Coco Das interviews Boston Globe columnist Marcela García about her recent piece about the “Green Wave” movements in Latin America that have decriminalized abortion in Argentina, Colombia and Mexico. Read Latin America moves forward in legalizing abortion as the US rolls back access. What gives? Follow Marcela on Twitter at @marcela_elisa.
Listen to the solidarity statement from Ana Cristina Gonzalez Vélez from the movement in Colombia to Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights. Find out more about the national week of action to defend the right to abortion in the US May 18 – 14 at riseup4abortionrights.org.
Note: mentioned in this episode are the anti-abortion bans which are referred to as “heartbeat bills” however there is no beating heart in an embryo at 6 weeks, only pulsating embryonic cardiac cells.
Refuse Fascism is more than just a podcast! You can get involved at RefuseFascism.org.
Music for this episode: Penny the Snitch by Ikebe Shakedown.
Episode 109 Refuse Fascism
Sunday, May 1st, 2022 4:26 PM
Marcela Garcia 00:00
One of the most important lessons from Argentina: we created a very strong social movement. And that led to the public opinion needle, if you will, move. The social movement, I think, is very important. That mobilization, the visuals as you say, to create pressure and ultimately create social change. The role of tactics absolutely is key. The movement here needs to be awakened, and we could learn lessons from these women in Latin America.
Sam Goldman 00:44
Welcome to Episode 109 of the Refuse Fascism podcast, a podcast brought to you by volunteers with Refuse Fascism. I’m Sam Goldman, one of those volunteers and host of the show. Refuse Fascism exposes, analyzes, and stands against the very real danger and threat of fascism coming to power in this country.
Sam Goldman 01:09
Before we get to today’s show, I want to give a shout out to supporters of Refuse Fascism. We couldn’t do the show without you. Please rate, subscribe, follow and share to help us connect with more listeners like you who care about the fascist threat. Thanks to all who already are sharing, subscribing, and spreading this show in all cool ways, including by donating so that we can keep the show going. With all the big monetized shows that have staff and publicists, we appreciate that you value what we have to say. We read all your reviews, emails, comments, tweets. So after listening to this episode, share your thoughts with us. You can leave us a voicemail as well, by clicking the button at anchor.fm/refuse-fascism. There’s a little message button.
Sam Goldman 02:02
I wanted to mention in passing the New York Times long form about Tucker Carlson and the new expose from ProPublica about the origins of Trump’s stolen election Big Lie strategy. There’s a sad truth running through these pieces. The fact is, like so much else, what’s most damning is that these pieces are having the effect of merely detailing what has been normalized. What’s needed is people to actually engage with this reality and act to change it; to stop the fascist trajectory. In today’s episode, we share an interview with Marcela Garcia, Associate Editor and columnist for The Boston Globe, discussing her Op Ed from earlier this year titled, Latin America Moves Forward in Legalizing Abortion as the US Rolls Back Access. What Gives? Just about every day now, the Christian fascists pass a worse abortion ban and every day they look around the 99.9% of us just going about our day and they say to themselves, “Damn, that was easy.” What’s next? As Beth Levine wrote in Vanity Fair, “Republican-led states really have to come up with something extra horrific to stand out. And on Thursday, Oklahoma did just that, when its GOP-controlled legislature advanced not one, but two, anti-abortion bills.” This includes one vigilante-enforced six week ban on abortion, AKA a Texas copycat, without any exception for rape or incest, that will go into effect as soon as Governor Stitt signs it, which could be as early as tomorrow (We’re recording this Sunday, May 1st) as well as a ban on abortion from conception. This was passed by the State Senate and will go to the House. As reported by Nicole Neriah for Vox, “Many Texans have flocked to Oklahoma abortion clinics after their state’s Heartbeat Act went into effect in September. There are just four such facilities across the entire state of Oklahoma, which have been soaring in demand in the month since. Trust Women, which operates a clinic in Oklahoma City that provides medication and surgical abortions up to the current legal limit of 21.6 weeks, says it has seen a 2,500% increase in patients. Even though the clinic has doubled the number of days of the week that it’s open from two to four, patients still may have to wait two to four weeks for an abortion, sometimes forcing them to travel to other states if that puts them over the time period within which it’s legal to have an abortion in Oklahoma. The passage of the Oklahoma Heartbeat Act will make it even harder to meet that demand.” Why does Oklahoma need two abortion bans on top of the ban they passed a few weeks back and their trigger laws? Because the whole point of this Christian fascist assault is to end all legal abortion access and bludgeon women back into what these patriarchs see as women’s place. As part of their whole fascist agenda, the Supreme Court is watching all of this, and they are watching the eerie complacency in the streets from all the tens of millions who support the right to abortion but have not yet been moved to act upon it in this moment, when it actually truly seriously counts. As you know, the US Supreme Court is on track to take away the right to abortion within weeks, possibly days, by decimating Roe v. Wade. As NARAL tweeted earlier this week, “There’s no path for the Supreme Court to uphold Mississippi’s 15 week abortion ban and leave Roe intact, and that’s exactly why anti-choice politicians across the country are now trying to pass 15 week abortion bans. They think SCOTUS will overturn Roe.” The end of Roe v. Wade would constitute one of the most significant reversals of a fundamental human and civil right in US history. The reversal of abortion rights would do immeasurable harm to generations of women and girls and everyone who can become pregnant. It would strengthen and accelerate the escalating attacks on contraception and LGBT rights and voting rights and the lives and true history of Black people and other people of color, and immigrants and many more. Acquiescing to this loss rather than fighting now to defeat it would contribute to the dangerous dynamic where people will be forced to adjust to, and “work within” greater and greater atrocities. So let’s take a look at a different strategy, one that seizes our collective power in the streets to stop the decimation of abortion rights, learning from the women of Latin America. With that, here is Coco Das, a member of the Refuse Fascism editorial board in conversation with Marcela Garcia.
Coco Das 06:49
I am very pleased to be speaking with Marcela Garcia today. She is a columnist for the Boston Globe’s op-ed page, and has been part of the op-ed and editorial pages since early 2014. Previously, she was a correspondent for Telemundo Boston, a special contributor to the Boston Business Journal, and the editor of El Panetta, Boston’s largest Spanish language publication. Today we’re talking about a recent piece she wrote titled Latin America Moves Forward in Legalizing Abortion as the US Rolls Back Access. What Gives? We’ll have a link to this piece in our show notes. So Marcela, welcome.
Marcela Garcia 07:33
Thank you for having me.
Coco Das 07:34
So, what gives, indeed? That’s a great title. I’m really excited to talk to you about this. I wanted to start with some facts that you laid out in your article. In just over a year, three of the most populous countries in Latin America, Argentina, Mexico, and Colombia have decriminalized abortion. In late 2020, when the Argentine Congress approved a bill to legalize abortion up to 14 weeks, they became the first country to expand abortion access in the region. And then the symbol of women’s rights activists was green bandanas with the slogan “Education to decide, contraceptives to not abort, legal abortion to not die.” This gave birth to the so-called “green wave”, which brought — maybe you have a better sense of the numbers, but it looks like — massive numbers of people into the streets. Then in the fall of 2021, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that the criminalization of abortion is unconstitutional. This set a major precedent that paved the way for the legalization of the procedure all over the country. Now the latest country to join the green wave is Colombia, where in a historic ruling in February, the nation’s highest court decriminalized abortion up to 24 weeks. This is a really interesting contrast to what’s happening in the US with these waves of anti-abortion laws, like these states seem to be trying to outdo each other in their cruelty, and the US Supreme Court preparing to give their ruling and a case that could very well overturn Roe v. Wade. I thought that your article really did a good job of laying out what is happening, contrasting these two situations. What do you see as the relationship between the “green wave” and these beautiful images of the streets filled with women and people who believe in the rights of women, wearing green, just flooding the streets with green, and the legalizing of abortion in Argentina, Colombia and Mexico? And what is the difference between legalizing and decriminalizing? Maybe there’s a difference there that you want to talk about. But what do you see as the relationship between the green wave and the hitting up of abortion rights?
Marcela Garcia 09:53
It started in Argentina. It’s a social movement that began with women advocates lining the streets, like you said. These Argentinian women basically drew from experience from an earlier generation of feminists. I’m not sure how you and your audience are familiar with the history of what happened in Argentina a few decades ago, when there were a lot of kids who were killed by the Argentinian junta, and the mothers of these kids who have been basically kidnapped by the government took to the streets. They were known, and they were famous. They would use a handkerchief, a white sort of bandana too, and they were known as the Mothers of the Plaza Maya, because the Plaza Maya was where they would congregate. Basically, demanding change and demanding answers from the government. Ultimately this movement became very, very strong through the years and they got accountability. It’s a really long story, but what I’m trying to say is that there’s women now, this generation of women who are fighting for abortion rights, they drew from that experience and they took a green handkerchief as their symbol, and they took to the streets. I think one of the most important lessons from Argentina is that it created a very strong social movement, and that led to the public opinion needle, if you will, moved. And that is what basically prompted the change, because you have this younger generation of women — of course, it’s not just the younger generations; it’s just basically feminist and women’s rights advocates, but this was basically driven by the younger generations — they took to the streets, and they changed public perception around abortion, because a social movement, I think, is very important. The mobilization, the visuals that you say, to create pressure, and ultimately create social change, I think that worked. Number two, I think they also focused on this sort of decriminalization part. I think they were very intent on explaining this, educating the public to say, this affects the status quo, which means that women die because it’s forbidden. They end up dying. So they were able to form a connection between the abortions are happening that are illegal now, and how that is in the law; like if the law permits that. So they said: Why should this be decided in the penal code, in the criminal code? So we need to take that away. This is a health issue, a woman’s health issue. And so ultimately, they realized that this is going to be a step-by-step incremental fight, but their sight is on full decriminalization, which means what is permitted in certain areas in the world — very limited, Canada and Australia have this — when it’s full abortion rights for women. So what’s happening in Latin America, what happened in Argentina and Colombia and Mexico is this mix. I think in Argentina it’s up to 14 weeks and in Colombia is up to some gestational age period. Of course, like you said, that’s not full gestation but at least you are allowing abortions to happen, and not just under certain circumstances. That’s the other thing these women said and asked the public: Why should we have access to abortion only under these circumstances they were able to? At least in the case of Colombia, as the lead between all these movements, I think it’s clear, it was organic. These women started to talk with each other. Colombian advocates reached out to the Argentinian women and Mexican women’s advocates. They were in communication. In the case in Colombia, for instance, they had the commissioned studies, and they found out that most abortions happen before 14 weeks or something like that, which shows that women are doing this for health reasons. Because a lot of the opponents will oppose this on their moral grounds, ethical grounds, even religious grounds, they say that once you open up the door to abortion, women are just going to have abortions left and right, and up until when the baby’s viable, which is not the case. Women are doing this because it is a risk to their health and a risk to the health of the baby, because if the pregnancy is going to result from rape, or simply because it should be a right, a health right. I think to sum it all up, the social movement was very strong. I think that moved the needle and push for change, and that happened in each of the countries. I think that is one of the lessons of these movements that other Latin American countries where the situation is really, really bad in El Salvador and in some other places, where women are thrown into jail for having medical abortions, when their health is at risk. When they’re about to die, they’re thrown into jail. It is insane. So I think there are some lessons to draw, even just for us, as well, where we’ve seen this rollback of abortion rights here.
Coco Das 14:12
I think he really spoke to that well, of how a social movement in the streets can actually repolarize a society and can change public opinion, and that compels the people at the top of society to make some choices and/or risk losing the stability of their society. Do you have a sense of how the green wave was organized? How it got so many people into the streets? Do you have any sense of how they were so successful at organizing?
Marcela Garcia 14:43
I think it was through education, but also these are places where the societies have seen the results of having abortion codified into criminal law. They have seen the effects of abortion essentially criminalized, and so I think they were a able to show the effects of that. These are places where women have been criminalized for exercising what is the right to abortion, right. I think they were able to show that to people, and that’s how they were able to galvanize the women. I grew up in Mexico in the northern state of Nuevo Leon in Monterey. We are sort of close to the border. When I was a teenager, I knew of countless women who would drive to the border to Texas, obviously, would pay out of pocket and this wasn’t cheap. They would have abortions because maybe there was and instance of rape, maybe they weren’t careful, they were young, and their parents would take them to Texas to have an abortion, but it wasn’t cheap. So what that meant is that this right was accessible to the privileged and the wealthy. What happens is that the ones who suffer are the most vulnerable. Make no mistake, abolitionists are already happening, of course. If you criminalize them, you just make the most vulnerable suffer, the poor women. I think, again, these movements were able to show that, to say that only the vulnerable are being affected by this law, essentially, by this criminalization of abortion. So, ultimately, I think that that was one element that they were able to galvanize, and just, I guess, plain old organizing, right? I think that they also looked at how women did here in America, how we ended up with Roe versus Wade, right, with that decision. I think they looked at that lesson. So ultimately, it’s, again, good organizing. I think you can’t really beat that. And also, I can’t discount, I guess, the value of the younger generation that is really, really involved and engaged with social change in general — social justice issues, women’s rights issues. Having a population that’s engaged, I think it becomes easier to organize and to form a mass movement, right, a critical mass of people on the streets.
Coco Das 16:52
You made a point about how what’s happened with abortion rights in Argentina, Colombia and Mexico it’s a profound break with the influence of the Catholic Church and a growing evangelical movement in Latin America. I think this is really important for people to understand. Could you explain that a little — the influence, how deeply embedded it is, and can you give us a sense of how big of a break this is.
Marcela Garcia 17:19
I mean, part of it is cultural, right? Like the influence of capitalism of the Catholic Church in Latin America, in general, is decreasing, number one. For instance, Brazil, the largest population of Catholics in the world, that’s declining, too. In Colombia, only half of the population identifies as Catholic, for instance, when before, it was a high percentage. In Argentina, I think it’s only 20 or 30% who are practicing Catholics. Also in Colombia, again, it’s a cultural shift when you have groups of Catholic women who were for abortion, because the women’s rights weighed more in their mind. So because they’re younger and they’re just much more aware of the detrimental effects of abortion in society. Ultimately, again, it’s a general decrease of the influence of the Catholic Church in Latin America. I think that has to do with a lot of things. It’s public perception, the the child abuse and the sexual abuse scandal that the Catholic Church underwent, I don’t think that can also be discounted. That really, really hit the Catholic Church and Latin America, globally, I would say, obviously. That, I think, had something to do in people identifying less and less with the Catholic Church. Then you also have evangelical movements coming in, and some of them are progressive, some of them are not, but still, there’s been this shift in the religious identifications in Latin America. Of course, I would say that the Catholic Church does remain influential, but with perhaps older generations. It’s definitely generational, but that, obviously, is a group that’s shrinking. It’s very complicated, because we have a Pope that’s from Argentina, which is very, very ironic. This is a poll that has shown a certain bend for progressivism — I wouldn’t call it super progressive, but — recall his comments about gay people, about gay marriage. He has shown an openness that has never been there in the church. So I think that has also played a role.
Coco Das 19:15
Let’s shift a little bit to this country. I’m taking in everything you’re saying and thinking about how the way that abortion rights were won in this country were through the fury of women in the streets. That seems to be a lesson that the larger women’s movement here has forgotten. I’ve been involved over the last few months with Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights, which is trying to spread a green wave here, because we’re facing an abortion rights emergency here. I have some ideas about this, but what is your assessment of why things are going in an opposite direction here. Also, is there a role of tactics here, both in the anti-abortion movement here and in the way that the mainstream pro-choice movement has not actually, in large part, called people into the streets. They’ve done it through the courts and legislatures. So I wanted to hear that.
Marcela Garcia 20:07
Yeah, I totally agree that the role of tactics absolutely is key. I think, in general, our political system right now has been poisoned. We talked about conservatives when talking about anti-abortion movement, I think they’ve been a little more effective in gathering support for their cause, because they’ve been using the same tactics that Republicans, conservatives, the extreme right movement have been playing in various degrees. I’m talking about misinformation. I’m talking about disinformation. I’m talking about this sort of very, very insidious tactic that has permeated our political system now, and people don’t even bat an eye anymore. The anti-abortion movement in places like Texas, in places like Florida, where all these abortion rights are being rolled back, are absolutely 100%. Using lies to gather support for the cause, or I’m talking about when a fetus viable. We see in Congress, we see congressmen and senators talking about lies, and I’m talking about men, people who are not doctors, they have no clue. I think that the pro-rights movement and the pro-abortion rights movement here, I feel like they’ve grown complacent, if you will, in the sense that we have lived for decades with Roe v. Wade. I think this is a right that has been taken for granted to a certain extent, and I don’t think that their friend maybe is being taken seriously. Of course there are groups like Planned Parenthood, they know that SCOTUS can absolutely 100% overturn Roe v. Wade, but, like you say, that has not been connected to the streets, like the average person, the average woman who would be galvanized by some of these messages is not mobilized and has not been activated. I think that will be key to prepare for the fight, because the anti-abortion folks are absolutely mobilized. So they fear monger, they misinform and it is we who are polite. So maybe grown complacent is maybe too strong of a phrase to describe how the women’s rights movement has become in terms of abortion. I don’t want to discount the work of advocates, right? But I think maybe we’ve also lived a long time with access to abortion guaranteed. We haven’t seen in recent history what would life here look like without Roe v Wade, in general. So that also contributes to this sense of like, oh, you know, people are not that worked up about it anymore. Even what happened in Texas earlier this month, with a woman going to be charged with murder in the press, and now, actually, they’re not going to charge her, but the fact that it was allowed to happen, the fact that the hospital called the police or called the prosecutors, they felt that they had to report this woman because she said that she had a self-induced abortion. To me, that’s insane. So I think people are still not grappling or coming to terms with that entirely. They think that, oh, you know, it’s just not going to happen. So all of these factors have conspired to where we are right now to the lack of, like you say, people in the streets over this.
Coco Das 23:12
I really agree with you. One thing that we found here — I’m in Texas — and all over the country is when we go out to college campuses say, and we are talking about the abortion rights emergency, at first so many people think that we’re one of the anti-abortion people because they have [MG: Oh wow, telling] they’ve been out on the campuses. Yes, they’ve been out on the streets, they’ve been out in front of clinics, and they [students] are not used to seeing people advocating for abortion out in public. So that really shows you how much the debate shifted. Absolutely these anti-abortion — what I call Christian fascist — forces, were able to shift the debate and set the terms for the debate.
Marcela Garcia 23:54
You said it perfectly. They are the ones who are framing this as an emergency, when in reality the emergency is for women’s rights advocates. So we’ve allowed them to frame the debate, and I think that’s a very chilling anecdote that shows you exactly the status quo when it comes to this fight.
Coco Das 24:12
Marcela, I really appreciate the knowledge that you’ve provided and your perspective on this. Is there anything you’d like to leave us with about this fight, about what’s happening in Latin America, the green wave? And also how can we follow your work and keep in touch with what you’re writing about?
Marcela Garcia 24:26
Well, subscribe to your papers. Subscribe to your local papers and subscribe to the Globe if you can. That’s one way to follow my work. Follow me on social media too, @Marcela_Elisa. But in regards to this topic, I think it’s a topic that I’m obviously going to be closely following. One takeaway for me from these movements is, again, the lessons that advocates here can draw from what’s happening in Latin America. It is my understanding, my reporting suggests that some of these bridges between advocates here and there have already started to build. There’s been conversations. I feel like it’s very informal conversations happening that I think are going to be important. I think that we have to rely on their victories here to draw attention to the cause locally. It is an issue of solidarity, but also of sharing information, sharing tactics, because, again, the movement here needs to be awakened. We could learn lessons from these women in Latin America.
Marcela Garcia 25:23
So good to do it. Thank you for having me.
Coco Das 25:23
Absolutely. I want to say that Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights, which is a coalition of people from different perspectives who have really taken inspiration from the green wave, they are calling for a week of action from May 8 to the 14th. I’m going to be part of those actions here in Texas, and there will be actions all over the country. So I hope you’ll follow that. We have very little time to stop the Supreme Court from overturning Roe v. Wade. It’s much easier to keep a law on the books than to have to start all over. So I really enjoy talking to you, and I hope we can talk again when there’s lots of topics to talk about. So thank you.
Sam Goldman 25:25
I wanted to share these inspiring words and vision from Ana Cristina Gonzalez Velez, a pioneer in the movement that decriminalized abortion in Colombia. In a statement of support she sent to RiseUp4AbortionRights.org, a video statement that you can see at their website. She said: “Women, with your strength, with your presence in the streets with our indignation and our message, you too can win.” I urge you to join Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights and take to the streets in a week of resistance, May 8 through May 14. This week of action includes student walkouts Thursday, May 12 on campuses and workplaces, on social media, in the arts and the sciences, out in the streets everywhere. Let’s raise our voice and raise hell. Our silence is our stamp of approval. It’s time to show which side we’re on. Wear and spread the green bandana, the international symbol of abortion rights. Take nonviolent creative action throughout the week of May 8. The week will culminate in mass unified protests nationwide Saturday, May 14, to declare: We refuse to let the Supreme Court take away the right to abortion. Abortion on demand and without apology. The end of Roe v. Wade would be one of the most significant reversals of a fundamental human and civil right in this country’s history. If you care about women and girls and all people who can become pregnant, if you refuse to inherit or pass on a world that is hurtling backwards, get organized and connect with RiseUp4AbortionRights.org. Spread the word, friends, to family and co-workers, your whole network. Now is the time to rise up together as if our lives depend on it, for in fact they do. Forced motherhood is female enslavement. Abortion on demand and without apology. Let’s rise up. Wear green. Find protests near you. Volunteer, donate and get your green bandana. Go to RiseUp4AbortionRights.org.
Sam Goldman 28:15
Thanks for listening to Refuse Fascism. I want to hear from you. Share your thoughts, questions, ideas for topics or guests, or lend a skill. Tweet me @SamBGoldman. Drop me a line at [email protected], or leave a voicemail by visiting anchor.com/reviews-fascism and click a message button there. Want to support the show? It’s simple. Show us some love by rating and reviewing on Apple podcasts or your listening platform of choice and, of course, follow and subscribe so you never miss an episode. Chip in to support our pod and content creation to help people understand and act to stop the fascist era. You can donate by visiting RefuseFascism.org and hitting the donate button. Thanks to Coco Das, Richie Marini and Lina Thorne, and Mark Tinkleman for helping produce this episode. Thanks to incredible volunteers, we have transcripts available for each episode, so be sure to visit RefuseFascism.org and sign up to get them in your inbox each week. We’ll be back next Sunday. Until then, in the name of humanity we refuse to accept a fascist America.