130 MPs have signed a parliamentary “Early Day Motion” calling for a review of abortion law. This is despite a recent government review of the law. No prizes for guessing that they don’t have an “objective”, “neutral” review in mind. The EDM is sponsored by Geraldine Smith MP, a member of the All Party Parliamentary “pro-life” group which is opposed to all abortion. Indeed a large proportion of the signatories — including one George Galloway MP — are on record as being opposed to abortion.
The sponsors want to reduce the legal time limit for access to abortion down from the current 24 weeks — to 22 or 21 or 20 weeks.
The motion is couched in terms of bringing abortion availability into line with new scientific advances - on improved survival rates for premature babies or to take account of knowledge about the physical and emotion development of the foetus. Both of these claims and the arguments which accompany them are highly contentious.
The reality is that bringing the time limit down still further will unjustly penalise the few thousand women each year who need a late abortion. Women are already unable to get an abortion on the NHS up to the 24 week time limit. In many parts of the country abortions are only available to women at a much lower time limit than this (14-16 weeks). Women find they need a late abortion for a variety of reasons. This could be improved with easier access to abortion, if abortion was available on request. But not always. Sometimes women remain unaware of a pregnancy until they are far advanced, for instance women who have been experiencing symptoms of the menopause, and young teenage women.
Abortion Rights are organising a campaign of lobbying MPs. We need more than that to get the argument across — a national demonstration, days of action, discussions inside our students unions and trade unions.
The Feminist Fightback conference aims to plan for an abortion rights march in spring 2007, to be held in Central London. Details will be published in Solidarity as they are confirmed.
The TUC Women’s Committee have also organised a march for International Women’s Day, to be held in Scarborough around their conference in March. The demonstration is for working women’s rights and defence of abortion rights will be an important demand.
Socialists serious about women’s liberation should organise now for large contingents at these actions.
For more information on how to get involved with actions resulting from Feminist Fightback email firstname.lastname@example.org.