‘Abortion Pills Forever’: An interview with artist and activist Jex Blackmore
Courtesy of Jex Blackmore

Earlier this year, activist Jex Blackmore launched a “guerilla information campaign” by wheat-pasting over a hundred posters with the statement “Abortion Pills Forever” repeated several times along with a website that provides abortion pills, legally, by mail. The FDA had approved the abortion pills, mifepristone, for mail-order and to be prescribed via telehealth in December of last year.

A few days later, Blackmore made an appearance on local news station Fox 2’s show Let It Rip, in which they debated anti-abortion activist Rebecca Kiessling. During the show, Blackmore induced an abortion on live TV. This wasn’t the first time Blackmore made their abortion public either. Back in 2015, Blackmore had blogged the entirety of their abortion—from the “pre-abortion” moments to what what they watched on the day of.

Artist/activist Jex Blackmore. | Courtesy of Jex Blackmore

Far from being acts meant to “shock” or create a spectacle, Blackmore has attempted to demonstrate both the safety of medically-induced abortions and the commonplace of such.

Jex Blackmore sat down with People’s World to discuss the political awakening around abortion rights that’s underway in Detroit.

Andrew Wright (PW): Jex, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. You’ve recently initiated a guerilla campaign to promote access to abortion pills in Detroit and shortly thereafter medically induced an abortion live on Fox 2. The right wing has not been shy in lashing out, as was clear from Kiessling’s confessional/breakdown video she posted afterwards and several comments you’ve re-shared. But what would you say was the general reaction to all this? What about the response gives you hope here or, on the reverse side, gives you the feeling that nothing has really changed at all?

Overwhelmingly, the response has been positive. Though, as usual, I’ve received several death threats, sexist attacks, and distraught Catholic mothers going out of their way to call me a murderer. I am not convinced that much has “changed,” per say, but I have noticed a swell of support from Gen Z. I believe this generation is a force to be reckoned with. In short, old ideas are dying out. This is a step forward for sexual politics and reproductive healthcare. We need a new kind of sexual revolution that’s rooted in medicine and a negotiation of ethics that’s free from the snare of religious extremism.

There’s generally an air of “comfort” around abortion emerging—people seem more comfortable talking about their experiences with abortion. Can you speak to why that is? And on the other side of things, what still contributes to the shame around abortion and the ideology that holds the “pro-life” stance as the dominant standard?

I think that abortion is becoming de-stigmatized more and more each passing year. However, it’s far from commonplace conversation and comfort. Groups like Shout your Abortion and many activists and writers who have broken the silence surrounding their abortion experience have certainly paved the way for others.

However, we still have a lot of work to do. Pro-birth policy and culture is entrenched in shame. From condescending state-mandated regulations that punish pregnant people for choosing to terminate their pregnancy to the refusal to include comprehensive sexual education as fundamental curriculum, there’s shame at every turn.

It’s generational, it’s cultural, and it’s political.

It seems people are starting to take reproductive rights more seriously—it’s no longer a matter of pro-life/pro-choice but abortion rights and reproductive justice. Does this signify a change of things to come, and what to you think has helped get us here? 

The movement is moving away from the “pro-choice” rhetoric because it’s rooted in white-supremacy. We can’t center the conversation on choice if choice is predicated on having a particular level of privilege.

The abortion fight is not just about having the legal right to the medical procedure; it’s also about ensuring that right is affordable and accessible, something which looks different for different people. Reproductive justice moves us closer to inclusive approaches. Black women are getting the movement here.

It has been argued by many that pro-choice is only ever a reference back to pro-life ideology, as kind of its own exception. Considering how much “literature” people are legally required to receive when considering an abortion and the “evaluations” (physical, psychological) people must undergo in order to be “cleared,” etc., it’s difficult to miss the role of state power in enforcing an underlying pro-life message. What do you think is needed to help permeate these messages and to, in a sense, “clear the air” on abortion?

Accessible comprehensive sexual education.

In Ireland in 2018, 66% of the population voted to repeal abortion restrictions, but many media accounts showed that while the general population supported abortion rights, they often mistook the legislative wording or were too disconnected and discomforted to stand for those rights. Recently, in a Metro Times article, you mentioned how the majority of Michiganders actually support abortion rights, yet the political movement here is still lacking. What lessons can we learn from the history of abortion rights?

Anti-abortion legislation in the U.S. is a remarkable example of minority rule. It wasn’t long ago that the Republican Party supported family planning, including Planned Parenthood. This quickly changed when the party shifted their focus on Southern voters who were both religious and racist (Nixon capitalized on their fear of the civil rights movement).

As far as I can see, the political movement has the resources it needs. It has millions of dollars at its disposal and a population that’s in favor of abortion access. However, the movement is lacking an intersectional approach. Abortion is not just about healthcare, it’s about class, it’s about race, and it’s about power.

Beyond that, we have to contend with gerrymandered districts and politicized courts, which does put an immense strain on resources. We can and should learn from activists organizing in Ireland, Mexico, and Argentina, to name a few places with contemporary victories. We should bring and fund organizers doing the work on the ground level.

A close-up of the art work ‘C.R.I.S.I.S. / CONSTRICTING REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS IS STATE IMPOSED SUFFERING.’ | Jex Blackmore, created in partnership with artist Ann Lewis

Abortion rights is one of those few political issues where the point of insistence (full reproductive rights for all) has not changed too much and cannot be fully subsumed into any political-market logic (there at least doesn’t seem to be any corporation coming out with abortion rights product lines yet). The fight for such rights tends to shine a light on several other major problems. Are there clear ties to other political projects, movements, and groups that you feel need to be prioritized?

Absolutely. We must support the movement for Black lives, which is inseverable from reimagining the justice system. After all, the criminalization of abortion and the realities of systemic inequity that follows fall squarely within this framework.

Further, we must support the renewed labor movement. Power lies in collective organizing and certainly any action that impacts profit has immense influence.

The fight for abortion doesn’t end with legalization. We cannot have equitable, comprehensive healthcare without closing the wealth gap, revolutionizing the justice system, and investing in education.

Thank you for taking the time to talk today, Jex. What is the best way for others to hear about your upcoming projects?

I encourage folks to join my newsletter and/or website jexblackmore.com to follow all upcoming projects.

Sex Militant. | Photo by Alex Austin / JexBlackmore.com

Although some have reduced the movement’s slogan of “Abortion Pills Forever” to a call of surrender, suggesting activists are accepting a “post-Roe world” and letting the state “off the hook,” such a stance puts more faith in the law’s ability to extend beyond its current limits and thus the state’s willingness to take such movements seriously.

Another way to say this is that such an argument takes Roe v. Wade more seriously than Roe v. Wade takes itself. There have been recent examples of people pushing their governments to pass laws ensuring abortion rights, such as Ireland in 2018 and Argentina in 2020, but these battles took decades to overturn laws, and they were not without their own compromises.

The left is certainly divided on the question of revolutionary and political actions today; however, it would be cynical to view this part of the reproductive rights movement as an end in itself—let alone to reject it outright. The fact that the point of insistence of the movement—“free abortion on demand without apology”—cannot be subsumed into the political economy of the day means that it should also be read alongside with, not in contrast to, such a slogan as “Abortion Pills Forever.”

The truth is this political moment is still “open” and “surrendering” ground, but accepting a post-Roe world does not guarantee lesser gains on behalf of reproductive justice in the future. If there is any truth to “pessimism in theory, optimism in action” it can be found in the fight for reproductive justice today.

For more information on abortion pills please visit Planned Parenthood or Shout Your Abortion.


CONTRIBUTOR

Andrew Wright
Andrew Wright

Andrew Wright is an essayist and activist based out of Detroit.  He has written and presented on topics such as suicide and mental health, class struggle, gender studies, politics, ideology, and philosophy.

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