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From The Socialist newspaper, 28 March 2012

Abortion - defend and extend the right to choose

1,000 people joined a lively Abortion Rights Campaign protest opposite Parliament , photo Leah Jones and Anna Engelhardt

1,000 people joined a lively Abortion Rights Campaign protest opposite Parliament , photo Leah Jones and Anna Engelhardt

Shona McCulloch looks at the tactics of right-wing opponents of abortion rights and of choice, and how best to safeguard women's hard-won gains.

Direct action tactics by anti-choice zealots in the USA have produced horrific tales of vicious attacks including the cold-blooded murder of abortion clinic staff. Anti-choice methods have also shifted from lobbying Republican politicians for outright bans on abortion to fighting for piecemeal legislation to reach the same outcome.

Recent horrific proposals by right-wing politicians in various US states under this onslaught include forcing women to carry dead foetuses to full term; removing the choice to terminate even where the mother's life is at risk and treating miscarriages or suicide attempts as "suspected murder" or "attempted murder".

Their plans also include allowing doctors to lie to parents about birth defects so even a severely deformed foetus will not be aborted. They would also let employers refuse to cover medical insurance for birth control and fire women if they discover they use contraception.

Virginia will soon become the eighth US state requiring women to receive ultrasound scans if they ask for a termination. The Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Keith O'Brien, is now advocating such measures in Britain.

In Britain

Some anti-choice campaign groups in Britain are modelled on US examples, often with direct links and funding. In London and Brighton, British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas) clinics were targeted by groups taking part in the abhorrent '40 days for life' campaign in the Lent run-up to Easter where deluded zealots harassed service users trying to access the clinics.

In Brighton a group, harboured and supported by a church in Worthing, charmingly named themselves 'Abort67'. They displayed graphic imagery of aborted foetuses outside a Brighton clinic entrance, gave out misinformation and tried physical encircling to stop people entering the clinic.

Brighton Pro-Choice has been set up by local feminists, socialists and anarchists. An important agreement, based on advice, experience and evidence from the USA pro-choice movement, decided not to make the clinic the site of a pitched battle between ourselves and anti-choice advocates.

A vital secondary objective of our campaign is to empower those who use the clinic. Casting service-users as helpless victims, who we need to storm in and save, is actively disempowering.


However traditional strategies used to give power to targets of the right wing and help them build and lead their own campaigns, such as supporting black minority ethnic communities to see off the racist BNP or EDL, are not appropriate for trying to empower people who are going through an acutely difficult period in their lives which they may want to pass through quickly.

In Brighton activists offered an 'escort service' to those wanting to use the clinic so they can do so without harassment. They are also giving support to clinics for every day of the '40 days for life' campaign. Supporters are bringing in baked goods for clinic staff and service users.

An international campaign also encourages people to donate to family planning clinics for every day of the campaign. Socialist Party members have built links between the campaign and local trade unions.

Several protests are planned to oppose Abort67 in a way that does not create a pitched battle near the clinic. On 15 April a 'Carnival for Choice' protest and march is planned in Worthing, to build opposition to Abort67.

The leader of Abort67 is seemingly due in court in September for his previous anti-choice activities and we will organise a lobby of this. We must oppose these reactionaries at every turn.

We should not take for granted that the gains of the past, secured by struggle, have somehow become inalienable rights - our rights only exist when they are accessible to all and, under capitalism, remain only as long as we can defend them.

London protest - Friday 30 March, 7pm to 8.30pm, Bedford Square, London WC1.

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In The Socialist 28 March 2012:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Tories stand for the 1%... We need a voice for the 99%!

Budget for the 1% must be fought

Toasting the cuts - councils show no remorse

Wales: Does Plaid Cymru leadership vote show left turn?

Budget 2012: reject regional pay

World warming even faster than thought

Them and Us

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Abortion - defend and extend the right to choose

Rare sighting of Tories in Scotland

Brighton Uni: Socialist Students five votes from victory

Socialist election campaigning

Programme for the May elections - For the millions, not the millionaires

London TUSC: Standing to say "there is an alternative"

Former Liverpool 47 councillor to give socialist challenge for mayor

Socialist Party workplace news

National action needed to stop the pensions robbery

Tanker drivers vote to strike

Save the Remploy factories - not for sale or closure at any price

Workplace In Brief

International socialist news and analysis

French presidential election - An emerging left challenge

Spain: Workers gear up for general strike

Million Hoodies March against racist murders in the US

Socialist Party review

Review: We must look - the photographs of Don McCullin


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