Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Foetus Seized in Abortion Inquiry- Italy

Foetus seized in abortion inquiry
John Hooper in Rome
This article appeared in the Guardian on Thursday February 14 2008 on p27 of the International section. It was last updated at 09:28 on February 14 2008.

Police entered a hospital in Naples,interrogated a woman who had just had her pregnancy terminated, andimpounded her aborted foetus after a tip-off from a caller who claimedshe was having the abortion outside the legal time limits.

In aninterview with the paper La Repubblica the woman, known only asSilvana, said: "I didn't understand what was happening. I was stillunder the effects of the anaesthetic. They bombarded me with questions.They gave me the third degree: how did it happen, why did I have anabortion, who was the father?"

In fact, as doctors laterconfirmed, her pregnancy was terminated in its 21st week, which waswithin the period allowed by Italy's 1978 abortion act. The doctorsalso said that tests had shown the foetus had grave abnormalities.

Theincident involving the woman, who said she had wanted the child "at allcosts" and only reluctantly agreed to the termination, comes as thesubject of abortion looks set to play an important role in Italy'sgeneral election in April.

Commenting on the incident in Naples,Livia Turco, the health minister in the outgoing centre-leftgovernment, said: "The witchhunt is on. What happened mirrors theintolerable climate of tension surrounding one of the most dramaticchoices for a woman."

Doctors in Italy can legally performabortions until about the 24th week if the mother's life is at risk orthe foetus is seriously malformed. But critics say the law should bemore restrictive since medical advances make it possible for babiesborn earlier than this to survive.

Giuliano Ferrara, who editsa newspaper supported by Silvio Berlusconi's wife, Veronica Lario, hascalled for the UN to declare a moratorium on abortions, a causeendorsed by Berlusconi himself this week. Like Berlusconi, Ferrara willbe standing for parliament at the general election, but at the head ofan independent, anti-abortion party.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Unsafe abortions - The silent pandemic- Jamaica

From Jamaica-Gleaner.com

Unsafe abortions - The silent pandemic
published: Sunday | February 17, 2008

Heather Little-White, Ph.D., Contributor

As advocacy for increased access to safe, legal abortion continues in Jamaica, arguments for or against it are usually well presented. Unplanned or unwanted pregnancies are a reality of life, so Sheronbelieves that abortion should be made legal so that it can be safe for those who need to have one done. Sheron, 38, a victim of unsafe backdoor abortion, tells her story.

"I remember visiting the country at age 20 to visit my ailing grandmother. My grandmother had to be hospitalised and most times I was alone in the house. One day my uncle came home from work early, to my surprise. He always had 'eyes for me' but I used to tell him how disgusted I was with his behaviour. Later that day as I was taking a shower, I heard the bathroom door open, it was my uncle, naked as the day he was born ... he pushed me against the shower, and forced himself on me, raping me despite my pleas to stop. I could not fight him off with my small frame as he was a tall, heavyset man.

"I felt dirty and ashamed. Days later, I eventually found the courage to tell my mother, who did not believe me and accused me of telling lies on her brother. I cried even more. Weeks passed, I missed my period and realised that I was pregnant, I decided that no way could I carry a child for my uncle ... when my mother discovered that was I pregnant, she was alarmed and offered to take me to a 'doctor' in town.

"I remember ascending a flight of stairs to a dusty room where I was asked to lay on a table behind a black curtain. Today the visit is still vivid in my mind. I was given a cup of warn drink and soon felt drowsy. Later, the middle-aged 'doctor' asked me to spread my legs, he pressed my stomach hard, asked me to take a deep breath and I could feel a cold instrument being inserted into my vagina, then a piercing pain, after about an hour or so I was released in pain and blood, the bleeding continued for three days despite the doctor's promise of a couple hours. I realised that I had an abortion which resulted in infections and my inability to conceive later in life and the psychological effect is like a nightmare."

Sheron's story concurs with similar stories from an estimated 20 million women around the world who have unsafe abortions annually (Allan Guttmacher Institute, 1999). However, some victims of unsafe abortion do not live to tell the tale. Anti-abortionists argue that women should not find themselves in the position where they end with unplanned or unwanted pregnancies, even though these may occur for a number of reasons.

Like Sheron, pregnancy could result from incest or rape or from failure to use contraceptive, pressure from a partner not to use contraceptive, contraceptive failure and changes in circumstances that make a pregnancy unwanted, such as abandonment, relationship problems with husband or partner, risks to maternal health and financial difficulties. Women may also want to pursue educational or career goals and will want to postpone childbearing. The number of unplanned pregnancies illustrates the unmet needs of family planning.

Unsanitary conditions

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines an unsafe abortion as a procedure to terminate an unintended pregnancy by untrained persons who are styled as 'doctors', and usually in unsanitary conditions that do not conform to medical standards. In the United States, a slang term for unsafe abortions is back alley abortions, characterised by the use of a coat hanger. The magnitude of unsafe abortions in the United States led to Roe vs Wade Supreme Court decision 1973 to legalise abortion in America.

In developing countries, unsafe abortion places women at risk because abortion is highly restricted by law, or where it is legally permitted safe abortion is not easily accessible. According to WHO, an estimated 20 million unsafe abortions are performed each year with 95 per cent in developing countries. Simply put, unsafe abortions are performed at a rate of eight per hour.

Bitter concoctions

Unsafe abortion use self-induced methods which are crude, dangerous and even fatal. These include taking teas and herbal remedies, such as boiled avocado or basil leaves, wine boiled with cinnamon and raisins, boiled celery water with aspirin and bitter concoctions; ingesting alcohol and toxic solutions such as turpentine, detergent solutions, bleach and acid; pushing objects into the uterus, such as a stick, wire, coat hanger, knitting needle, ballpoint pen, bicycle spoke, rubber tubing; air blown in the vagina by a syringe and physical damage such as an abdominal or back massage, lifting heavy weight or falling or jumping from the top of stairs or roof when there is no other way to end an unwanted pregnancy. Pharmaceuticals administered include uterine stimulants, such as misoprostol or oxytocin, and quinine or chloroquine used for treating malaria.

On the contrary, safe abortions are performed by trained professionals in sterile conditions using safe methods like pharmaceuticals, suction curettage and induced labour. When performed in sanitary conditions, legal abortions are one of the safest procedures in contemporary medicine. However, the cost of safe abortions is usually prohibitive, which causes poor women to delay getting an abortion until later into the pregnancy when the risk is greater. Regardless of the legal status of abortion, the data show that poor women are at greater risk for undergoing unsafe abortions using primitive, unsafe methods for self-induced abortions.


Morbidity complications resulting from unsafe abortions include incomplete abortion, infection (sepsis), haemorrhage and trauma to the cervix, vagina and uterus and injury to internal organs, such as puncturing or tearing of the uterus. Long- term damage includes chronic pain, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility. Death is also a consequence of unsafe, illegal abortions. Globally, WHO estimates that 68,000 women die each year from unsafe abortions. Teenagers comprise a significant proportion of victims of unsafe abortion because they tend to wait to seek abortion later than do older women and are at greater risk of complication.

Abortions conducted in unsafe conditions put the lives of many women at risk and present a grave public health problem to governments. Consensus from the IV World Conference of Women in Beijing 1995, posited that the majority of deaths, injuries and abortion-related health problems could have been prevented with improved access to health services, including safe and effective methods of birth control and gynaecological care.

Public health issue

At the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), nations around the world agreed that societies must ensure high-quality, compassionate treatment for complications resulting from unsafe abortions; provide access to family planning; reform restrictive laws that limit the availability of safe services and trained professionals and ensure safe abortion services. Public health record indicates that safe, legal accessible abortion improves health. The ICPD conference resolved that governments should work to eliminate unsafe abortions by an integrated, comprehensive approach involving health workers, policymakers and advocates.

Name changed for privacy

Abortion Too Easy, Some Spaniards Say


MADRID, Spain (AP) — After same-sex marriage and fast-track divorce, Spain's social revolution has hit a roadblock — abortion.

The abortion law, severely restrictive during Gen. Francisco Franco's dictatorship of the predominantly Roman Catholic country, was liberalized in 1985. But abortion has become too easy to obtain, say its opponents, and lately it has flared into a dispute so bitter it prompted abortion clinics to go on strike for five days.

Staffers have been arrested and 25 women who underwent abortions have been interrogated. At one point thousands of women swarmed a Madrid courthouse, shouting that they too had terminated a pregnancy, and demanding a change in the law to provide abortion on demand.

At issue is a crackdown on five facilities accused of performing abortions in violation of the law that permits them in the first 12 weeks in case of rape, 22 weeks in case of fetal malformation, and at any time if a psychiatrist certifies that the mother's physical or mental health is endangered.

Politically, it's a delicate matter. The Socialists, seeking re-election March 9, have quietly dropped a pledge of abortion on demand up to 12 or 14 weeks into a pregnancy, as exists in many other European countries, for fear of alienating centrist voters. The opposition conservatives, also seeking centrist support, are shying away from promising a complete ban as their allies in the church demand.

But for some, Spain's abortion law is already much too liberal. "In Spain, it is harder to cut down a tree illegally than it is to commit an abortion," Josep Miro i Ardevol, who leads a group called e-Cristians, wrote on its Web site.

The trouble began when police raided and shut private abortion clinics in Barcelona and Madrid in November and December, acting on complaints from church-affiliated groups that the facilities were carrying out illegal abortions.

One prominent clinic owner in Barcelona was among 13 people arrested, and he spent two months in jail until his release in mid-January. Two others remain in custody, although no one has been formally charged.

The Association of Accredited Abortion Clinics says the police searches were aggressive while demonstrators harassed patients and employees with threatening phone calls and graffiti such as "Murder is committed here."

It said that after authorities didn't respond to its pleas for protection, it called the Jan. 8-12 strike, shutting down around 40 clinics and forcing the postponement of nearly 2,000 procedures. "We are absolutely desperate because this is no way to work," Empar Pineda, the association's spokeswoman, said in an interview.

Around 100,000 abortions were carried out in 2006 in Spain, which has a population of 45 million. In Italy, by comparison, with a population of 58 million, the figure is about 137,000 for 2004, the last year for which full figures are available.

In Spain women who have an abortion can get the government to pay for it, but nationwide around 60 percent pay for it themselves, mainly because this way it is faster and more confidential. All the clinics under investigation are privately owned.

More than 90 percent of Spain's abortions fell into the category of women citing mental distress, said Pineda.

The complaints that prompted the raids were filed by e-Cristians, which alleges a gross lack of government supervision and record-keeping.

No charges have been formally brought, but the Barcelona clinics are suspected of using bogus psychiatric certificates, according to an official with the Civil Guard, which made the arrests. The two people who remain in custody are psychiatrists, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of department rules.

Pineda acknowledged that the mental-distress argument is a loophole, "a bit of theater that we play out" because Spain doesn't have abortion on demand. Under Franco, the only grounds for an abortion was a "family honor" clause designed to spare parents the embarrassment of an unwed daughter having a baby, Pineda said.

In the case of the Madrid raids, Pineda blamed the harassment on conservatives who run the regional government. Its president, Esperanza Aguirre, is seen as a candidate to take over her Popular Party's national leadership if it loses the March election, and "is winking at her electorate to show that she is tough," Pineda said.

The ruling Socialist Party, meanwhile, has already infuriated conservatives and the Roman Catholic church with its sweeping reforms and having once promised abortion on demand, now says it is open to a "period of reflection."

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Italians Rally to Defend Abortion Law

ROME (AP) — Hundreds of women rallied in Rome and Naples on Thursday to protest police interrogation of a woman after she underwent an abortion and to oppose a campaign push by some conservatives to change Italy's abortion law.

State television said at least one woman was detained by police after protesters scuffled with officers when they tried to move the rally to a square in central Rome.

Health Minister Livia Turco emerged from her office earlier in a show of solidarity with demonstrators, who held placards proclaiming that "Women do the choosing" and other slogans.

Turco has denounced an incident earlier in the week when police rushed into a Naples hospital to interrogate a woman who had aborted a 21-week-old fetus minutes before. The 39-year-old woman says she had the abortion after learning the fetus had a grave genetic defect. News reports said the aborted fetus was seized as evidence.

The police investigation came amid a drive seeking to limit the point in a pregnancy when abortion should be allowed. Proponents of limits claim medical advances mean 21-week fetuses can sometimes survive.

Abortion after three months is allowed in Italy when a pregnancy is deemed a grave danger to a woman's mental or physical health.

Abortion through the end of the third month of any pregnancy was legalized in 1978, and three years later Italians voted to keep the law despite opposition from the Vatican.

But abortion has become an issue in the campaign for parliamentary elections April 13-14.

Conservative former premier Silvio Berlusconi says he wants the United Nations to approve a worldwide moratorium on abortions. Newspaper editor Giuliano Ferrara sharpened the debate by announcing he will run for Parliament on an anti-abortion platform.

Berlusconi's opponent for the premiership, center-left candidate Walter Veltroni, was quoted by the Italian news agency Apcom on Thursday as defending Italy's abortion law. He cited statistics showing a drop in abortions since 1978 and said the law also "wiped out the plague of clandestine abortions which caused so many deaths among women."

Abortion Law Is Suddenly a Pivotal Issue in Italy’s Elections


Published: February 16, 2008

ROME — With voting less than two months away, a bitter debate over abortion has unexpectedly flared up, putting the issue at the center of the Italian electoral campaign.

The controversy over Italy’s 30-year-old law legalizing abortion stirred up demonstrations this week in its defense, with Health Minister Livia Turco among the protesters.

The demonstrations were touched off by an incident in a Naples hospital on Monday.

Acting on an anonymous tip that an abortion had been performed later in a pregnancy than the law allows, police officers entered the hospital and interrogated a Neapolitan woman, identified in the news media only by her first name, Silvana, immediately after the abortion and reportedly while she was still under the effects of anesthesia. They seized the aborted fetus.

Carmine Nappi, the chief of obstetrics at the hospital, likened the police intrusion to an anti-Mafia raid. “We’ve had countless complaints, we’re a hospital, but never a blitz like this,” he said by telephone on Thursday.

On Thursday evening, protesters gathered in several Italian cities. In Rome, a few hundred women and some men, many holding signs that read, “Silvana, we’re all with you,” stopped traffic in front of the Health Ministry. Ms. Turco praised the turnout. “We’re defending a law that is close to us,” she said.

On Friday, a group of women staged a sit-in in front of the Naples hospital.

An internal investigation at the hospital determined that the woman, 39, had terminated her pregnancy during the 21st week, within the 24-week limit set by the law, after tests disclosed that the fetus could have significant abnormalities.

In mid-December, Giuliano Ferrara, a conservative journalist close to former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the center-right leader, began using his daily newspaper, Il Foglio, as a platform to support a universal moratorium on abortion. This week, he announced that he would run for Parliament as an independent in the April 13-14 elections on an anti-abortion ticket.

Critics of Mr. Ferrara’s campaign have accused him of trying to create fractures within the newly formed center-left Democratic Party, which has a sizable Roman Catholic component.

Center-left leaders have rejected calls to overturn the abortion law, which was upheld in a 1981 referendum after a battle with Italy’s Catholic establishment.

The law also includes provisions for family planning clinics and counseling for young women to avoid unplanned pregnancies. Many point to Health Ministry statistics to underscore the law’s effectiveness: In 2006, there were 130,000 terminated pregnancies in Italy, 44.6 percent fewer than in 1982, when 234,801 abortions were carried out.

Polls indicate that Mr. Berlusconi’s coalition will probably be the winner in the parliamentary elections, and some legislators allied with him are already calling for changes in the abortion law.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Feminists and Unions present 4000 self-accusations of abortion at Court

Feminists and unions present 4,000 self-accusations of abortion at Court

Madrid, February 8, 2008.- Representatives of more than 72 feminist and family planning organizations and unions have presented 4,000 self-accusations of abortion at the Court in Madrid yesterday, in the context of the “For women’s right to choose” campaign.

The move follows the aim of being supportive with those women who have been required to state in Court as well as demanding changes in the current legislation of abortion in Spain.

At present, the interruption of pregnancy is considered a crime under the Penal Code, the reason why all these organizations have demanded an urgent change of this consideration.

Some background on the abortion issue in Spain

In Spain, abortion is illegal except when a woman has been raped (the termination must be done in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy), in the case of foetal malformations (up to 22 weeks’ gestation), and when the woman faces grave danger to her life or physical or mental health (there is no time limit in this case).

At present almost all abortions are carried out in private clinics, as the public health system covers only 2.5 percent of the total. This "weakness" in state healthcare is heavily influenced by the Catholic Church’s anti-abortion campaign, according to family support organisations.

Health Ministry statistics indicate that the number of abortions in the country has doubled in the last decade.

Every year, one woman out of 100 in the age range of 15 to 44 has an abortion. Of these, 40 percent are under 25 and 14 percent are under 19 years old.

The rise in the number of abortions performed in Spain should be countered with education for children and young people, and not with crackdowns, the head of the Women’s Forum in Madrid’s city government, Lourdes Hernández, told IPS last January.

Guillermo González, head of the FPFE, agreed with Hernández about the need for sex education, "which is practically non-existent." Sex education should be part of the official school curriculum, "although not necessarily as a separate subject," he told IPS.

An issue which should be speedily addressed, he said, is the sale of contraceptives, "which should be available over-the counter, as it is unacceptable that only condoms can be purchased without a prescription."

"The first item to be deregulated should be the morning-after pill (emergency contraception), which has proven to have very few side-effects, and is an important aid for women to make their own decision about whether or not to become pregnant, as is their prerogative," he said.

Spain’s legislation on abortion is the most restrictive in Europe, while Dutch laws are the most liberal. Women in the Netherlands can have an abortion on demand at any time up to 24 weeks’ gestation.

Medical sources in Spain point out that the time limit of 22 weeks for malformed foetuses means that if malformations incompatible with survival are discovered after that gestational age, an abortion cannot be performed and the woman must give birth to a baby who is doomed to die.

The Association of Accredited Abortion Clinics (ACAI), which represents about 50 private clinics, is calling for a law to allow women to make a free choice about whether or not to remain pregnant, "with no interference from the state," within the first 12 weeks of gestation. Only from the 13th week would conditions and limitations be set for the termination of pregnancy.

In response to anti-abortion declarations and physical attacks on abortion clinics by campaigners, González said that "the sectors that are against sex education, contraceptives and the morning-after pill are the same ones that later clutch their heads because abortions are rising."

"What they really want is for no one to have sex, but that isn’t going to happen, so the only solution is to provide information and birth control," he said.

Family planning organisations calling for the decriminalisation of abortion, and the Catholic Church and its followers demanding the opposite, will have to wait until the new parliament convenes after the Mar. 9 elections, as the previous parliament’s sessions have ended.

The statement presented at Court

The text released by these organizations to support their own “For women’s right to choose” which was handed out at the Court, says:

“The feminist and family planning organizations and unions organizing the ‘For women’s right to choose’ campaign, present at the Court in Madrid some 4,000 self-accusations collected at Madrid.

“2,478 women have stated having interrupted their pregnancies voluntarily and responsibly; 1,422 men and women have stated having supported a woman in her abortion.

“These signatures presented in Madrid are added to those other signatures collected in other cities of other Autonomous Communities, such as Granada, Jaén, Cádiz, Vigo, León, Burgos, Salamanca, Segovia, Zaragoza, and Barcelona. Already, some 1,072 signatures were presented in Asturias, some 280 in Valladolid, some 139 in Córdoba; next February, 14 more signatures will be presented in Granada and next February, 16 in Cantabria. Today, more signatures will be presented in Valencia.

“With the presentation of these self-accusations, all these organizations want to be supportive with those women who have been required to state at the Courts 35 and 47 of the city of Madrid, in a move that is part of the push of conservative groups whose goal is to hinder the women’s right to abortion; we also assume the consequences following these statements, demanding to be required to state in Court if necessary; with our statement, we want to report the situation of social and legal vulnerability facing those women who decide to abort and those medical professionals who attend such choices.

“We consider that this situation takes place as a result of the inadequacies of the current partial decriminalisation of abortion. This is why we demand an immediate change of the current legislation: a) That abortion is no longer considered as a crime under the Penal Code; b) The guarantee of the practice of abortion in the public health system; c) The respect of women’s right to choose.

“We call for a mobilization in view of next March, 8 a date who celebrates the Woman’s International Day, to keep on stating our demands.

“Groups supporting the “For Women’s Right to Choose” Campaign:


Asamblea Feminista de Madrid

Asociación de Asistencia a Mujeres Violadas

Asociación de Mujeres de la Enseñanza

Asociación de Mujeres Juristas Themis

Asociación de Mujeres para la Salud

Asociación de Mujeres Progresistas "Plaza Mayor”

Asociación de Mujeres Viva la Pepa

Asociación de Planificación Familiar de Madrid

Asociación Igualadas Madrid

Asociación Lasexologia.

Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir

CEM. Centro de Estudios de la Mujer

Colectivo en defensa de los derechos de las prostitutas. Hetaira

Colectivo LILAS

Comisión para la Investigación de Malos Tratos a Mujeres

Consejo de la Mujer del Municipio de Madrid

Coordinadora de Asociaciones de Carabanchel

Coordinadora Española del Lobby Europeo de Mujeres

Enclave Feminista

Eskalera Karakola

Federación de Planificación Familiar Estatal - FPFE

Federación de Asociaciones de Mujeres Separadas y Divorciadas

Federación de Mujeres Progresistas

Federación Mujeres Jóvenes

Forum de Política Feminista

Fundación Mujeres

Genera & Enlaces: Coalición Asociativa

Grupo de Interés Español en Población, Desarrollo y Salud Reproductiva – Grupo GIE

Grupo de Buenos Tratos de Liberación – Amauta

Grupo de Mujeres de Carabanchel

Grupo de Mujeres de Comillas

Grupo de Mujeres de Vallecas

Grupo de Mujeres feministas de Espacio Alternativo

Las Federicas Tejiendo Salud

Organización de Mujeres de STERM-Intersindical

Mujeres de Negro de Madrid

Mujeres en Red

Mujeres en Rojo

Mujeres Vecinales de Madrid

Nosotras Mismas de Chamberí

Nosotras No Nos Resignamos

Partido Feminista

Plataforma de Mujeres 2000

RQTR. Asoc. de lesbianas, gays, transexuales y bisexuales de la Univ. Complutense

Secretaría de la Mujer de CCOO de Madrid. Secretaría Confederal de la Mujer de COO

Secretaría de Igualdad de UGT-Madrid

STEM (Sindicato de Trabajadoras de la Enseñanza de Madrid)

Asociación de mujeres “Las Tejedoras”

Asociación de mujeres de Alcorcón

Asociación Mujeres en Marcha

Asociación de Mujeres de las Artes Escénicas Marías Guerreras

Asociación de Mujeres en lucha contra los malos tratos de Rivas-Vaciamadrid

Asociación Mujeres Opañel.

Asociación Nosotras en el Mundo

Centro de estudios de la Mujer de Las Rozas

Colectivo de jóvenas feministas

Colectivo de Mujeres Convboca

Consejo de la Mujer de la Comunidad de Madrid

LiberACCIÓN - LGTB de izquierdas

Mujeres vecinales de Villa Rosa.

Asociación de Mujeres La Pasionaria (Rivas-Vaciamadrid)

Area de mujer de la asociación Cultura y Cooperación al Desarrollo (CUCO)

AMASOL Asociación de Madres Solas, Familias Monoparentales

Área de la Mujer de Radio Vallekas

AsOciación de Mujeres por un Envejecimiento Saludable.

Asociación Solidaridad con Madres Solteras

Mujeres por la Salud y la Paz.

Plataforma de Mujeres Artistas contra la Violencia de Género

Red Internacional de Mujeres Periodistas y Comunicadoras – Madrid

Secretaría de la Mujer de la Unión de Actores de Madrid

Área de la Mujer. Asociación libre de abogados (ALA)

Equipo de Género de la Asociación AESCO (América-España Solidaridad y Cooperación)

Mujeres de Socialismo Libertario”.

Over 400 pro-choice supporters at London protest

Last night, more than 400 loud and enthusiastic pro-choice supporters protested outside Central Hall Westminster against the London leg of an anti-abortion road show with Ann Widdecombe MP and Lord David Alton.

The lively crowd, including pro-choice activists, students, trade unionists, and others, brought banners and placards, and raised their voices demanding 'our bodies, our lives, our right to decide' 'not the church, not the state, women must decide their fate' and 'hey, ho, attack our rights? We say no!'
and could be heard across at Parliament. Colourful placards read '83 per cent support choice', 'no attack on the time limit - defend a woman's right to choose' and 'more abortion rights, not less!'.

The protest showed the strength feeling in support of a woman's right to choose on abortion and against any planned attacks on women's abortion rights in Parliament by anti-abortion MPs in coming months - particularly on the abortion time limit. The road show with Ann Widdecombe aims to mobilise anti-abortionists to lobby MPs ahead of key votes.

The wide range of support expressed for the protest included Christine McCafferty MP, Emily Thornberry MP, Fiona McTaggart MP; Baroness Joyce Gould, Baroness Jenny Tonge, Katherine Rake, Director Fawcett Society; Anni Marjoram, Advisor to Mayor of London; Jane Loftus, CWU President; Siobhan Endean, Women's Officer UNITE the UNION; Sharon Green UNISON; Megan Dobney, Secretary SERTUC; Kat Stark NUS Women's Officer;.

The protest follows a huge public meeting called by Abortion Rights in Parliament on 16th February to launch the pro-choice campaigning around the HFE Bill. The meeting attracted so many, that supporters queued around the building to get in and speakers from all three main parties rotated between overspill rooms to address the crowds.

Abortion Rights will be calling public initiatives at every key stage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Further protests are planned are being organised for Liverpool on 12th February, Coventry on 13th February and Cardiff on 4th March 2008. The next mobilisation in London will be for International Women's Day on 8th March. The will be a mass lobby of parliament and other activities at later stages of the Bill. Details to be announced at www.abortionrights.org.uk

Christine McCafferty MP said:
We heavily defeated Nadine Dorries MP's backbench Bill to lower the abortion time limit last year. I led the opposition. I spoke and I voted against it and I am determined that any similar amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill must be defeated again. In the 40th anniversary year of the enactment of the 1967 Abortion Act, we cannot allow the tiny minority who oppose all abortion to chip away women's fundamental rights. Women's rights should be extended not restricted.

Baroness Jenny Tonge In the next few weeks amendments to the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill will be tabled by abortion opponents in the House of Commons. The House of Lords rejected the one amendment tabled on abortion for foetal disability by 4 to 1. This was very encouraging because there had been heavy lobbying by groups opposing abortion. All of you here today must lobby your MP to make sure that he or she knows that women must retain the right to choose whether or not they continue with a pregnancy. This is the most important issue. We must not let them dilute the
1967 Act in any way.

Katherine Rake Director Fawcett Society Today, women across the UK are celebrating the anniversary of a momentous historical event. On this day ninety years ago women won the right to vote.

It is ironic that this very day, women are having to meet to organise in defence of another hard-won right: the right for women to make decisions about their own bodies.

The Fawcett Society fully supports Abortion Rights' Pro-choice Campaign. The further restrictions which are being proposed to women's access to abortion would be a regression of women's fundamental rights.

The right to an abortion is vital in itself. But there are also clear links between women's reproductive rights and broader equality between women and men - a woman's right to choose is linked to her ability to make economic choices, choices about partnerhips, and choices about her own health.

Women campaigned for the vote, and for the right to abortion, so that they would be able to have control over decisions which affected their lives. We must continue fighting to ensure that these rights are built upon, not eroded, in the coming years.

Louise Hutchins Abortion Rights Campaign Coordinator said:
Abortion Rights is determined that all anti-abortion amendments moved as part of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill currently in Parliament are defeated, and that any opportunity to advance the abortion law for women is maximised. We are protesting as a positive public expression of the strength feeling of the pro-choice majority and of opposition to organised attacks on women's fundamental rights.