We still need a woman's right to choose

Submitted by Daniel_Randall on 10 November, 2004 - 6:50

The North-West Area of the National Union of Students has written to trade unionists and women's groups in the area about threats to abortion rights.

You may be aware of the recent discussions in the media about reducing the time limit for abortion, even down to 12 weeks. David Steel who put down the original act to legalise abortion many years ago, has come out in favour of reducing time limits (to 22 weeks), citing medical advances. The government could take action this autumn.

Our campaign is concerned to defend the rights of women to have access to safe contraception and abortion services, a right which has been the policy of many trade unions and student unions for some time.

These rights could be under threat as soon as this winter, either when the government reviews the Abortion Act, or from a private members’ bill.

The North West National Union of Students has called a demonstration on Saturday 6 November in Manchester to defend a women's right to choose. We urge you to support the demonstration, organise a discussion on the issue, invite a speaker, encourage your members to attend, raise the issue amongst your members, contact your MPs and make them aware of the issues.

87% of abortions are currently carried out before 13 weeks. Effective contraception and early termination where needed are preferable to women.

But what if women don't realise they are pregnant, as a young women, or an older woman in the menopause? Or suffer from a lack of access to early advice, the postcode lottery or delays in the NHS? Lower limits could mean a return of desperate women turning to back street methods rather than safe treatment. Tens of thousands of women were maimed every year before abortion was made legal.

In those 13% of cases of later abortion, women have had to make a difficult choice, but each case is decided on individual circumstances, and only the women herself knows her situation best. Women still face poverty on benefits if staying at home to bring up children. Many women going to work with young children still face low pay, and a shortage of quality, affordable childcare.

When there have been previous attempts to undermine a woman's right to choose, the trade unions organised their members to oppose the threat, including a major national demonstration. Don't let this attempt go unchallenged!

• Report of the demo and follow up campaigning next issue.

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