According to the UK Abortion Rights campaign, one woman in three will require an abortion at some point in her life.
Such a right is integral to women’s ability to control what happens to our bodies, to be free from unwanted pregnancy and the burden of raising unwanted children, and to exercise sexual freedom to the full. After decades of campaigning, many women in the UK still do not have full, free access to abortions, and the Con-Dem government is taking steps to dismantle the limited reproductive freedoms we have fought to defend. The religious right is being strengthened by the Tories and in the next year we will face attacks on abortion rights on a national and local level.
In the 2010 election 140 pro-choice MPs lost their seats, most of whom were Labour MPs. We are now faced with a socially conservative cabinet and a Department of Heath which has begun engaging religious right pro-life groups in discussions on its healthcare policies.
However, pro-life campaigners failed to push through “The Right to Know” amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill in September. And Nadine Dorries, the Tory MP who was leading the campaign was given short shrift in the House of Commons (in fact was dubbed “frustrated” in a nauseatingly sexist remark by David Cameron).
The amendment would have taken away from abortion providers the right to provide pre-abortion counselling to women using their services, and instead require GPs to refer women to “independent” groups who will not have “a vested interest” in going ahead with abortions (that could have meant religious, anti-abortion groups).
The proposal — or part of the proposal — may still be introduced through the “normal” regulation of health services.
This is not the end of the anti-abortion attacks. In the time we have available before the next attack we need to mount a positive campaign in favour of the right to choose and all of our reproductive rights.