Abortion rights under attack

By Becky Crocker

Women’s Fightback London’s November discussion group tackled the recent attacks on abortion rights from anti-choice campaigns to the government. Becky Crocker (Women’s Fightback and RMT Women activist) led the discussion and gives us a few of the facts here.

Conservative anti-abortion zealot Nadine Dorries MP is pushing for a Parliamentary showdown on abortion time limits “in May or June next year”.

She got a debate in the House of Commons secondary debating chamber on 31 October, intended as a dress rehearsal for next year’s full debate and vote in Parliament.

The 1967 Abortion Act legalised abortion up to 28 weeks. The time limit was eroded to the current 24 weeks in 1990.

The current goal of Women’s Minister Maria Miller, Home Secretary Theresa May and Dorries herself is 20 weeks.

Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has said he would favour a drastic reduction to 12 weeks. David Cameron favours an unspecified “slight reduction”.

Time-reduction proponents cite “scientific advances” in the stage at which a foetus can survive outside the womb. But this is a smokescreen for anti-women, anti-abortion views. Their right-wing, often religious, mindset would see women without control over their reproductive capacity at all.

The Government maintains it has no plans to review current legislation. But senior Cabinet members’ statements indicate that the threat is real and the vote could be close if called.

The campaign to defend abortion rights needs an injection of political ideas. In the recent debate, Dorries’ Labour opponents, led by Diane Abbott, primarily argued on the basis that “there’s no scientific evidence for reducing the time limit”. Abortion Rights, the UK’s main abortion rights campaign, commended this as an “effective strategy”.

But what’s effective in Parliament might not mobilise women on the streets.

We need to revive arguments that motivated women to fight for abortion rights in the first place, and convince people that abortion rights are essential for women’s liberation.

***

Women’s Fightback are setting up a working group to think more about what socialist feminists should be saying and doing about abortion rights and reproducive freedoms. To get involved contact us on women@workersliberty.org

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About esthertownsend

Socialist feminist

3 comments

  1. I think one issue that has been neglected regarding abortion rights is the attack on the NHS and the privatisation agenda. This by itself will probably do more to close down women’s access to abortions and I think any campaign around abortion rights needs to join up with campaigns to stop cuts in the NHS.
    solidarity
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  2. Totally agree. I think it’s been left on the sidelines of the picture as so many reproductive and sexual health services are already privatised and have been for a long time.

    Anti-choice campaigns need to be seen as blocking women’s right to access healthcare but we also need to talk more about the dangers of privatisation – deregulation, problems of people knowing where to go, fewer clinics (meaning more travel which is just not possible for lots of people for many many reasons), promoting of certain treatments that are more cost effective or being pushed by the drug companies that month. This isn’t to criticise much of the great work that services that currently providing abortions do or to paint a sensationalised picture – but healthcare shouldn’t be for sale!

    One thing Women’s Fightback want to think more about is how privatisation and access is going to get worse and how to link up with NHS campaigns to demand a stop to privatisation and a bringing back in house of these *health* services!

  3. apsiwitana

    I really don’t understand the foetus viability argument, from a religious viewpoint anyway. If, according to some, life begins at conception and therefore the argument against abortion is centred around taking life (regardless of its developmental stage), then why does it matter whether the thing can survive outside the womb or not?

    I guess to some it seems more morally sound to terminate something which just looks less like a baby?

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