Speaking Up for Abortion Rights

Janine’s speech proposing this motion on the 50th Anniversary of the Abortion Act at RMT Women’s Conference 2017.

It’s worth remembering what life was like for working-class women before abortion was legalised. While rich women were always able to find a doctor – for the right price to carry out an abortion – working-class women could not, and were forced to have children they couldn’t support, or to have backstreet abortions which were incredibly dangerous and killed or injured women.

Do not think that we cannot go back to those days, because there are political movements that want us to go back to those days. A lot of them are religiously driven, and there is a lot of anti-abortion activism that threatens our right to access safe abortions. There is also austerity – cutting abortion services and sexual health services, cutting public health promotions to prevent unwanted pregnancy in the first place.

We cannot be complacent about the abortion rights we do have, we need to continue reminding ourself and our colleagues why it is important that whatever your personal views on abortion, the ultimate decision lies with the woman whose body is affected by it. We have to keep on winning that argument over and over again, instead of assuming that everyone agrees.

There is no better opportunity to do that than the 50th anniversary of the Abortion Act, and to use this year as a way of restating why we support a woman’s right to choose whether she will continue a pregnancy or not. Let’s remind people that you are not choosing between abortion and no abortion, you are choosing between safe, legal abortion or unsafe, illegal abortion. For so long as there is unwanted pregnancy, there will be women who will have abortions because they cannot face the alternatives.

There are some positive things we need to campaign on; this is not just about defending where we are. Our sisters in Ireland do not have access to abortion, and many travel to Britain on their own, having to lie to their families, at great stress to themselves. There is a campaign in Ireland around the 8th amendment. Please support that campaign, and support this motion.

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