We need to act now for abortion rights before the DUP tear them away

As you may have heard, one of the first things on the agenda of the unholy Tory-DUP alliance, may well be an attack on abortion rights. This is chilling news: even if it is a reduction of time limit, this opens the door to further chipping away abortion rights.

In Northern Ireland, abortion is still illegal. Women are convicted for self-administering medical abortions–which they have to do because they have no legal access to services. They must travel to England at a cost of thousands of pounds for an abortion–and they do. Homes are raided by police in case women have abortion pills, with raids even occurring on International Women’s Day!

This is what the DUP want for everyone with a uterus in the rest of the UK, and they are now in a position to try to make this happen.

And so, we need to get mobilising now to ensure that our abortion rights are not in any way reduced. In fact, as an additional finger to the DUP, we could use the opportunity of a vote on abortion rights to further strengthen what exists in the country as a whole.

There’s two particular legal quirks which make abortion rights in Northern Ireland almost non-existent, and also very fragile in the rest of the UK. In the whole of the UK, abortion is illegal under the Offences Against the Person Act (1861). Yes, I did mean to type “the whole of the UK”. Abortion is technically illegal on every part of this rainy fascism archipelago, under a law that is over a century and a half old. In England, Scotland and Wales, the Abortion Act (1967) sets out specific circumstances under which abortions will not be prosecuted. This means that as long as an abortion is playing by the rules from the 1967 Act, it’s still a criminal offence, but not going to mean you or your doctor will be prosecuted for it.

In Northern Ireland, the Abortion Act (1967) does not apply, most abortions are still a criminal offence which you and your doctor can still be prosecuted for, and could be imprisoned for. The Northern Ireland situation is particularly horrific. Labour’s manifesto promised to make the Abortion Act apply in the country. This is a good place to start, but the criminal situation of abortion in the whole of the UK is in itself dangerous, particularly if there are anti-abortion womb-botherers pulling the strings of government.

So, if the DUP want a vote on abortion rights, there’s no time like the present to begin organising for fairer, safer abortion rights for anyone with a uterus in the whole of the UK. It’s time to talk about two key issues, make these problems visible. It’s also a good time to our MPs to table these as amendments if this vote does indeed come to pass:

I’ve written to my MP, telling him to protect existing abortion rights, extend them to Northern Ireland, and remove any threat of criminalisation. Please write to your MP, using this as a template. You can get your MP’s contact details here. Remember to include your full name and address in your correspondence.

Subject: Protect abortion rights in the UK

Dear [their name]

As you may be aware, part of the deal between the DUP and the Conservatives could include a vote on the abortion time limit. Should such a vote occur, I strongly urge you to vote against it. I believe that a vote to reduce the time limit on abortions would open the door to further restrictions on abortion rights. Furthermore, less than 2% of abortions carried out occur after 20 weeks of gestation, and many of those that do occur because some abnormalities can only be detected at 20 weeks. It is therefore vital that access to this medical procedure is still available for anyone who needs it.

Should a vote on abortion rights occur, I further urge you to table certain amendments addressing key abortion rights issues.

  1. Applying the Abortion Act (1967) to Northern Ireland, in order to give those living in NI access to the same abortion rights as in the rest of the UK, rather than being forced to travel to England at great expense, or having to take criminal action. This discrepancy is unfair, and has been addressed in the 2017 Labour manifesto an inequality to be righted.
  2. Decriminalise abortion in the whole of the UK. The Abortion Act (1967) does not legalise abortion, merely set out circumstances where abortions will not be prosecuted.

Please use your position to protect the limited abortion rights that we have, and extend them to further protect constituents like me, at risk of falling pregnant and wishing to end the pregnancy.

Free free to personalise, with why the issue matters to you, personally, as their constituent. If your MP writes back to you telling you that actually they don’t mind these inequalities, then here’s a few template letters for your reply.

We also need to support activists in Ireland and Northern Ireland alike, like the Repeal the 8th campaign, Alliance for Choice,  Belfast Feminist Network, as well as support groups such as Abortion Support Network, who provide support for travelling to England for abortions–if you’re in NI or Ireland and need an abortion, they can help you.

I wasn’t expecting to have to fight this battle again, so quickly. But I’m ready, and I stand with Northern Ireland and Ireland, and I resist any attack on our uteruses.

__

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12 responses to “We need to act now for abortion rights before the DUP tear them away

  • korhomme

    The 1967 Act didn’t repeal those relevant bits of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. Rather, it provided a legal defence to a charge provided certain conditions were met.

    Otherwise, abortion remains an offence throughout the UK. It’s an offence to get the pills off the net, for example. I believe that women have been prosecuted in England for this, though I cannot find a clear record of this.

    Abortion ought to be decriminalised throughout the UK, including NI.

  • oopster74

    The more I hear about the dup, the more worried I get. From what I’ve heard so far, they won’t be able to reduce the time limit outside of Northern Ireland, due to rules meaning they can’t vote on issues outside of Northern Ireland, but I can’t say with any certainty if that’s true or not, it’s just what I heard.

    I voted labour, I’ve voted labour every single time I’ve voted, except when I had to vote in a council election for more than one person, and that was a lib-dem, way before the coalition. As much as I don’t want the tories to be in government, I think we need this to work, as probably the other parties don’t have the funds to fight another election anytime soon.

    One thing I’m hoping comes out of this Tory government (although it still wasn’t enough to make me vote for them), is they’ve promised to make the gender recognition act simpler, make the process easier. The forms you get through is like a chapter of “War and Peace” and requires evidence which is difficult / takes ages to get if you’re no longer in the medical process, but these are the torys, so I won’t be holding my breath anytime soon.

  • Jo T

    Great post.

    One minor point – saying it costs “thousands” to have an abortion in Britain is misleading and may actually discourage NI/Irish people from even considering it as a possibility. The Abortion Support Network are very skilled at finding cheaper options for their clients so it’s worth noting that – while not cheap – it can be hundreds rather than “thousands” (and, realistically, more than £2,000 all in is deeply unlikely).

    Alliance for Choice and Belfast Feminist Network do invaluable work campaigning and are well worth a shout out 🙂

    • stavvers

      Thanks for reminding me of the name of Alliance for Choice! I kept googling “Coalition for Choice” and it wasn’t them. I’ll add them to the main body now ❤

      Hundreds is, of course, still a fuck of a lot for anyone who needs it and can't afford it. I've seen some absolutely heartbreaking crowdfunders for women who need to come to GB 😦

      • Jo T

        Oh yeah for sure, it should 100% be provided free on the NHS, but then it should be provided *in NI*.

        I know ASN sometimes gets just heartbreaking messages from people asking for just £20, it’s scandalous that access to abortion should be determined by wealth.

        • Jo T

          Oh yeah and a reminder that Labour traded abortion in NI in exchange for the DUP’s support on one of their vile illiberal attempts to increase detention without charge, last time they were in power… don’t think Corbs would do that!

  • Laura

    Hi there

    I’m the tech lead for Women’s March on London, and I’d like to use this material for our drive to get women to write to their MPs on this matter. We have given you full credit for the text. Could you have a look here : https://www.womensmarchlondon.com/find-a-conservative-mp and let me know if you approve? Thanks so much!

  • Tal

    thank you for your template, it was invaluable – i’ve used it to email my (Tory) MP. no idea if it’ll help, but at least i emailed? dunno. (i used theyworkforyou.com, if that helps)

    thanks once again!
    Tal

  • Meredith

    Thanks for this – used the template to write to my MP.

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