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From The Socialist newspaper, 14 May 2008

Defend and extend abortion rights

- No reduction in the time limit

- End the two-doctor rule

Pro choice protest in Wales against Ann Widdecombe, photo Dave Reid

Pro choice protest in Wales against Ann Widdecombe, photo Dave Reid

On 20 May Tory MP Nadine Dorries intends to move an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill to cut the current upper limit for abortion from 24 to 20 weeks.

Eleanor Donne, Basildon Socialist Party

Having seen one attempt to restrict abortion on the grounds of foetal abnormality defeated in the House of Lords earlier this year, and having lost the vote on her private member's bill last year (attempting to lower the time limit to 21 weeks), Dorries and her supporters in the anti-abortion lobby may see this as their best chance to restrict existing abortion law.

The organisation Pro-life Alliance, with their seemingly limitless funds, have been bombarding MPs and the media with their propaganda in the form of free DVDs.

Dorries uses her own combination of homespun philosophy and bad science in her '20 reasons for 20 weeks' campaign, which has been featured in that champion of human rights, the Daily Mail.

The 'justification' for lowering time limits is, the 'pro-life' lobby argue, that pre-term babies are surviving much younger than in 1990 (when the time limit was reduced from 28 to 24 weeks).

However, whilst there are isolated examples of 'miracle' babies seized on by Dorries, nationally foetal viability at less than 24 weeks remains largely unchanged over the last 20 years. The parliamentary Science and Technology Committee concluded, after considering all available evidence (including from pro-life groups) that there was no justification for altering the current limit.

Picket of Tory MP Ann Widdecombe

Picket of Tory MP Ann Widdecombe's anti-abortion meeting 6 February 2008, photo Paul Mattsson

The British Medical Association, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the British Association of Perinatal medicine, and the Royal College of Nursing all oppose lowering the upper limit.

Dorries says she is concerned about the effect of abortion on women's mental health. However, women who seek late abortions are often amongst the most vulnerable in society - very young, pregnant through rape, mentally ill etc.

What effect does Dorries think being forced to go ahead with an unplanned pregnancy would have?

It is vital to defend the existing law against any attempt to make abortion less accessible. But it is also very important to campaign for improvements - in particular to remove the need for two doctors signatures and ensure that abortion is properly funded under the NHS. Without these two changes we clearly have not got an effective 'right to choose'.

Unfortunately no MP has yet put forward an amendment which improves existing abortion rights and so the current campaign is largely one to defend what we have.

This could change if some of the major trade unions took up the call to end the current two-doctor signature rule.

We demand:

Protest Outside parliament

Near Westminster tube

5.30pm Tuesday 20 May

Protest to defend abortion rights

Abortion Rights has called a protest outside parliament when the vote is being taken.

Socialist Party members are campaigning to get as many people there as possible.

Come and show your support for women's right to choose when and whether to have a child - make sure MPs know that the majority support women's rights.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 14 May 2008:

NHS under threat

Unison witch-hunt

Unison witch-hunt: Rory Bremner and Mark Thomas speak out

Anti-racists protest at Unison witch hunt

Unison witch-hunt: Defend the four lobby of hearing

International socialist news and analysis

Burma cyclone disaster: Wealth and privilege put before aid

60 year anniversary of Israel: Can there be a resolution of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict?

Scottish National Party: One year in power - but little for workers to celebrate

Global capitalist crisis: Confidence in a socialist future

Socialist Party women

Defend and extend abortion rights

Ladyfest: culture, politics and women

Socialist Party news and analysis

What will Boris Johnson mean for London?

Campaign for a new workers' party: conference 2008

Price rises hit workers

Don't evict Ricky Jones!

The BNP have no solutions...and no clue!

Sussex students uphold 'no platform'

Students 'study-in' in Manchester

Opposing cutbacks in Lincolnshire

Why Labour lost Bury

Socialist Party workplace news and analysis

Left wins in PCS executive elections

North west shop stewards

Saturday 28 June 11.30am-4.30pm

Wales TUC: Right wing attack on democracy

Socialist fighter honoured by lecturers' union

Socialist Party review

Review: 'Marx in London' by Asa Briggs and John Callow


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