Abortion: denying women fundamental rights

Submitted by Matthew on 22 March, 2017 - 10:56 Author: Honor Wilkinson-Bell and Beckie Walker, Darlington Young Labour (personal capacity)

As young females, we both feel strongly about the liberation of women. We believe it is abhorrent that women across the world are still denied their fundamental rights, especially in the 21st century.

One significant example is how the issue of abortion, which is still stigmatised in the US, arguably even more so in the Trump era. Despite the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, attacks on women’s right to choose, have continued for years. Violent attacks have taken place in clinics and there have been campaigns to overturn and restrict Roe v. Wade.

Across the world women still face restrictions when making decisions regarding their own bodies, which reflects the gender inequality that still exists in society. We recently visited the United States and saw how though abortion is legal, the restrictions placed upon women in many states lead them to feel that there is no other choice but to have their child.

Since 2013, the number of clinics in Texas has been reduced from 42 to 19. Legislation requiring the foetus/embryo/zygote to be issued with a death certificate and have a funeral was introduced in Texas despite public opposition. There was deliberate misinformation in state-level law and adds unnecessary pressure to women.

Women in the US already face an immense amount of societal pressure when faced with an unwanted pregnancy, which is only worsened by the increasing use of violence and intimidation.

Many anti-choice groups have violently attacked Planned Parenthood (one of the main health providers in the US) centres and intimidated people in clinics, stigmatising the issue even more, forcing women to choose not to abort. Doctors and even families of those having abortions have been targeted. There have been 54 bombings on abortion clinics since the 1980s; nine physicians who have been brutally murdered.

We spoke with the US pressure group National Abortion Federation (NAF), which offers legal support for women making the difficult decision whether to have an abortion. They explained that hatred for women’s choice has increased; since the 2016 United States election, there has been a 46% spike in online threats and negative rhetoric towards abortion providers.

Trump has already signed an Executive Order withdrawing federal money from organisations, such as Planned Parenthood. It is clear that Trump’s election win means support services for women are hanging by a thread. To make matters worse, Planned Parenthood disproportionately helps women of colour and those with a low-income and from a working-class background, making this an even larger issue of racial and class discrimination.

The Supreme Court nomination, of anti-choice judge Neil Gorsuch, follows Trump’s claims that he holds a “pro-life” stance on the matter. Gorsuch’s appointment means the courts are potentially able to overturn or restrict Roe v. Wade. Clearly, Trump and the Republicans do not understand how much women rely on these services, having very little compassion, respect for women’s privacy and their constitutional right to access abortions. This disgusting attitude was clear in Trump’s comments about “grabbing the pussy” of a woman.

More difficulities for women are occurring in Ireland — where abortion is illegal. Many women every year must make the journey to have an abortion in the UK, and there is very little support provided for them. Despite women being desperate, alone and terrified, they are treated as criminals, rather than human beings entitled to a fundamental right.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 21.6 million women worldwide experience an unsafe abortion each year; 18.5 million of these occur in developing countries; 47,000 women die from complications arising from unsafe abortion each year. Deaths due to unsafe abortion remain close to 13% of all maternal deaths.

We must stand in solidarity with women in the US and Ireland and all over the world who are denied their right to choose. We must oppose the likes of Trump. We must encourage those in power to end the unconstitutional denial of women’s freedom. We must educate men about reproductive rights, sexual health and other gender issues, in order to have an informed debate. We must recognise the problem in developing countries and provide safe and correct aid and information. We must show that “pussy grabs back”.