ACTION: Abortion Rights: Campaign Update: October 2012

From email:

It’s time limit time again

Every couple of years, regular as clockwork, politicians start calling for the abortion time limit to be reduced. As we haven’t had a vote on the issue since MPs comprehensively rejected attempts to restrict access in 2008 (four whole years ago!) it was no surprise that the time limit reared its head again, just before the start of the Conservative Party conference. What is particularly concerning though is that it is the newly appointed Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and the Minister for Women and Equalities Maria Miller who have led the charge, reaffirming their support for a 12 and 20 week time limit respectively. Other senior figures have been quick to jump on the bandwagon – Theresa May opting for 20 weeks and David Cameron voicing his support for a ‘modest decrease’ in the time limit. SNP Health Secretary Alex Neil echoed their views, and cheerfully added that he was ‘relaxed’ at the possibility of women being forced to cross the border to access abortion if the time limit in an independent Scotland was lower than in England.

Ministers have been quick to point out that they are expressing their personal views, and to stress that there are no government plans for legislation on the time limit. But Jeremy Hunt is ultimately responsible for all the UK’s abortion services and Miller is supposed to be the voice of women in government. Their views carry weight and when they fail to support access to a key women’s health service it is cause for real concern. Most of our readers will already know that the new medical evidence cited by ministers to support their desired time limit reduction does not exist. The current arrangements are supported by the UK’s major medical bodies and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has issued a statement emphasising the importance of retaining the 24 week limit. What this episode tells us though, is that restricting abortion via a cut in the time limit is back on the table in a major way. There may be no immediate plans to change the law, but it is highly likely that there will be an attempt to cut the limit before the next general election in 2015. It also tells us that if ministers think that there is any sort of consensus on the need to reduce the time limit or that they can do without much fuss, then they are seriously underestimating the extent of pro-choice feeling in this country. Their comments have caused lasting outrage. Abortion Rights saw a huge jump in twitter followers and an influx of new members following Hunt’s comments. We’ll need their support – and yours – to help us win the coming fight. So if you’re not already a member, please make sure you join or donate to Abortion Rights today.

More after the jump.

No More Names: campaign to end abortion stigma

Abortion provider Bpas has launched a new advocacy campaign to highlight the myths and stigma which surround abortions and the women who have them. The No More Names initiative emphasises that we all know the kind of women who have faced unwanted pregnancy and decided abortion is right for them, for reasons as individual as they are. They are mothers, daughters, sisters and friends – and they must be able access the care they need, when they need it. The campaign will run on billboards across London in King’s Cross, London Bridge, Waterloo, Marylebone and Victoria stations. It will also run in train stations in Manchester and Leeds, and more than 1m emails will be sent nationwide. Read more about this brilliant and much needed campaign here.

Action on Abortion

Pro-choicers gathered in London for our Action on Abortion rally outside Parliament last month. As well as some great speakers (and a very popular pro-choice dog!) we were joined by some ‘prisoners’ complete with orange jumpsuits and ball-and-chains to highlight the fact that abortion remains a criminal offence in many parts of the world – including in Northern Ireland were the penalty for obtaining abortion is life imprisonment. Meanwhile in Dublin, thousands of pro-choice supporters marched through the streets of the city centre demanding abortion rights. Have a look at some photos of the events here and here.

Marie Stopes opens Belfast abortion clinic

There was more good news for Irish pro-choice supporters last week, when it was announced that healthcare charity Marie Stopes International would open the first abortion clinic anywhere in Ireland. The Belfast centre will provide sexual and reproductive healthcare to women and men, including family planning services and medical abortion up to nine weeks of pregnancy. While these terminations will be carried out under the extreme restrictions imposed by the current law in Northern Ireland which allows abortion only in cases of grave threat to the woman’s health, the new clinic is a bold and groundbreaking move. It places further pressure on the Northern Ireland government to publish guidelines clarifying its abortion regulations, the absence of which have prevented health care professionals from offering legal abortion without fear of prosecution. Read more

News from Scotland

Abortion is becoming a hot topic in Scotland at the moment. Alex Neil’s time limit comments have made abortion part of the independence debate and comments made by senior Catholic clergy recently, comparing abortion clinics to concentration camps, have caused outrage. Pro-choice supporters took ‘Action on Abortion’ in Dundee last month and a Scottish Abortion Rights Network is being relaunched. Meetings will take place in Edinburgh and Glasgow this week and next, with more locations to come. Please do go along if you’re in the area. Members of all political parties – and none – are welcome!
West of Scotland AR meeting, Wed 17th Oct, 7.00pm
STUC, 333 woodlands road, Glasgow, G3 6NG (Meeting room 3)
Edinburgh area AR meeting, Mon 22nd Oct 7.00pm
Southside Community Centre 117 Nicolson Street, Ediburgh, EH8 9ER (Room 1)
Drop us an email if you’d like to chat to the organisers.

Abortion Rights is also supporting the STUC A Future that Works demonstration in Glasgow on Saturday 20th October, to highlight concerns about cuts on women’s services, employment opportunities, and choices. If you would like an Abortion Rights T-shirt for the march, or can help with some leafleting, let us know. Meet at George Square, Glasgow, Sat 20th October, 11am. And of course we’ll be supporting the TUC’s Future that Works march in London on that day too. We know that loads of you will already be going, but if you fancy wearing one of out T-shirts then let us know!<

#FemLobby – take part and support abortion rights

In the light of the time limit comments from Jeremy Hunt & co, now is a great time to lobby your MP on the importance of safe, legal abortion across the UK – including in Northern Ireland. Abortion rights is one of the topics being highlighted at UK Feminista’s first Feminist Lobby of Parliament on Wednesday 24th October. Have a look at this short film from UK Feminista to learn more about why women will be speaking up for their rights in Parliament next week and sign up to take part here.

Best wishes,

The Abortion Rights team

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