Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/552/6500
Defend and extend abortion rights
Around 300 women and trade unionists attended a meeting last week in parliament in defence of abortion rights and a woman's right to choose organised by Abortion Rights (AR). An amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill attempting to reduce the abortion upper time limit below 24 weeks was defeated in May 2008. But the Bill is currently at report stage and facing amendments that would significantly restrict the grounds for abortion.
AR supports amendments that would end the two doctor rule which can obstruct and delay women who seek an abortion. Other amendments, if passed, would mean that women could get abortions in more local settings and by trained nurses. Fundamentally a campaign for a huge investment in women's services in the NHS must accompany the campaign to extend abortion rights.
Dianne Abbott MP has tabled an amendment calling for the 1967 Act to be extended to Northern Ireland. In recent years women have died from backstreet abortions in Northern Ireland. 11% of GPs report that they have seen the results of amateur abortions.
This amendment must be supported and campaigned for. But, there is a danger that this can be perceived by the population in Northern Ireland as the British government imposing its laws over the heads of the local population. An existing campaign in Northern Ireland to cut across the propaganda of the churches, sectarian politicians and anti-abortionists and to win support for safe legal abortion, must be given support and solidarity to go further into the trade unions and communities. Women trade unionists from Northern Ireland who organise this campaign were at the meeting and we must support them.
Issues were also raised about AR's cross-party approach, linking up with Tory and Liberal MPs. New Labour is also a party of big business which is carrying out cuts and privatisation. We can't rely on any of these parties to defend women's rights.
Ultimately, a woman's right to choose, along with all the other rights we have, will only be safeguarded for the long term by a struggle of working-class women and the trade unions. If this or that MP is going to vote in a progressive way in parliament, on a particular issue, then we should accept their support, but not rely on it, or take it as a substitute for a campaign of mass protests and demonstrations.
The next protest called by AR is on Tuesday 21 October outside Parliament from 5.30pm. Build for the protest in your college, school and workplace to help defend and extend a woman's right to choose.
In The Socialist 15 October 2008:
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
Socialist Party campaigns
Socialist Party women
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party review
Socialist Party workplace news and analysis