Latin America's Marea Verde's Lessons to Fight against Roe v. Wade's Reversion
As soon as we heard the news that the fundamental right to abortion that was upheld in the United States since 1973 was overruled by the Supreme Court this past June 24, 2022, we knew that our focus had to change. The Collective had planned that its July monthly gathering was going to be devoted to “Counter-hegemonic Pedagogies from a Latin+ Feminist Sociology Perspective” (a theme that will still be discussed in August and future gatherings) but clearly, we needed to discuss the events that surely dominated the concerns of our Collective’s members as Latin+ women and feminists situated in the Global North. The scope of our meeting would be hemispheric and intersectional. On the one hand, we would talk about how this regressive ruling would affect populations differently along ethnoracial, socioeconomic, bodily abilities and sexual lines - for example, poor women of color, women with restricted bodily abilities, and survivors of sexual violence were going to face more hurdles than women in more privileged situations. On the other hand, we would think about how the experiences of Latin American activists in their movements to legalize abortion in general - and in particular, the recent wins of the Marea Verde (Green Tide) - could help us resist the conservative turn in the United States. Moreover, we would reflect on international relations, asking questions like how right-wing politics permeates borders; how funding for reproductive justice may be affected globally; and how alliances can be forged and/or strengthened transnationally. We believed that thinking about these issues from a Latin+ feminist perspective would provide a vantage point and contribute to resisting “the reversal of decades of activism to ensure self-determination regarding reproductive as well as other fundamental rights” related to gender, sexual, ethnoracial, socioeconomic, abilities, reproductive and health equality, as I stated in the leadership message of Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS) on June 27th.
A Latin+ hemispheric and intersectional perspective leads to a constructive and strategic contribution to mobilize for reproductive justice and the respect of other fundamental civil and human rights.
With the overturn of Roe v. Wade, the power to deem abortion rights and regulate its practice is returned to each state as opposed to being granted federally. In a matter of hours, this court decision materialized in approximately half of the states, banning abortion automatically. On the contrary, other states moved to institutionalize measures to ensure that they would welcome women seeking abortion coming from states that had forbidden the procedure. The division between states where abortion is legal or criminalized is obviously partisan: more liberal, Democrat states permitting it, and more conservative, Republican states prohibiting it. Similarly, reproductive justice, feminist, women, and human rights organizations that had been actively mobilizing against the threat of the overturn of Roe v. Wade (an alert that was specifically augmented with the enactment of the “Texas Heartbeat Act,” Senate Bill 8, on September 1, 2021, that banned abortion after the detection of embryonic or fetal cardiac activity, usually occurring after six weeks of pregnancy) became targets of threats and risked being criminalized in red states, while in blue states, they assumed a de facto intensification of their role as leaders in the fight for reproductive justice. The polarization and segregation that this decision has ensued, and promises to enlarge, are seriously daunting, to say the least. A look from Latin America also helps us activate strategically in this regard, given our histories of extreme political confrontations that not only left many dead and disappeared but also had deteriorating effects regarding societal quality of life. How to handle these destructive divisions? How can bridges be built to reach understanding among opposites? How to move forward and away from separation and paralysis?
A transnational look from Latin America brings to the forefront the risks of reaching extreme levels of sociopolitical conflict and devise strategies to foster dialogue and understanding as opposed to polarization.
Our discussion was pensive and fruitful. Guided by the Collective’s purpose to “share, reflect, create collective knowledge and promote transformation, by combining experience, thought and action,” we formed three working groups. First, Paulina García-Del Moral, Rosario Concha Mendez, and Julia McReynolds Perez are working on writing blogs as well as gathering resources on the criminalization of abortion from a transnational view. We´re definitely looking forward to learning from their work. Second, Verónica Montes,, Esther Hernández-Medina,, Magdalena Dathe, Carolina Hernández and Firuzeh Shokooh-Valle focused on what can be done from our own spaces of work, especially in the classroom. Third, Erika Busse-Cárdenas, Christina Chica, Beatriz Padilla and Roberta Villalón planned emergency programming for the upcoming Sociologists for Women in Society’s Summer Meeting (happening in conjunction with the American Sociological Association’s Annual Meeting) to be held in August in Los Angeles.
What to do from our own spaces: in the classroom
The focus of the second working group was brainstorming about how we can engage our students, colleagues, and community members in activities that can teach them about the Marea Verde movement in Latin America. At the core of our discussion was the importance of showcasing the diversity of experiences with social movements across the region and, more importantly, what we can learn from them. Four primary activities stood out, the first of which was discussing abortion in the United States and Latin America in our courses with an emphasis on the experiences of feminist organizations in Latin America in achieving the right to legal, safe, and free abortion in different countries in the region.
Second, we proposed inviting guest speakers to our classes. For that activity, we discussed specifically targeting scholars whose expertise revolves around reproductive rights as well as activists with diverse backgrounds in terms of race, ethnicity, and region, among others, to speak about strategies for organizing. We agreed that a critical strategy to learn about is digital activism, which has played a major role in the success and dissemination of messaging across the region and beyond. We discussed creating a list of the names of members of our Collective and Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS) who could be guest speakers.
Applying a Latin+ feminist approach in the classroom can raise awareness on the transnational dimensions of social movements for reproductive justice and other matters while enriching activism locally and making global connections through the use of digital technologies.
Third, we discussed compiling and sharing a list of resources that many of us already use in the classroom as part of our feminist pedagogies, including video clips (e.g., of songs and performances), films, documentaries, podcasts, infographics, and so on. Each of those resources is part of what is called “artivism,” which has been critical in quickly and extensively disseminating information about the success in many countries in Latin America. There are so many creative, dynamic, powerful, and assertive materials in this regard that we think we and our students can not only learn but also get inspired from. Here is the link to a selection of songs and performances that we can use in our classrooms to introduce our students to what Lopez (2021) defines as symbolic transnationalism, which, according to Lopez, “arises as non-traditional forms of transnational mobilization that focus on conveying symbolic political messages through performances, among other strategies” (494).
Last, to encourage students to apply their knowledge beyond the classroom, we discussed assigning artistic projects for the final exam. In such projects, the pedagogical objective is for students to creatively apply what they have learned during the semester and to share it with others outside the classroom.
Workshop and multimedia action at the SWS & ASA Meetings
With the certainty that feminists in the U.S could learn a great deal from the work feminist and feminist organizations are carrying out in Latin America, Christina Chica, Beatriz Padilla, Roberta Villalón, and Erika Busse-Cárdenas met to devise a plan to make that work visible at the Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS) summer meeting & American Sociological Association (ASA) annual conference to be held on August 5-9, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
Similar to what feminists in Latin America have been claiming for so long, we affirm that the overturn of Roe v. Wade this past June is more than just a fight against the right to abortion. It also pertains to violence against women, reproductive justice across gender, individual autonomy, and the sexual health and pleasure of people who can become pregnant.
As a result of the conversation, we have organized a workshop that has three aims within a constrictive hemispheric transnational perspective to take place on Friday, August 5th, 2022 (1:45 – 3:15 pm, PST). The three aims are, first, to reflect on the implications of these court decisions on Reproductive Justice in the Americas and to discuss how Latin American activist strategies and practices for Reproductive Justice can be applied and adapted in the United States. Second, to expose participants to a specific set of creative actions performed by Latin American feminists and practice them as a group. Third, to carry out these creative, direct actions strategically during the SWS meeting & ASA conference as a consciousness-raising effort amongst these professional organizations. We plan to produce both written and multimedia materials to practice digital activism -another strategy of symbolic transnationalism, which has played a major role in the success and dissemination of feminist messaging across the region and beyond- to share the fruits of this workshop’s collective labor.
In solidarity with the Marea Verde, we invite all participants in the summer meetings to wear green bandanas as a symbolic way of showing support for the movement for abortion, reproductive justice and against multiple and interconnected forms of gender violence.
Our gathering confirmed that we, Latin+ feminist scholars, need to meet and discuss together not only academic matters but also current affairs, particularly those that affect Latin+ and Latin American populations and gender structures and relations. In a situation as disparaging as the prohibition of abortion, we clearly see the value of taking a hemispheric view from the South. While sometimes the contribution of such a perspective may not be as straight forward, examples like the lessons from the Marea Verde, can help us emphasize the intrinsic relevance of making these transnational feminist connections and alliances. Building bridges across borders, taking action and producing knowledge collectively is undoubtedly a must in current times. The workings of Latin+ Feminist Sociology Collective are a good testament to this.