Report from the Feminist Fightback campaign.
On Monday 20 October at 8.30am, feminists chained themselves to the Department of Health and obstructed access to the building to add to the public pressure for access to abortion to be extended to Northern Ireland. Around 40-50 activists came to offer support, to demonstrate and to leaflet the public. Similar actions are set to take place throughout the UK - in Brighton, Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast.
The Government look set to table a programming motion to prevent pro-choice amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill being read. The activists aimed to highlight that they see any moves by the Government to ensure the amendments are not read as a direct attack on women's rights. The Department of Health was targeted because neither the Minister for Health, Dawn Primarolo MP, nor the Minister for Women, Harriet Harman MP, have publicly expressed their support for pro-choice amendments.
Laura Schwartz, Reproductive Freedoms Campaigner with Feminist Fightback, and one of the women to lock on to the building, explains:
"The Ministers for Women and Health must come out in support for what is a clear issue of human rights. Women in Northern Ireland want and deserve the right to control their own bodies. Harman and Primarolo call themselves feminists - let's see them act to prove it.
"The Government must allow proper democratic process with sufficient time for pro-choice amendments to be discussed. We should be using this historic opportunity to enable all women in the UK to have a genuine right to choose."
Brenda Callaghan, of the Northern Irish Alliance for Choice Campaign says:
"At least 40 women per week make the heart-breaking decision to travel to England or to Europe, many of them alone, to have an abortion. They receive no follow-up healthcare, and are being treated as second-class citizens within the UK. This is very much a class issue as it impacts greatly on working class women who have to find around £2500 for a termination, and it must end now."