300 pro-choice supporters packed into Parliament last night to launch
campaigning to defend a Woman’s Right to Choose. The launch, on Wednesday 16
January organised by Abortion Rights, saw a new generation of women unite
with those from previous campaigns that have defeated anti-abortion attacks
– all affirming their determination to defend a woman’s right to choose this
time round too. The crowds were so big an overflow room was also filled.
The threat to current law hinges around anti-abortion attempts to use the
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill to attack the current time limit and
grounds for legal abortion.
Speakers from the Lords and Commons and from all three main parties, from
the TUC, women’s, disability rights and student movements urged supporters
to begin lobbying parliamentarians now and warned that the well funded
abortion opponents are already active.
The meeting heard from Baroness Joyce Gould, Chair of the All Party
Parliamentary Pro-Choice and Sexual Health Group, who outlined the Bill’s
current progress in the Lords where the first vote on abortion is expected
on Monday 21st January.
Baroness Jenny Tonge Vice-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Choice
and Sexual Health Group urged people confused about the issues to ‘put
themselves in the shoes of a woman who is pregnant and doesn’t want to be
-only then can you really begin to understand the importance of the right to
choose for women.’.
Diane Abbott MP argued that contrary to the anti-abortionists own rhetoric,
their position wasn’t pro-women or pro-family. Anti-abortionists were
fundamentally ‘anti-woman’ she said, to huge applause. Their goals were in
essence “about controlling women and their sexuality”, about “rolling back
every advance women have made over the last thirty years” and taking the
view of women that “if they’re going to have sex they should suffer for it”.
Emily Thornberry MP criticised anti-abortion proposals for a ‘cooling off’
period before women can have an abortion saying it was “condescending to
suggest women can’t be trusted to make such a fundamental decision about
Wendy Savage, Doctors for a Woman’s Choice on Abortion, and a renowned
advocate of women’s right to choose defended current rights to abortion up
to 24 weeks arguing that “the women most affected by a change in the time
limit are the youngest and most vulnerable and we’ve got to resist that”.
Alex Kemp NUS Disabled Students Officer said “restricting access to
abortion, for whatever reason, does not further the rights of disabled
women”. “Disabled students condemn the emotive and unnecessary association
between disability and abortion. Women have the right to choose to do with
their bodies what they like - disabled people do not wish to interfere with
Numerous speakers also supported Abortion Rights’ position that far from
restricting rights, 40 years after the Abortion Act, current unfair barriers
to accessing abortion should be ended. Specifically that doctors’ effective
right of veto of over women’s abortion decision should be ended and that
abortion should be allowed in more settings and by trained nurses to end
Abortion Rights announced that a mass lobby of parliament, further rallies,
protests and demonstrations would be called in the coming weeks and months
to coincide with key stages of the Bill’s progress in the Commons.
A protest on 6th February in London against anti-abortion MP Anne
Widdecome’s road show promoting anti-abortion goals around the Bill was
announced (subject to police permission).
Abortion Rights is the national pro-choice campaign. It is supported by the
TUC, many of the national trade unions, the National Union of Students and
hundreds of individual members. It works closely with the All Party
Parliamentary Pro-Choice and Sexual Health Group and the Voice for Choice
coalition of pro-choice organisations. www.abortionrights.org.uk
Speakers at the event were Baroness Joyce Gould; Baroness Jenny Tonge; Emily
Thornberry MP; John Bercow MP; Katy Clark MP; Diane Abbott MP; Laura Moffatt
MP; Evan Harris MP; Narmada Thiranagama TUC women’s equality policy officer;
Wendy Savage, Doctors for A Woman's Choice on Abortion; Anni Marjoram,
adviser to the Mayor of London; Alex Kemp, NUS Disabled Students' Campaign;
Anne Quesney, Abortion Rights; Marge Berer, Voice for Choice; Katherine
Rake, Fawcett Society;