Laura Rogers and Rebecca Galbraith sent a longer version of this letter to the Abortion Rights campaign.
On Saturday 20 October we went to Parliament Square expecting to be part of a counter-demonstration to the anti-abortion, anti-women rally; instead we were the demonstration. Where were you? Abortion Rights, as the biggest, best supported, “official” pro-choice campaign, it’s time to up the fight!
On Saturday religious reactionaries and anti-abortionists were moved to mobilise 1000 people to commiserate the passing of the 1967 Abortion Act. Their “funeral march” for the six million pregnancies terminated since, showed the most grotesque lack of respect and empathy for ordinary women everywhere and an outrageous ignorance of the real choices we may all have to face. That this went unchallenged is shameful.
This anniversary should be our platform for change; it is unbelievable that the opportunity has not been fully taken to defend and extend women’s rights. The result of Abortion Rights’ decision not to organise public demonstrations means that in the fortieth anniversary year there was only one pro-choice demonstration — a 300 strong march organised by Education Not for Sale Women and Feminist Fightback. If Abortion Rights, with its affiliated trade union or student organisations, had either supported this march or called one of its own, it would certainly have been larger. Where is this pro-choice majority that Abortion Rights claims so proudly to hold? Why were only two people present on Saturday to support the millions of women who have made a legitimate choice?
By including Tory MPs on your platform you are forced to fight a politically self limiting campaign. This kind of campaign cannot raise the demands necessary to provide working class women with a true choice. To call for a living wage, publicly funded childcare and a strong NHS is neither extreme nor radical – it just doesn’t fit with a Tory agenda. Your campaign is not only quiet it is cowardly.
Our presence should be in the hospitals, in the schools and in the streets of our local communities. Abortion Rights you should be organising a high profile, militant campaign to assert our rights to choose. We want a national demonstration to rival that organised by the National Abortion Campaign, forerunners of Abortion Rights in 1979, that mobilised 60,000 people. We want pickets, counter-actions, a real fight. It is time not only to defend the rights of women already won, but to make some progressive, positive demands of our own.