Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/517/3663
New threats to abortion rights
THIS APRIL marks the 40th anniversary of the enactment of the 1967 Abortion Act. That law change introducing safe, legal abortion in Britain has saved lives and given women more control over their lives. Unfortunately the 300 people at a meeting organised by Abortion Rights on 16 January were not able to celebrate.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill will be voted on in the next six months and anti-abortion peers and MPs are moving amendments to restrict abortion rights.
These are likely to include reducing the abortion time limit from 24 to 22, 20 or even 13 weeks. They also want a new "cooling off" period with compulsory counselling, as in Germany where women have to spend three days thinking about their choice after an obligatory meeting with a pro-family charity. As if women would seek abortion without thinking about it!
These peers and MPs want to end legal abortion in Britain. Right-wing anti-abortion groups are pouring money into convincing the government to restrict women's rights. Trade unions, student unions, socialists and all defenders of a women's right to choose must be mobilised in opposition.
A combination of tactics are required including a national demonstration called by the trade unions to remind MPs and others that overwhelming support exists for abortion rights.
The Socialist Party stands for a woman's right to choose. This would mean extending current laws. British abortion laws, while a big improvement on the pre-1967 situation, are more restrictive than in almost every other European country, where abortion on request is legal in the first three months of pregnancy.
Here, a woman must get two doctors' signatures and then begin dealing with the cut and privatised NHS, not to mention totally insufficient spending on contraception and sex education.
This campaign should not only be about defending existing rights but about improving the situation for women. We should also call for the law to be extended to Northern Ireland and for the end of the requirement for a second doctor's permission.
Socialist Party members distributed a leaflet at the meeting, linking the demands on abortion rights to demands on housing, health, wages, education and benefits. Cuts and privatisation of these public services also impact massively on women's lives and must be linked to the campaign and fought.
Contact us if you would like a model motion for your trade union or student union branch or to find out more about our Socialist Women campaigns.
In The Socialist 23 January 2008:
Socialist Party women
Socialist Party campaign news
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news