Set backs for the pro-choice movement in 1999


OVER THE SUMMER there were developments in the long struggle over women's rights to control their own bodies. Most of them have not been good. In the North a group known as Precious Life succeeded, following a campaign of intimidation, in closing down the Ulster Pregnancy Advisory Association. The association had been in existence for 20 years. They took the decision to close their doors following picketing of the homes of their councillors, who were all volunteers. Their head office was broken into and a fire was started.

This means that women in places such as Coleraine and Derry will have to travel to Belfast if they want non-directive counselling and advice on abortion. As the Dublin Abortion Rights Group said "it is quite clear that this section of the anti-choice movement has adopted the tactics of US groups. In America the extremist groups have realised that they are not going re-ban abortion or win their case through lobbying politicians - so they have adopted a strategy of making abortion, and other women's health care services, unavailable through intimidation of staff and/or terrorism against service providers".

Meanwhile down South, the other end of the anti-choice movement is putting pressure on the independent TD's. First Mr Harry Blaney and Thomas Gildea demanded a 'pro-life' referendum. Then there was the news that they was going to be a meeting with other independents Jackie Healy Rae and Mildred Fox and with the FF Chief Whip. These announcements came as the rumour spread that the long awaited government Green Paper was due to be published. Obviously anti-choice campaigners were hoping that a bit of political pressure might cause some last minute rewrites in their favour, and maybe yet another referendum in the lifetime of the current government.

What ever happens, we are undoubtedly going to have a tough fight on our hands. It looks like we'll exit this millennium still struggling for women's rights. Get ready.

Aileen O'Carroll
(member, Dublin Abortion Rights Group)

This article is from Workers Solidarity No 58 published in Oct 1999