Anti-choice bigots unite in northern Ireland


Orange and Green politicians sometimes find it incredibly easy to come together, especially when it’s to stop progress.In May a joint letter was sent to every Westminster MP, signed by the leaders of the DUP, Sinn Fein, the SDLP and UUP opposing plans to extend British abortion law to Northern Ireland. Ironically, when it comes to a woman’s right to choose the Unionist parties are at one with nationalists in rejecting British rule in Ireland.

Last October the Assembly voted for a DUP motion not to issue guidelines to clarify the existing law, on the grounds that it would make abortion more widely available. Doctors still do not know when abortion is legal and when it is illegal! About 40 women a week travel out of Northern Ireland to access abortion services. According to the Family Planning Association 80,000 have travelled since 1967.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that most of us don’t live our lives as dour celibates. People enjoy sex. And no matter how responsible in relation to safe sex, contraception will fail for a few. And let’s not forget rape victims, the women who thought the menopause had arrived, or those who get the terrible news that their fetus has no chance of survival. If they are well-off, they can easily raise up to £1,000 for a private abortion in Britain. If they are on low pay or welfare they may be forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy.

When all’s said and done, it’s one more example of there being one law for the rich and one for the poor. Some will even try to cause an abortion themselves. 11% of Northern Ireland’s GPs say they have seen the results of amateur abortions. Yet GPs here are not even allowed to refer desperate women for NHS abortions in England.

The religious right, both Protestant and Catholic, are not the force they were when they could chain up playground swings on Sundays or boast of their Magdalene laundries. Their campaign against civil partnerships for gay and lesbian couples was a washout. They will make a lot more noise about abortion, but they are certainly not invincible.

Anarchists are working for a society where people are free to make choices about their own lives. We picture a society where decisions are made at the lowest effective level. For women, this includes the decision whether or not to be pregnant. If the right to choose does not rest solely with pregnant women, where should it lie; with the state, with the courts, with police?

For many women abortion isn’t a choice rather it is the only option in their circumstances. The right to choose should also include the right to choose to become a mother. While we fight for abortion rights on one hand, we fight for the removal of barriers and stigma, which prevent some women from carrying through a pregnancy, which they would like to continue with.


From Workers Solidarity 104 July August 2008