions from other artists, we spoke to several indie artists about abortion rights in a post-Roe world, including their own experiences, and the experiences they've witnessed with friends and families. Along with the women here, we also spoke to several men as allies, some part of the LGBTQ+ community, about the way to fight back and to move forward.
Special thanks to Sydney Christensen and the Kill Rock Stars family.
photo by Lauren Tabak
I cannot bear children; however, I have had partners and family members who've had to have abortions in order to live their lives the way they want to, to be able to follow their careers and to thrive. One of those people is my aunt, who had to find an abortion practitioner in 1969 at age 20 before Roe, and was lucky enough to know doctors and tap into the network of safe abortion providers that existed underground at that time.
Her experience and others like it have made me fight valiantly for the bodily autonomy of all people, women and other birth-givers. Abortion rights cannot be separated from all human rights, as they also encompass gay rights, trans rights, and women's rights. Abortion rights--reproductive rights--are basic human rights, and if we lose one right, we lose them all.
For years I've been involved with the movement for bodily autonomy for all women and other marginalized people; in this time since the recent (SCOTUS) ruling, I've been regrouping, asking friends what they can need, offering resources where I can. Starting with SESTA/FOSTA and then the Trump-era restrictions on trans bodies, we've seen this coming for a long time. When sex workers don't have bodily autonomy, when trans people have their rights stricken, it is the slippery slope that leads to basic human rights being stripped from anyone who isn't white, cis, and male.
With the recent Supreme Court ruling, I was horrified and not at all shocked. Forcing marginalized people to be subjugated to the whims of the state is a big part of white supremacy, and the fact that the ruling specifically called for revisiting the cases that led to guaranteed contraception access, gay rights, and gay marriage shows where this is headed.
The best way to combat restrictions on bodily autonomy is a constitutional change, i.e., ERA. We can vote people in and out of office, but if bodily autonomy is at the whim of the Supreme Court, or left to the voting public as a referendum, then our rights will swing wildly, as we have seen here and in the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, et cetera. We the people can and will fight--and we will revolt--but rights for anyone who is not white and male must be codified in this country. We need a new Bill of Rights that decriminalizes sex work, that affirms that anyone of any race or gender identity has the same rights as anyone else, that affirms that reproductive rights and bodily autonomy are owned by that individual, and not limited by the state.
When I was in my late teens, I had an abortion after being raped. It was a roommate I briefly had, and basically I found out he had warrants out so with everything going on, and texts he had sent me admitting everything, I called the police 7-8 times to talk to different people and every time they said they couldn't/wouldn't do anything at all for me. My friends didn't support abortion so i drove myself 5 hours total to the clinic where they had me watch a video, look at the ultrasound, etc. It wasn't great.
Now those people support abortion which is great, but back then, I was basically told "shit happens but that's no excuse to murder." I later found out I have some serious health issues and am infertile; however if I do get pregnant (again), it would be extremely dangerous. So I'm lucky I went through with it. I'm also unable to be on birth control due to a heart condition. So it's a scary situation. Having the option to have an abortion is super necessary for so many reasons, (I mean, any reason really) and it's terrifying what they're doing. After I had an abortion, I started working with young girls in similar situations and helping in any way i could.
I always supported the right to bodily autonomy including abortion. I do have more sympathy/empathy now. I think when I was younger, I didn't fully understand the weight of the situation due to my household. Because getting an abortion isn't an easy choice, it's traumatizing and physically, healing can take years.
When I first went through my experience, I worked with an organization similar to Women Against Abuse, to get young women help. Whether it was helping get resources to get an abortion, get out of an abusive household, or just being there to talk. Presently, we go to every protest we can in Tucson. I also use my social media platform to spread the message. I think it's important to share stories, so I open conversations multiple times a week for young women to share their stories in a safe space, talk about the political injustices and what we can actively do to incite change. We promote, exchange, and share resources, and I keep my account a safe space for anyone who needs it. I also wrote this year's album about my experiences as well. So I've gotten to start the conversation every night while traveling around, to rooms of people that include all walks of life. The goal is to spark thought and conversation each night, with me and with others, and encourages others to be unafraid to be vocal, no matter how scary it can be. Lastly, I tattoo during the day, and since the overturn, I created a flash sheet full of empowering designs and I've been donating 50% of the total cost to Planned Parenthood, who matched every dollar the first month (and I'm currently looking for someone else to keep matching). All little things, but whatever I can do, I feel it's really necessary to do whatever I can to help in some way.
When Roe V. Wade was overturned, I felt sick. I felt scared for the women that will be put in dangerous, life threatening situations that won't have options. I felt helpless for myself and the women for whom it is extremely dangerous to take contraception, but more dangerous to have children. I felt pissed that serious health issues and conditions weren't taken into consideration. That suddenly people think they can cherry-pick the law because "in their opinion," some people have good enough of a reason, as if every reason isn't 'good enough.' I felt frustrated that people are thinking so narrowly about who and what this will actually affect, and how. And that by the time it affects them, it'll be too late. I felt really disheartened, and imagined what my life would've looked like if I didn't have the protection Roe V. Wade gave me. I would've still been in an abusive relationship, forever linked to a horrible person who just so happened to cross my path once, that is if I even survived it, which for one reason or another I know I wouldn't have. I felt mad that my bodily autonomy, my rights, are selfishly being stripped away by someone who doesn't know or care in any kind of way about me.
There's so much still to be done, and it's so easy to feel small and like your single voice won't matter. But I think it's really important to vote. Tell everyone you know to vote. Open up conversation with those around you. Also it's important to keep talking about it. People tend to let things pass after the initial uproar, but we really can't do that to any of these issues. Also, I think it's important to share resources with others that want to help or have something to say about it. Keep ourselves up to date and educated.
Our experience with abortion is being grateful that there has been legal protection to bodily autonomy in this category. It has become more apparent that we need to protect ALL people capable of getting pregnant and make sure that narrative includes trans and non binary folks. Additionally, it is cruel to withhold bodily autonomy from people who have been sexually assaulted or previously been stripped of their autonomy.
We've always supported Planned Parenthood and local abortion organizations. We've done benefit shows in the past to raise funds and will continue to do so in the future.
About the Supreme Court decision, we were devastated, but unfortunately not surprised. We're not sure there is a best way to confront this, but support your community. We need to take care of our neighbors and do what we can on a local level.
I grew up gay in an anti-gay church and the only thing that was considered worse than queerness in that environment was abortion. The two were always intrinsically tied together somehow, in hateful sermons and graphic videos shown to us in youth group. I spent quite a bit of time around so-called "Christians" whose primary interest was denying people necessary healthcare and dehumanizing folks for who and how they love -- so I get what's going on here. These rollbacks are the twisted plans they were making when I was a kid, but now being realized.
I have always had really close friendships with women and, more than once, I've watched these people I care about have their lives saved, simply because they had easy access to the reproductive healthcare they required at the time.
The policing of our bodies, whether through anti-abortion legislation or through laws and barriers put in place to make sure LGBTQ+ people don't have the same rights as everyone else, is all rooted in the same evangelical nightmare.
It's disgusting and terrifying. I have always been an advocate for LGBTQ+ people and women. I have partnered with organizations like The Ally Coalition, GLAAD, and CenterLink a ton over the course of the past decade, and in 2021, I joined forces with Noise For Now for their "Our Bodies Deserve Respect" campaign which was focused on the intersection of trans rights and reproductive rights -- at the end of the day, both are about body autonomy and all of us having the right to decide what happens to ours. That campaign was a fundraiser for the Texas Health Action's Kind Clinic, which serves LGBTQ+ communities with locations across Texas at no-cost for all services, and also for Independent Abortion Clinics, with trans-centered programs throughout the US via Abortion Care Network's Keep Our Clinics program. I often think the place I am most useful to a movement is around helping to bring in money, so I've been doing that wherever I can.
I am angry about the infiltration of the Supreme Court by right wing extremists in general and this recent decision just points to one of what will be many consequences of that. We need to have courageous people in power to do everything they can to fix the current emergency of having a court that doesn't represent the views of most Americans, as well as work to prevent this shit from ever happening again.
As for what to do now about the Supreme Court decision... reverse it? Listen to the Americans they are supposed to serve and then represent us appropriately? In lieu of that happening, I think the time for radical change is now. It's time to fight. Burn it all down.
I can say that I am strongly pro-choice and believe that people should be empowered to make their own decisions about their bodies and certainly 100% against the overturning of Roe and any legislation that prevents people from accessing healthcare. My own stance on this has been consistent throughout my life. My family has always been pro-choice. People in my life in California have always had access to abortion, and I view that as a good thing. I've known women who have had abortions and have not regretted it, and later had children when they decided they wanted to.
A woman I know had an abortion, provided to her in California at a Planned Parenthood clinic. This person was well-off, white, and had access to good healthcare. She felt empowered to make a decision about terminating a pregnancy that she didn't want; she was early in her career, and wasn't quite ready to be a parent. So she got to make that decision for her own life, live the way she wanted to live, become more financially and emotionally prepared for motherhood, and then, when she *decided* to, she went through with not one but two pregnancies. She's a great mother! She had an abortion! These things are not mutually exclusive-- in fact, I think one of the things that makes her a great mother is that she decided to wait until she was ready to become a parent.
I consistently have participated in Women's March rallies and demonstrations since 2016, and I believe that one of the best things we can do in the US at the moment is to support mutual aid funds that offer direct support to people in need of services.
My response to the recent Supreme Court decision is that it is an absolutely abhorrent decision and that Biden should pack the court. When the court is so clearly biased in so many ways it's time to reconsider what it's role should be in our democracy. Also, Thomas should be impeached and removed, and should never been confirmed in the first place, because, as Sonic Youth so eloquently put in their song "Youth Against Facism": "Black robe and swill, I believe Anita HillThat Judge will rot in hell, it's the song I hate, it's the song I hate."
For now, support mutual aid funds, demonstrate when you can, demand that Democrats develop something resembling courage and pack the court, and join your local DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) chapter. We need a new political party in the US: one that isn't aligned with the oligarchy!
My own personal experience with abortion has been markedly different than most women given that I'm a trans woman. My body isn't capable of giving birth, and so the topic of abortion brings up feelings of empathy instead of sympathy in most cases.
The only time it's impacted my life directly (that I'm aware of, at least) is when a previous partner of mine conceived and decided to terminate the pregnancy since neither of us were ready for a child. Coming from a Christian background at the time, this came as a shock and I didn't know how to respond accordingly, and had mixed feelings about it, to say the least.
Looking back, though, it's clear that she made the right decision for both of us, and it was a great weight for her to bear to make that kind of call in the hyper-Christian atmosphere we both came up in. Had the child been born, the child would have been miserable and stuck with parents who inevitably would have hated each other. The fact that she was able to make that decision for herself was incredibly important to the outcome of both of our lives, and I'll be forever grateful that that freedom was afforded to her as well as to me, by extension.
Bodily autonomy is a right that carries great importance to me, as my ability to self-determine is directly linked to my identity and feelings of being at home in my own body. It's unbelievably cruel to make the call that someone ought to act against their own will to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, and it's unjustifiable no matter how passionately duped the Christian right has become on the issue.
Simply put, abortion is health care, and ought to be accessible to anyone without the fear of repercussions for their actions hanging over their heads.
There's also several groups that you can donate to and support related to reproductive rights:
- Center For Reproductive Right
- National Organization For Women
- National Institute for Reproductive Health
- National Network of Abortion Funds
Also see these helpful articles about other ways to support reproductive rights:
- Alejandra Caraballo "We're Going to See Abortion Fugitives. Here's How to Protect Them." (Slate)
- Abigail Gruskin "A 'Recipe' For Defending Abortion Rights" (Our Town)
- Vanessa Ogle "Female artists are disproportionately affected by Roe v Wade overturn: 3 ways the music industry can help" (Hypebot)
- Rachel Roubein and Brittany Shammas "Abortion rights groups grasp for a post-Roe strategy" (Washington Post)
- Rebecca Traister "The Necessity of Hope Things are bad. They will get worse. But despair has never been an option." (The Cut)
And for another perspective, let's hear from the Petrol Girls...
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