Thursday, July 06, 2006

Speak Out: Fight for a woman's right to choose

I'd forgotten what a pain in the ass it is to get into Parliament. Being man or should I say woman handled by The Filth and in the corner of my eye, I could see one or two of them holding the standard issue Heckler and Koch (hope the safety catch was on...).

But it was worth it as Abortion Rights in conjunction with Marie Claire and Marie Stopes had organised a meeting called "Break the silence on abortion". First up was Anne Quesney from Abortion Rights who spoke about the reasons this meeting was happening. She rightly said that the pro-choice had been complacent and that it was time to organise. The anti-abortionists were watching the events in the States and following similar tactics. And now there is this exclusive emphasis on the foetus with women being sidelined. This constant chipping away of choice.

And Geraldine Smith's Early day Motion (EDM) was debated on Monday.

Below is the EDM:

Review of abortion legislation - Geraldine Smith MP
"That this House endorses Recommendation 77 of the Report of the Science and Technology Committee, Human Reproductive Technologies and the Law; and calls on the Government to set up a joint committee of both Houses to consider the scientific, medical and social changes in relation to abortion that have taken place since 1967, with a view to presenting options for new legislation."

Laura Moffatt MP for Crawley said that only 60 MPs backed this EDM out of 650 but we still shouldn't be complacent. And what exactly are these "changes" since 1967 regarding the scientific, medical and social changes? Nothing has changed for women. This EDM smacks of a way of reducing the time limits.
She quoted one Tory from the debate who said, "You can't have sex education as it gives them ideas"!!! So, ignorance is bliss...

Liz Davis from Marie Stopes spoke of the stereotypes of women who have had abortions.That they are perceived as “selfish” “uncaring” and should be riddled with “angst” and “regret”.

Journalist Suzanna Moore spoke about the need to change the stereotypes and that abortion is a reality and women shouldn’t be stigmatised for having one. Choice has to be normalised and that it is seen in a real context. And abortion isn’t seen as shameful or as a big dirty secret. Men too need to show solidarity with women. There has to be support for the medical profession as the BMA, RCN and RCGN are opposed to reducing the time limits. She also spoke of abortion as a class issue and that wealthier women could always afford an abortion while poorer women are penalised.

We then saw the film Speak Out: I have had an abortion, which showed 2 women talking about their experiences of abortion. Both are extremely powerful and moving narratives. In the States 1.3million women have an abortion but for many of these women they still can’t talk about it.

Marie O’Riordan editor of Marie Claire spoke of the unequivocal support for a woman’s right to choose. In the latest edition there is an interview with 12 women who speak of their reasons for having an abortion. Again, she spoke of the taboo and stigmatisation attached to abortion and how we must fight against this.

The floor was open to contributions from women who spoke of their experiences of abortion. Many of these women’s stories exposed the way they were controlled, moralised, guilt tripped and lectured. One woman was made to wait 13 weeks for an abortion. One woman was told she was a “burden on the NHS and a burden on the tax payer”. One woman was told she had to pay £500 which she could ill afford but was desperate enough to find the money. Many women felt “guilty” that they didn’t feel “guilty” for having an abortion except feeling relief. Some still can't tell their families.

An Irish woman spoke of "abortion tourism"and that women have to pay around £650 (before 14 weeks) or £700+ (after 16 weeks) and include the travel in that as well. So if you haven't the money you are scuppered. And the fact the 1967 Abortion Act does not cover the North but hey, it brings together Paisley and the Catholic Church condemning choice, free legal abortion and keeping women well and truly under the thumb!

Listening to the stories made me angry. Angry that as women we have no real fundamental control over our bodies. As one woman said, “Aren’t we, women, the best judges of what is best for us and for our bodies”! Quite!

Overall it was a good meeting with nearly 100 people (around 85 women and 15 blokes). There were a number of young women which I found positive and refreshing. Abortion Rights are organising events in the autumn.

Stroppyblog is a pro-choice blog and we will support the continued fight for a woman’s right to choose and ultimate control over our reproductive rights. We will keep you informed of events.

Some things you can do:

Join Abortion Rights

Send the Abortion Rights postcard ("would you turn the clock back on her rights?") to your MP (it will also be available in electronic form from Monday)

Marie Stopes has published research of women undergoing late abortions between 19 and 24 weeks. It's called Late Abortion and very good it is.

Find out what position your trade union has on a woman’s right to choose. Incidentally, Sue Bond from the PCS spoke of last year’s conference which supported a woman’s right to choose. She also spoke of her mum having a backstreet abortion in the 1950s.

Pass resolutions at trade union branches

Next year it is 40 years of the 1967 Act.