Protesting for abortion rights in June this year. Picture: Guy Smallman

Abortion rights campaigners are ready to stand up against bigots that want to block a women’s right to choose. The annual “Pro-Life” march in central London is set for Saturday, but pro-choice activists will be ready to greet them.

Judith Orr, vice-president of campaign group Abortion Rights UK, told Socialist Worker, “It’s vital that everyone who stands for defending abortion rights in Britain today joins us in opposition to the ‘march for life’. Every year our movement rallies when the bigots march, and this year Abortion Rights is demonstrating to show we are the majority. We defend abortion rights and fight for the decriminalisation of abortion.”

The state has prosecuted four women in the last eight months for allegedly carrying out their own abortions. There had only been three trials in the 160 years before 2023. The cops use section 58 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which makes it an offence to procure your own abortion. Abortion was legalised in limited circumstances under the 1967 Abortion Act, but MPs did not repeal the 1861 law. This means a woman can only access an abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, and even then there are restrictions not applied to any other form of healthcare.

In June, a court sentenced Carla Foster to 28 months in prison for procuring drugs to induce an abortion after the legal limit during the pandemic. Carla received “pills by post” after a remote consultation when she was six months pregnant. And this month police in Teesside accused 22 year old Bethany Cox of using a poison to end her pregnancy shortly after the first Covid lockdown.

“We’re seeing court cases against women who had abortions in Britain. And in America we see the horror of the consequences of the overturning of Roe v Wade,” Judith added. “In Poland women die because of abortion bans. It’s important to stand together.”

Last year’s March for Choice, in the wake of abortion rights being ripped apart in the US, saw a huge turnout. Judith says that’s needed again this year. “The overturning of Roe v Wade gave confidence to the anti-abortion lobby, despite them being a minority,” she explained. “They want to use this march to increase their influence and cut back on our rights. The situation in the US shows that we can never be complacent about any rights, especially not reproductive rights.”

Judith also urges trade unionists to bring flags and banners to the march. “Abortion rights are a class issue, so we need that support,” she added.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) released figures in June that showed a rise in abortion coinciding with rising financial pressures. Abortions rose by 17 percent during the first six months of 2022 when compared to the same period the year before. Clare Murphy, chief executive of BPAS, said, “The financial pressures on households will have forced women and their partners to sometimes make tough decisions around continuing or ending a pregnancy.

“We are potentially looking at very significant changes in childbearing and family size in the years to come, particularly as women choose to start their families later, limit their family size or simply decide they do not wish—or cannot afford—to have children.”

BPAS also shows that in 2021 women from deprived backgrounds were three times more likely to have abortions than wealthier women. Poorer women accounted for 16.5 percent of abortions with richer women at 5.9 percent. In 2019 the figures were 13.7 percent and 6.6 percent.

The right to choose on abortion must mean women deciding what they want to do with their bodies and their pregnancies. Socialists should rage against abortion injustices and fight for free abortion on demand for women and pregnant people.

March for Choice! Abortion Rights campaign’s counter to the annual anti-abortion march, Saturday 2 Sept, 1pm, Millicent Fawcett statue, Parliament Square, London SW1P 3BD


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