Protesters calling for an end to Israel’s war on Gaza confronted President Joe Biden earlier this week at his first major campaign rally, a Virginia event focused on abortion rights. As Biden spoke in favor of returning the baseline yet crucial protections of Roe v. Wade, demonstrators interrupted him every few sentences, shouting, “Genocide Joe!” and “ceasefire now!” One called out, “Israel kills two mothers every hour!”
In response, other crowd members cheered for the president and chanted, “Four more years!” — a particularly callous response to calls for an end to indiscriminate mass slaughter.
The event crystallized a false choice at the center of Biden’s presidential bid. As a rematch with Donald Trump looms, mainstream Democrats invoke the precarious state of U.S. reproductive rights to scold those who object to Biden based on his unending support for Israel’s genocidal war. Left-wing calls for a ceasefire in Gaza have been framed as a roadblock, one that stands in conflict with Biden’s fight to protect abortion access from further Republican decimation.
But feminists who protest Biden over Gaza — even those who say they will likely not vote for him — are not blind to the dangers of a second Trump presidency. They are not myopic single-issue voters, willing to throw reproductive rights under the bus. Feminists opposing Biden in the name of Palestinian liberation are highlighting the cynicism of a Democratic campaign running on women’s rights at home while enabling the systematic annihilation of women and children abroad.
Humanitarian agencies this month reported a 300 percent rise in the miscarriage rate in Gaza since Israel’s bombardment began. More than 10,000 children have been killed, and there is not a safe place in the besieged strip for a person to give birth. More than half of Gaza’s hospitals are completely shuttered, and the rest are barely functional; cesarean sections are performed without anesthesia. Alongside a lack of clean water, food, and medical supplies, menstrual products are largely inaccessible to Palestinians in Gaza, of whom 1.7 million have been internally displaced. The protester who shouted out “Israel kills two mothers every hour” was citing statistics from a case brought by South Africa this month, charging Israel with genocide at the International Court of Justice.
Apologists for the president are demanding that for the sake of our own imperiled reproductive freedoms, we must disregard the very meaning of reproductive justice when applied to the people of Gaza.
Young voters, in particular, are not convinced. “I think it would be hypocritical of me to use reproductive rights as a way to justify voting for Biden,” said Saba Saed, a young woman from Michigan, when interviewed by CBS’s “Face the Nation” last week. “Biden is aiding and sending military aid to Israel, which is airstriking Gaza and blocking humanitarian aid leading to women there who are pregnant either getting C-sections without anesthesia, not being able to be provided with prenatal care.”
After Saed’s interview clip drew ire from some Biden supporters, she posted a follow-up on X: “Biden caring about reproductive rights,” she wrote, “should be because he believes we need to have them, not because it guarantees votes.”
There can be no doubt that a Trump presidency and a Republican-led Congress would see an end to the shreds of abortion protections currently in place in this country. Just this week, Republicans in Tennessee and Oklahoma introduced travel ban bills that would make it a felony to help a minor leave the state to access abortion care. Nearly 65,000 pregnancies associated with rape occurred in the 14 states that have enacted abortion bans since the Dobbs decision to overturn Roe in 2022.
Biden warning’s that it could get far worse under Trump is as uninspiring as it is gravely real. It is all the more grim coming from a sitting president, who, in his own words, is “not big on abortion” and failed to expand federal abortion protections and provisions to their fullest possible extent in his current term.
The Roe v. Wade decision itself was always limited in its ability to support the bodily autonomy, health, and safety of women, particularly women of color. In the years following the 1973 ruling, Black feminist organizers led the demand for a framework of “reproductive justice” beyond reproductive rights, which encompasses far more than the right to end a pregnancy.
The fight for reproductive justice is the fight to produce, reproduce, and sustain life in conditions of freedom and safety — the very conditions the current administration is rendering impossible, from its own borders to Gaza. Accessing abortion in Palestine was extremely challenging prior to the war; now the challenge is staying alive to navigate any such choices and challenges at all.
Accessing abortion in Palestine was extremely challenging prior to the war; now the challenge is staying alive to navigate any such choices and challenges at all.
Asking feminists to limit their concerns to abortion access in the U.S. is to push a liberal nationalist feminism that simply inverts the Christo-fascism of white women Trump voters. Both are predicated on exclusionary border regimes, scarcity logic, and violence against women.
It’s not a good argument, however true it might be, that Trump would be just as devastating for Palestine. Inconvenient as it may be for his apologists, it is Biden who is currently president and who could at any point choose to be accountable to the vast majority of Democratic voters who want a ceasefire. It is Biden who claims to stand for women’s rights. It is not his protesters who are inconsistent on matters of justice. As Saed, the voter from Michigan interviewed on CBS, tweeted, “Do not blame me, blame Biden.”