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Join the pro-choice protest!

redletter | 29.01.2008 12:30 | Gender | Repression


Join the pro-choice protest!

London - Wednesday 6 February
assemble 6.30pm outside Central Hall Westminster

Abortion Rights is determined that all anti-abortion amendments moved as
part of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill currently in Parliament
are defeated, and that any opportunity to advance the abortion law for women
is maximised.

In opposition to the pro-choice agenda, Ann Widdecombe MP, Lord David Alton
and others are speaking at a national road show ‘Not on your life... or
anyone else’s’ organised by Care, Life, and Right to Life Trust to drum up
anti-abortion lobbying around the Bill.

Abortion Rights has called peaceful pro-choice protests against the tour and
as a proud public reminder that those who support a woman’s right to choose
are in the overwhelming majority.

Nearest tubes Westminster or St James’s Park. The Hall is on Victoria Street
in London, just off Parliament Square, next to the Queen Elizabeth II
Conference Centre and facing Westminster Abbey.

For pro-choice updates on the Bill and campaign visit

Abortion Rights
18 Ashwin Street
E8 3DL
t/f 020 7923 97 92

Abortion Rights is the UK's grassroots organisation leading the campaign to
defend and extend women's rights to abortion. We are building a pro-choice
movement to oppose any restrictions in women's current rights and access to
abortion, to liberalise the current UK abortion law, and to improve women's
access to and experience of abortion.

To add your support please visit our website or
add your voice to

- Homepage:


Hide the following 15 comments

The last killing

29.01.2008 12:57

I have never understood why abortion is the last form of legal murder still considered acceptable to many. I would never condone judicial execution, I am opposed to war and violence in all its forms and yet I am asked to consider it acceptable for an unborn child to be killed.

I am not religious, I care nothing for the views of so called religious leaders, I'm commited to equlity for women in all areas and have campaigned for it but I simply do not understand why people think it is a 'right' for a women to kill an unborn child.

Sorry, I know this view is unpopular and I have received a lot of grief for expressing it in the past but I am at a loss to undrstand how anybody can justify killing.

sadened and confused by the whole issue


29.01.2008 13:42

a foetus is a foetus, not a human being.

ergo, it cannot be murdered in any meaningful sense.



29.01.2008 14:52

when does a foetus become a human being, six months before birth, six weeks, six days, six minutes ?

not convinced, sorry

Point of Life

29.01.2008 15:41

Point of "life"
According to The Developing Human: Five months after fertilization is considered lower limit of viability so in theory no abortion should be considered after five months however research at the John Hopkins medical centre has shown viability at 12 weeks is possibile if the mother is within a medical facility prepared for the birth.

Viability is defined as the ability of fetuses to survive in the extrauterine environment. There is no sharp limit of development, age, or weight at which a fetus automatically becomes viable or beyond which survival is assured, but experience has shown that it is rare for a baby to survive whose weight is less than 500 gm or whose fertilization age is less than 22 weeks. Even fetuses born between 26 and 28 weeks have difficulty surviving, mainly because the respiratory system and the central nervous system are not completely differentiated... If given expert postnatal care, some fetuses weighing less than 500 gm may survive; they are referred to as extremely low birth weight or immature infants.

All this leads to the obvious question, when is life ? I don't know and I'm not sure medical experts do either. It's a moral question as much as a scientific one. I am however sure that glib statements about this being a women rights issue and only a rights issue do not go far enough here.


Re: Time

29.01.2008 15:48

"Your not a person until you're in my phonebook." - Bill Hicks.

The "when does a foetus become a person?" bit is a crappy line of argument. It's sole purpose is to get two people to have a slightly different position on when the line is drawn so that the anti-abortion group can say, "A-ha! If we can't agree on where the line should be drawn, we should err on the side of caution and ban it altogether."

Intellectually lazy.


defending the right to choose

29.01.2008 16:15

Good article on abortion

Wendy Savage traces how abortion rights were won and why they still need to be defended today

The Abortion Law Reform Association (ALRA) was started in 1936 by three women, Janet Chance, Stella Browne and Alice Jenkins.They were joined on the committee by two other radical feminists, Dora Russell and Frida Laski. All had supported sexual freedom for women and worked on improving access to birth control.

That same year saw a government enquiry into the high rates of maternal deaths. It found that backstreet abortions were the leading cause of women dying in pregnancy. These illegal operations were in turn related to poverty and lack of access to birth control.

The British Medical Association (BMA) also set up a committee to study the problem of deaths from illegal abortions. It reported in 1936 that “while the committee has no doubt that legalisation of abortion for social and economic reasons would go far to solve the problem of the secret operation, it realises that this is a matter for consideration by the community as a whole and not by the medical profession alone” – although the BMA’s annual conference did not receive the committee’s report positively.

Following public pressure, an interdepartmental committee, chaired by Norman Birkett, was set up in 1937 to make recommendations to the government on the issue.

But before it had reported, the gynaecologist Aleck Bourne performed an abortion on a 14 year old girl who had been raped by two guardsmen – and courageously referred himself to the police in order to test the law.

In the subsequent case, the judge ruled that it was lawful for a doctor to perform an abortion, notwithstanding prohibitions in the 1861 Offences Against The Person Act, if continuation of a pregnancy would “wreck a woman’s mental or physical health”.

The Birkett Committee concluded that there were 100,000 illegal abortions every year and that the law should be amended to make it clear that a doctor acting in good faith could carry out an abortion on the grounds above. But then the Second World War intervened – so no action was taken.

Class divisions

It was clear that as early as the 1920s, upper class women were able to obtain abortions. But, as Mike Leigh’s recent film Vera Drake portrayed so vividly, less affluent women visited local women.

There were two further court cases in 1950 and 1958 where doctors who had performed abortions were acquitted, and two attempts to change the law in parliament by MPs sympathetic to legalising abortion – Reeves in 1952 and Robinson in 1961.

These events led up to an increasingly visible abortion rights campaign that emerged in the 1960s. ALRA was pushed into activity by its younger members, especially Diane Munday and Madeleine Simms. Public opinion had been swayed by the thalidomide disaster, where a new sleeping pill was found to produce severe deformities in the child if taken when the woman was in the early stages of pregnancy.

In 1965 Lord Silkin introduced a bill to legalise abortion in the House of Lords, which led to much debate. Parliament was dissolved before that bill could go to the Commons. But in the next parliament it became the basis for Liberal MP David Steel’s successful bill, which finally received royal assent in October 1966 and became law in April 1967.

Steel’s Abortion Act allows abortion to be performed by doctors in certain circumstances – but it remains illegal to perform an abortion if these conditions are not fulfilled.

This differs from the situation in the US, where the law was changed in 1973 by the US Supreme Court to give women the right to abortion on request, without any conditions, in the first trimester (13 weeks) of pregnancy. This ruling was made on privacy grounds, as enshrined in various amendments to the US constitution. After 13 weeks states could make their own regulations to protect the woman’s health, the court ruled.

In 1971 the British government set up the Lane Committee, chaired by a woman judge, following allegations that the law on abortion was being routinely flouted. The committee reported in 1974 that the Abortion Act was in fact working well.

Nevertheless, the Lane Committee pointed out that 87 percent of women approached their GPs within nine weeks of pregnancy. If they were promptly referred, they could have simple abortions involving day care operations. Yet delays in referral continue to this day – and day care only became available to most women in the 1990s.

False allegations

Anti-abortionists frequently made false allegations about the way the 1967 law operated. The most extreme example of this were claims that live babies from abortions were being sold for medical research, or even that aborted fetuses were being used to make soap.

The former claim was made by the Tory MP Norman St John-Stevas in 1970 and the latter in a notorious book called Babies For Burning. Despite these claims being journalistic fiction, they were used in an unsuccessful 1974 attempt to amend the Abortion Act.

In general the NHS was unprepared for the number of women coming forward for abortion, as the gynaecological profession did not accept the estimate of 100,000 to 150,000 illegal abortions put forward by pro-choice campaigners.

Fortunately, some farsighted people had set up the Birmingham and London Pregnancy Advisory Services – non-profit making charities that catered for women who could not get an NHS abortion. These became part of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), which was launched in 1968.

By 1973 the number of legal abortions had reached 100,000. Half of these were done in the NHS and the other half were paid for by the women themselves. There was a strong regional variation – almost 90 percent of abortions were done in the NHS in the north of England, as compared to under 15 percent in the West Midlands. This variation was almost entirely due to differing attitudes of senior gynaecologists.

The only good thing that followed the Tories’ introduction of the internal market was that more abortions were contracted out to agencies by the NHS and hence fewer women now have to pay for their abortions. In 2004 some 88 percent of abortion operations were paid for by the NHS, though half of these were carried out by BPAS, Marie Stopes or private providers.

The National Abortion Campaign became an important political force in the 1980s to counter renewed attempts to amend the 1967 Abortion Act. These included John Corrie’s bill in 1981 and David Alton’s campaign to reduce the time limit for abortion to 18 weeks. He succeeded in reducing the limit from 28 weeks to 24 weeks in 1990.

Since then, the anti-abortionists kept a fairly low profile until about three years ago. But now they have launched a new campaign to reduce the abortion time limit from its present 24 weeks.

Less than 2 percent of abortions are performed later than 20 weeks into pregnancy, so clearly the anti-abortionists’ tactic is to gain sympathy for their cause from the general public.

A poll in April 2005 by Colin Francome asked the question, “Do you think the woman should be able to choose an abortion in the first three months of pregnancy?” Some 83 percent agreed with this statement.

A YouGov poll commissioned by the Daily Telegraph in August 2005 found that 41 percent agreed that “abortion should be free on demand on the NHS”. Some 53 percent of those aged 18 to 34 agreed, compared with 29 percent of those over 55. As far as time limits were concerned, 25 percent thought 24 weeks (as now), 2 percent said to term and 30 percent said 20 weeks.

In January 2006 Mori conducted a poll into sexual behaviour and attitudes and put one question about abortion time limits into their online survey. It found that 33 percent said the current law was “about right”, 4 percent thought the limit should be “later” and 42 percent thought it should be “lower”.

This was then reported by the Observer as women demanding a reduction in the abortion limit! Yet in previous polls, when given the reasons why women present late for abortion, there is greater support for later abortions.

Technical advances

The anti-abortion argument is that technical advances in the care of the extremely premature neonate (new born) mean that the limit should be reduced. Great strides have been made in neonatal care and subsequent survival of babies at 26 weeks and above. But those on the threshold of viability – defined as 22 weeks to 25 weeks – have a poor rate of survival and a high rate of severe handicap.

Personally I believe that the woman’s needs come before that of the fetus. The effect of abortion is to end a potential human life, and the difference between doing this at six weeks rather than 24 weeks is a technical and emotional one, not a moral or ethical difference. In practice it is rare for a woman to ask for a termination of pregnancy after 24 weeks, and those that do often have psychiatric problems.

The US has always had a far more polarised attitude to abortion, with the population split almost equally between pro-choice and anti-abortion. George Bush has a very negative attitude towards abortion. He has used his presidential power to affect overseas aid – with devastating consequences for the poorest women in the world.

Pro-choice activists fear that the replacement of US Supreme Court judge Sandra Day O’Connor by a more conservative figure may lead to the 1973 Roe vs Wade decision that legalised abortion being overturned. The state of South Dakota has already passed a law severely restricting legal abortion.

Appeals to the US Supreme Court may be successful in overturning new state laws. And a huge backlash is likely if they do not – a million people marched in Washington DC in defence of a woman’s right to choose in 2004.

In Britain, despite Tony Blair’s own religious belief and personal anti-

abortion stance, the health secretary Patricia Hewitt recently said the government had no plans to change the law.

Only 13 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion calling for a reduction in the time limit from 24 weeks and there is little support in parliament for a debate about abortion, despite the MP Evan Harris’s attempt to get a parliamentary committee to examine the question of time limits.

But there still needs to be a strong pro-choice voice to counter the anti-abortion position pushed by coverage in the Daily Mail, Sunday Times and other newspapers. So if you agree that abortion should be legally available and want to defend women’s right, go to and join Abortion Rights.

Wendy Savage is coordinator of Doctors for a Woman’s Choice on Abortion. Go to

© Copyright Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original and leave this notice in place.


Killing is killing - like it or not

29.01.2008 16:28

I'm sorry if MonkeyBot thought the arguments were "intellectualy lazy", I didn't realise we were having an intellectual discussion I thought we were talking about why it is OK to kill sometimes and other times not.

Of course if killing is about an intellectual argument perhaps we could discuss when it will be OK to kill one of your elderly relatives when they become too much of a drain on society ?

You can run away from this issue all you want but the question remains the same, why is it OK to kill unborn children.

still far from convinced

When does a human become a being?

29.01.2008 16:32



Iesvs Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm

29.01.2008 16:56

If ye have not a womb ye can fuck right off!

If ye have a womb and ye haven't adopted or tried to adopt a child then ye can shut verily up and ye musn't declare yeselves anti-arbortion.

Now bugger ye off and ignore that German prat who pretends to know me!

Hark ye unto me my flock!

What is life?

29.01.2008 17:56

To kill an animal is murder, according to some, a tree is alive, a flower is alive, perhaps even a rock...why embyos and foetuses should lack the quality of being alive? How do we make decision over something (Life) we know so little about? I'm neither religious nor conservative and I am fully in favour of using contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies.


Let's get away from stereotypes

29.01.2008 21:13

The problem with this debate is the unending polarisation of so called religious people versus
so called more liberally minded people. There is a world wide movement of pro-life feminists who fight for equal rights for all women AND for their pre-born off-spring, based on the idea of CONSISTENT ETHICS.

Not calling it killing is misleading for the pre-born human is as alive as you and me.
This has nothing to do with religion (personally I feel religion sucks) or politics or forcing one's views down throats. It is a matter of GCSE level biology once the egg is fertilised it is a human - a very small and dependent one yes but still human. A fact is still a fact no matter how inconvenient the fact is. We have great symapthy for women faced with an unwanted pregnancy, she requires our help and support. Women need better employment rights, better accommodation rights etc but not to be handed to the abortion industry.

Just one other comment, we have to be careful about advocating terminating lives on the grounds that if something is not independent it is not called killing. Many born and adult disabled people are not independent terminating their lives is killing - although the more eugenic supporters of abortion want them dead anyway.

With regard to David Steel's promoting of abortion until the Abortion Act was passed, it would do us all a service if we looked back at where the pressures for abortion started.
Was abortion what women wanted or was it more rights, better pay, equality with men - someting that has not yet been achieved!

Pro-life feminism does not condemn women who have unwanted pregnancies but we do condemn the circumstances in which they find themsleves, that pushes them towards choosing abortion.


Live & Let Live!

Worldwide movement of pro-life feminists....oh come along

30.01.2008 01:05

An egg that is fertilised does not constitute it being a human.

It is a load of cells that are a world away from feeling, being, understanding,thought,consciousness and a million other things that most humans are capable of experiencing.

Also , women did not choose abortion instead of "more rights, better pay or equality with men", and by the same token will not gain these things by banning it.

And by the way , which men would you like to be equal with ?

The refugee, the billionaire, the homeless or the man being paid the minimum wage?

I would love to know , but meanwhile good luck with your pro-life feminism sister.


Pain and suffering?

30.01.2008 20:34

When and does the unborn foetus/baby feel pain and suffering?
If for instance at 6 weeks the unborn child does not have the physiological or pyschological means to suffer then I don't understand the problem with abortion, (religious people will not agree I know)
Don't force a woman to have her baby especially in this over populated and miserable world if suffering is not in question!
To me there is no other consideration!


Womens rights are human rights

07.02.2008 15:55

Your personal feelings are your own business but don't let them infringe on the most basic of human rights.

A woman has the right to choose what happens to her own body.

All of the complicated arguements that exist on this subject will always exist but don't let them muddy the fact that a woman must have the right to choose what happens to her own body and whatever your personal feelings are you don't have the right to deny another person control over their own body.

If you have such a hard time with this spend some real time with yourself and think what it feels like to be pregnant when you don't want to be. think what that means to your future, for your body. imagine that you are a sixteen year old who has been raped by your uncle, a woman with 5 children and no/low income, a woman who knows that this isn't what she wants at this point in her life.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that this is ever an easy decision to make or that it's made lightly and then forgotten.. society has made sure that women feel the weight and guilt of claiming their rights.

Abortion control by the state and the church and the rich and powerful is about controlling women. Punishing them for daring to have a say in their own bodies, for enjoying sex, for having sex, for being women.

Don't fall for the mysoginistic arguements which get battered about on this subject, this is about one thing only; womens rights.

Men your either with us or against us.

mail e-mail:

Women's right to receive non-abortive support

04.04.2008 22:50

What about real women's rights? So many women are traumatised emotionally and physically by abortion. It is in their rights to be told about other options so they can decide with better information; they also need to be supported through the whole experience. It is easy to take a strong moral stance for or against abortion but that style of debate ignores the real victims of abortion: the women, and their unborn children. Surely we should be doing more to support women who don't really want an abortion but feel that they have no choice.... abortion is an experience that no woman should have to go through because they feel that it is their only option

Aside from that, what is there to prevent women using contraception?? Women do need to take more responsibility for their actions - abortion should not just be another form of contraception, if only to protect the women involved from all the horrible side-effects, as well as protecting unborn children. If there were no unwanted pregnancies, then the whole abortion topic would not be an issue. There should be more coverage about the after-effects of abortion to try to persuade women to be more responsible in using contraception.... otherwise they will have to either go through the trauma of abortion or completely re-adjust their life towards motherhood. Personally, I think that motherhood has so many joys, which women often don't think about when in the panicking first stages of pregnancy. It's worth sticking it out, the result can be so much less scary than you thought at first.

Teenage girl who has seen too many friends have abortions