Regain the body politic.
Sixteen years after Roe v. Wade, the battle over abortion has come down to a conflict between the Constitution and the Bible, and neither text seems able to impose a solution. Antiabortion activists are waging a ferocious fight in the streets and in the media, but their holy war cannot produce a popular consensus against Roe, the terms of which continue to be supported by a majority of Americans. At the same time, many partisans of free choice continue to look to the Constitution tion for their salvation, hoping against hope that an increasingly conservative Supreme Court will listen to reason and uphold their rights.'
But politics, rather than reason or religion, is at the heart of the struggle, and it only through political action that women's reproductive rights will be confirmed. Early on, antiabortion forces realized that their cause could best be advanced in coalition with a right-wing social agenda. President Reagan, and now President Bush, have gatefully used the heaven-sent constituency as a core around which to organize a patriotic, patriarchal, racist and repressive movement. The payoff is made in the support successive Republican Administrations give to antiabortion legislation, litigation and appointments.
Like so many civil rights and civil liberties established in the 1960s and after, a woman's right to control her body is in danger of erosion unless political power is organized in opposition to the reactionary right. As the other side knows very well, that power must come from the base, from the millions of women who have had abortions, who want to have the choice or who feel a sense of solidarity with others so situated. Grass-roots feminism, once a growing force, has withered since the 1970s. But not until a movement is revived-and expanded across lines of race, class, gender and culture-will women's selfevident rights be secured.