Anti-Choice “Freedom Rides” Seek to Curtail Freedom


When I read that Dr. Alveda King is planning a revival of the famed 1960’s civil rights Freedom Rides to protest abortion in general and abortion within black communities in particular, I was quite frankly disturbed.  The Freedom Rides are every American’s legacy and serve to remind us all of the fact that rights without access and freedom from violence are rights in name only.  Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and an activist opposed to abortion rights, is deeply involved in the campaign to frame abortion as a tool of genocide against black people.  RH Reality Check has done extensive coverage of the abortion as genocide conspiracy theory and I have followed news of billboards that claim that black children are an endangered “species” and the attempt to pass legislation in Georgia to “protect” women of color from abortion as racial discrimination.  Those who oppose abortion rights using the black genocide conspiracy theory isn’t new and it is a disturbing tactic on it’s own, but this latest move to co-opt Civil Rights history is a new low.

My father was 22 years old in 1961 when the Freedom Rides began. Although he lived in Pennsylvania at the time, he was deeply concerned about the racial oppression in the South.  Years later, he would tell me what it felt like to watch people challenge racial segregation on public transportation and interstate buses in the South and how watching the violence their actions provoked changed his life.  My father, and many Americans like him, became a Civil Rights activist because he was inspired by the courage of other activists and enlightened by images of the violent resistance to social change that greeted the Freedom Rides in the South.  When he spoke of the Freedom Rides, he always reminded me that they had a purpose – to make the promise of equality a reality and release Southern blacks from the limiting oppression of Jim Crow.  In short, the Freedom Rides were about access and an individual’s ability to exercise her or his rights without fear of violence.

Think about that for a moment – regular folks taking part in training on how to protest without violence and then jumping on buses to travel to the segregated South so that they could challenge communities that were denying black citizens access to facilities despite Supreme Court rulings striking down racial discrimination.  Now think about the so-called pro-life freedom rides proposed by Dr. Alveda King – individuals opposed to abortion rights taking part in training on how to protest a woman’s right to abortion services, despite Supreme Court rulings guaranteeing that right, and then jumping on buses to travel to cities so that they can challenge communities that are granting women access to healthcare providers and abortion services.

There is something uniquely insulting about a tactic used to fight against the denial of rights and access now being used to fight for the denial of rights and access.

Dr. Alveda King has the right to protest against abortion rights and she even has the right to insult the legacy of the Civil Right’s movement by appropriating language and tactics.  In 2010 America, Dr. Alveda King can organize a tour, charter buses, rent billboards and protest at community health care providers in all 50 states if she wants to.  If Dr. Alveda King gets hungry along the way, she can go to a restaurant and eat, if she gets thirsty she can go to any drinking fountain and drink and when she gets tired she will be able to go to a hotel and rest.

She has those rights and so many more because people fought for them, risked their lives and then returned to risk those lives again.

I stress “for” because that is a crucial word – a legacy of the Civil Rights movement is the struggle for rights, for the access without fear of violence that makes a right more than a mere suggestion.  The recent healthcare reform battle and subsequent attempts to restrict access to abortion services at the state level make it clear that those who oppose abortion rights are not fighting for anything; they are fighting against something. Dr. Alveda King and others who oppose abortion rights are fighting against access to health care, against access to comprehensive sex education and against a woman’s right to abortion services.  They seek to reinstate a system of separate and unequal access to services by passing legislation that would make abortion available only to those who live in certain states or who can afford to scale the hurdles of abortion restrictions. Their goals stand in opposition to freedom and are an insult to the principle of equal justice. 

“Pro-life” Freedom Rides are set to begin this summer in Birmingham Alabama.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

To schedule an interview with contact director of communications Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.

Follow Pamela Merritt on twitter: @SharkFu

  • progo35

    “Civil Rights” don’t, and were never intended, to include the freedom to do whatever one wants when one wants to, even if that involves killing someone else.

  • prochoiceferret

    “Civil Rights” don’t, and were never intended, to include the freedom to do whatever one wants when one wants to, even if that involves killing someone else.

    Uh… the only person around here suggesting that “civil rights” includes anarchy is you.

  • crowepps

    I’m not sure how you leap from “not wanting to get pregnant” and “not wanting to stay pregnant” to “the freedom to do whatever one wants when one wants to” but I’ve got to say, it sounds to me like your protest implies that if birth control and abortion are banned women’s freedom will be curtailed because not being able to avoid pregnancy and not being able to end pregnancy means that women will not be able to do those things which they want to do when they want to do them, but instead will be restricted to the patriarchally approved role of primarily being gestators, with the decisions about when and what back in the hands of the husbands, fathers, boyfriends and doctors who get to control them by controlling their fertility.

     

    Of course, I could be reading that into it.

  • princess-rot

    Also, there is the unmistakeable implication that all women are stupid and can’t be trusted to own their fertility or know what is best for their exisiting family; how many they are capable of supporting etcetera.

  • crowepps

    No, no, no, that’s the HUSBAND’S job.  He’s the one who LEADS the family since the ‘little woman’ is so emotional and unable of logical thinking.  Ever notice how the woman is an actual full size person before the marriage and keeps getting littler and littler as he whittles away at her?

  • smoore

    The civil rights movement addressed the dignity of the human being; that

    was one source of the moral force behind it. I recommend the book “The Ashes That Still Remain” by Koys, which shows the undeniable parallels between the abolitionist movement and today’s pro-life movement. Where people were formerly denied full recognition of their humanity because of skin color, in today’s world they are denied full recognition of their humanity based on their developmental stage, and location. We all started at the same place, but some of the folks who got out of the womb first feel it is their “right” to deny the full recognition of human and civil rights to others coming behind them. Those who want to defend as a “right” what is not, in fact, a valid moral right, are mistaken and mislead. Law follows morality, not the other way around. What is immoral may be legal. What is legal may be immoral, but we are never required to obey immoral laws and are, in fact, obligated by the requirements of conscience to oppose them, as Dr. King is doing.

    Yes, the abolitionists tried to take away the “rights” of slaveholders to their legal property. Anyone here want to say the abolitionists should be ashamed of themselves? Anyone here want to argue that the slaveholders had a “right” not to have their legal rights obstructed?

  • ahunt

    they are denied full recognition of their humanity based on their developmental stage, and location.

     

    The profound distinction being that awarding legal rights to the BZEF (which is what I assume you mean by “full recognition of BZEF humanity) cannot be accomplished w/o stripping walking, talking women of their full humanity.

  • prochoiceferret

    Where people were formerly denied full recognition of their humanity because of skin color, in today’s world they are denied full recognition of their humanity based on their developmental stage, and location.

    Yes, many women in the pregnancy stage living in the United States (and many other countries) have been denied full recognition of their humanity, in being forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. But just as slavery was eventually abolished here, so will pregnancy-slavery. Thank you for joining our fight to emancipate women from these oppressive laws!

  • smoore

    You are asserting the privilege of killing another human being in order to live as you wish. Is that part of your idea of “humanity”? It is not mine. Is he or she (the child) another human being or not? If you say so, justify lethal maternity privileges.

    If you say not, refute science which says he or she is a unique human being.

    Judith J. Thomson tried justify lethal maternity privileges but her argument has been successfully refuted by showing she cheated: created a nightmarish, surreal, illogical scenario and then pretended the laws of logic operated there. It bamboozled some for a while, but we have sobered up since then. Well, obviously, not all of us have.

    I take it by your comment  that pregnancies are never the responsibility of the pregnant woman, but are always “forced” upon her. What a scornful view of women. Obviously, creatures of no free will, in your view.

    Slavery is still with us, by the way. (Today, one form is sex slavery.) The Jim Crow laws morphed agricultural slavery into another form. Read the book and learn. Slavery as an institution ended for logistical and strategic reasons in the 19th century. But Wm. L. Garrison, the great abolitionist, never pretended the American public sympathized with the central idea of abolitionism: the sanctity of every human life. You don’t understand it either. We have a long fight ahead of us. We have only begun; 37 years is nothing in the larger perspective.

    Anything you dislike (pregnancy) is not automatically the same kind of “slavery”, by the way. Perhaps you meant: “restricted freedom” but even then, we don’t get to kill innocent life to live as we wish. As someone said of genocide, “we can do anything we are able to forget”. The testimony of many who can’t forget is  showing us we can’t forget killing our very own child. Ask the Silent No More women,… and men. Remember them?

     

  • prochoiceferret

    You are asserting the privilege of killing another human being in order to live as you wish. Is that part of your idea of “humanity”? It is not mine.

     

    And it’s not mine either! But you are asserting the privilege of forcing another human being to give you biological life suport against her will. Is that part of your idea of “humanity?” It is not mine.

     

    If you say not, refute science which says he or she is a unique human being.

     

    What does that have to do with pregnant women having the right to an abortion? You may as well ask me to refute that the New York Yankees are the greatest team in baseball.

     

    a nightmarish, surreal, illogical scenario and then pretended the laws of logic operated there. It bamboozled some for a while, but we have sobered up since then. Well, obviously, not all of us have.

     

    Yes, the world of anti-choice advocacy is kind of an Alice-in-Wonderland like that.

     

    I take it by your comment  that pregnancies are never the responsibility of the pregnant woman, but are always “forced” upon her. What a scornful view of women. Obviously, creatures of no free will, in your view.

     

    No, actually, we do hold that pregnancies are the responsibility of the associated women, who do have free will. If they are pregnant, and don’t want to give birth to a child, it is their responsibility to seek an abortion. Just like if you have a toothache, it is your responsibility to seek out a dentist. Duh.

     

    the central idea of abolitionism: the sanctity of every human life. You don’t understand it either.

     

    Yes, I suppose I don’t understand how forcing women to remain pregnant against their will is particularly sanctiying…

     

    Anything you dislike (pregnancy) is not automatically the same kind of “slavery”, by the way. Perhaps you meant: “restricted freedom”

     

    Ooh! I’m sure the White plantation owners would have loved that one!

     

    The testimony of many who can’t forget is  showing us we can’t forget killing our very own child. Ask the Silent No More women,… and men. Remember them?

     

    Oh, I remember them, and agree that they should probably refrain from having an abortion. (This should be particularly easy for the men.) As for everyone else, however, they can make their own choices. It’s not like they don’t have free will or something…

  • princess-rot

    The testimony of many who can’t forget is  showing us we can’t forget killing our very own child. Ask the Silent No More women,… and men. Remember them?

    Oh, “the only moral abortion is my abortion” people. They asserted the right to choose, regretted their decision for whatever reason, now they want to interfere in everyone else’s. Pro-choicers don’t force women into having abortions, so why should they get to force women to give birth? Plenty people regret having children because of the massive impact it has had on their lives, but get treated like monsters if they admit as such. They don’t get a pity party.

     

    Some people regret and/or resent having children so much they abuse and sometimes kill them. Why would you want to exacerbate either scenario if you aren’t a) obsessed with making others as miserable as you, or b) you think that women are primarily incubators or c) you think that other women owe you or society in general what you couldn’t have, or they oew you an emotional emollient in the form of submitting to birth when they’d rather have had a termination.  Reminds me of the women who get hateful at other women who have had abortions because they are infertile. Pushing slavery for others to calm your hurt feelings: disgusting and selfish. It seems to me that “I regret my abortion” is just a dogwhistle for “my choice is the only right choice and I don’t give a shit how badly it affects you as long as you stop doing the thing I now find icky”.

  • smoore

    Yes, you two demonstrate the truth: The darkened intellect can rationalize anything, even murder on demand. Ad hominems, non  sequitors, supressed premises, all put at the service of your selfish desire to kill if needed. There was a satirical book years ago entitled: “Looking Out for Number One: Kill if You Have To”. It was supposed to be a joke on the nature of extreme individualism.

    But today, that reality has outstripped the satirical. I’m out of here, shaking the dust off my feet, ladies.