San Francisco Democratic Socialists of America’s Socialist Feminism Committee drafted the following statement about reproductive justice, subsequently ratified by the chapter at our July meeting, in response to discussion both within and outside of the DSA surrounding the Omaha, Nebraska mayoral race. The statement affirms our commitment to reproductive justice as a central plank of a just society, not only from a moral perspective, but an analytical one one as well. The way workers are oppressed under capitalism and wage labor is inextricably linked to the way that the tasks of child-bearing, child-raising, and homemaking are dictated; freedom and justice for the working class must necessarily extend to the domestic sphere in terms of relationships, the family unit, and bodily autonomy.

Yesterday, the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the person tasked with winning the House of Representatives for the Democratic Party,  publically reneged on the fight for reproductive justice, declaring that Democratic candidates need not support abortion rights to receive financial support for campaigns. This selective abandonment of the Democratic party’s ostensibly ‘core values’ is precisely what inspired us to write the letter below over three months ago. In light of this announcement, we felt it important to reiterate our unwavering commitment to reproductive justice.

Now more than ever, socialists must unite to affirm our demand: reproductive justice for all. DSA SF will never support candidates, policies, or social movements that concede  on reproductive justice. Reproductive justice is central to our theory and practice of socialism. We will continue to fight for bodily autonomy of all forms, without compromise.

— Alisha Foster, Darby Thomas, Teresa Pratt, Jennifer Snyder, Shannon Malloy  DSA SF Steering Committee

Open letter to DSA National

from DSA San Francisco Chapter

Dear DSA National,

In light of recent national debate about the endorsement of anti-choice candidates in local electoral campaigns, we state firmly that the San Francisco chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America does not compromise on issues of reproductive justice. Universal access to free abortion, as one of many components of bodily freedom, is fundamental to our vision of socialism.

It is incumbent on DSA to promote a feminist analysis of political economy, one which emphasizes that any capitalist system will necessarily exploit reproductive labor. An elected official who has supported (or will support) restricted access to abortion stands in the way of economic and reproductive justice — such policies disproportionately affect the working class and exacerbate economic inequality while also violating the fundamental human right to reproductive and bodily autonomy. Any policy restricting either of these rights is incompatible with socialism.

Our support for reproductive justice is not separable from a broader socialist analysis, and any compromise on this fundamental aspect of the socialist program is unacceptable. The San Francisco chapter of the DSA thoroughly and unequivocally rejects such a stance and advocates for universal and public support for reproductive justice.

We submit the following statement as a testament to our socialist vision for reproductive justice and bodily freedom.

In solidarity,

San Francisco Democratic Socialists of America


Statement on Reproductive Justice

As socialists, we believe that the right to shape the conditions of your labor is a fundamental human right. This includes the conditions of reproductive labor: the work of bearing and rearing children, and any other unwaged care — cooking, cleaning, emotional support — that is necessary for society to function. This labor plays a key role in every economic system; only the advent of the wage makes it appear otherwise. Because reproductive labor is work, it can be exploited like any other form of work.

This establishes the need for reproductive justice: the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy. Everyone has the right to have children or not have children, and to parent those children in safe and sustainable communities. Crucially, the intersection of class- and race-based oppressions has produced various systems of bodily control under capitalism. Historically, this involves both the ideological and legislative denial of access to abortion and contraception as well as the less widely-known history of compulsory sterilization, the latter of which has an undeniable tie to eugenics in this country. Thus, the reproductive justice we demand involves liberation from all forms of bodily control.

This introduces a crucial tenet of our demand: while reproductive justice is undoubtedly tied to economic justice, there is no need to derive it from an argument of economic expediency. That is, bodily freedom is central to socialism as a moral good in its own right. It is as fundamental as workers’ rights, or healthcare for all, or the abolition of poverty. A woman, trans man, or non-binary person’s right to control their body is not reducible solely to an issue of economic justice.

Thus, the socialist society we envision includes support for a full range of reproductive choices. We demand free and universal access to contraception and abortion, free and universal access to fertility support, and free and universal access to transgender healthcare. These programs allow individuals to determine the conditions of their own reproductive labor as well as their bodily freedom. Giving all people freedom to exercise their human capacities for parenting and gender expression must be part of any socialist program, for it resists the ideological naturalization of motherhood as a biological and cultural inevitability.

As socialists, we must also support the broad range of programs that are necessary to make it possible to have and raise children with dignity. These include decent holistic prenatal care, free and universal child care and public schools, and access to healthy food and clean water. These material necessities of reproductive labor should be shared by all of society. We must counter the ideology that women are the childbearing center of each individual family unit; by placing the bulk of the economic burden of raising the next generation on individual families, we reproduce the current system wherein families with disparate means simply pass on their wealth from generation to generation. If abortion is legal, but not free and accessible, only wealthy women can control their reproductive labor. Likewise, if some wealthy women are able to hire poorer women to perform household tasks at low wages, only wealthy women are in control of their domestic labor. Neither of these are wins for feminism or for socialism.
There is no time to lose. Our current political climate has provided a platform the bigotry that disciplines gender in every possible way — most recently, with a healthcare reform proposal that treats rape and pregnancy as pre-existing conditions. All socialists must raise the issue of reproductive justice — at work, on university campuses, in our local political domains and on the national level. As long as we live in a society that drastically restricts women’s reproductive freedom, we will continue to fight for reproductive and bodily liberation alongside all other forms of social liberation.

Illustration courtesy of See Red Women’s Workshop. Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.