Significant progress was made on access to abortion in Britain over the past few years, as adoption of the eighth amendment banning abortion was quashed and the government passed the Abortion Act 1983.
However, a hardline Conservative Government has been elected in Westminster with a manifesto that may repeal the Abortion Act, put in place reforms that could limit access to abortions and pledge to introduce legislation that would criminalise abortion counselling.
Supporters of women’s rights to abortion are in the midst of a national demonstration to be held across Britain on Sunday 6 December, 2019, from 12:00pm to 5:00pm. Organised by Termination Rights, thousands of people have already registered to take part and in more than 40 locations they will be protesting against the government’s plans.
On 22 November, thousands attended the first national march in Sheffield to protest against the Protection of Life During Pregnancy bill, saying that ending abortion would put a woman’s life at risk, and also claimed it would close many abortion clinics, putting women’s lives at risk. The second rally will be held in London, while locations are also being organised in Belfast, Newcastle, Birmingham, Glasgow, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Manchester, Sheffield, Oxford, Norwich, Salford, Glasgow, Derry, Aberdeen, Belfast and Dundee.
Maciej Szlejdzinski, Director of Termination Rights, said that it will be a ‘fight to save women’s lives’ and that the government was trying to put women’s lives at risk by putting in place a bill that would change abortion laws. The Termination Rights Headquarters was previously raided by police who seized thousands of abortion leaflets and other materials.
‘It’s a legal right for women to end their pregnancies in England and Wales,’ he said. ‘Abortion is not that big a deal when you realise how marginalised and poor women are. Not just abortion but contraception and a whole range of other healthcare still is only available to the rich and powerful. The Abortion Act is an expensive health service not an emergency.’
Szlejdzinski said that people should help influence MPs by getting involved in political lobbying. ‘Politicians don’t necessarily see what is going on around them, ‘ he said. ‘They say and do what they think their constituents want. Unfortunately that does not always correspond with the reality on the ground, particularly in rural areas. MPs do not have real-time data about what is happening. It can be helpful to help lawmakers understand the actions people are taking.’
On 22 November, abortion rights supporters held a public event at The House of Commons to send a ‘cry to the nation’ and warn of the outcomes of ending abortion, while another rally will be held on 27 November, titled ”Quit abortion to save women” by campaign group the Abortion Care Campaign, which calls on politicians to back life-saving abortion services.
‘It is scary that they are coming after abortion,’ said Annie Jones, who attended a rally in Sheffield on Saturday. ‘I am here to oppose the Termination of Abortion Bill and have the government be more open to our opinions. Abortion is not an urgent issue. The state wants to put profits before our personal freedom.’
Szlejdzinski said that a lot more work had to be done to support doctors and clinics and keep abortion legal. ‘If we do not give women the information they need to make informed decisions and if we do not keep abortion legal, there will be enormous instability in the NHS, clinics will close because they cannot sustain a loss,’ he said.
‘Abortion is a preventative service and if you stop it, you risk mortality.’