Pro Choice Rally 2011: Why were we protesting and now what?

On Saturday, I joined in solidarity with women and men, from all across the country to protect a women’s right to choice at the Pro Choice Rally 2011. The rally organised by Welsh Feminist Network brought together many groups including Abortion Rights, Queer Resistance, and Southhall Black Sisters. Inspiring speeches were given by many including Diane Abbott (Labour MP), Laurie Penny (journalist and activist) and Scarlet Harris (TUC Women’s Equality Officer).

So why were we protesting? Recent months have seen an onslaught of anti choice activity make its way to Westminster. These include amendments to the Health and Social Care bill imposing new counseling requirements for women seeking abortions and the appointment of anti-choice group LIFE to the government’s sexual health advisory panel. Nadine Dorries is also pushing her bid to introduce abstinence based sex education, for girls only.

Moreover there have been severe cuts in contraception, sexual health and teen pregnancy services, thus places offering support to women in need of advice about abortion are disappearing. Unfortunately Cameron’s ‘big society’ will allow the well-funded church based anti abortion groups to fill these gaps. Groups such as LIFE already offer counseling to women facing unplanned pregnancies with the sole aim of deterring any women from having an abortion. Damaging lies claiming
mental and physical effects of abortion are being spread by these groups and have even made their way into leaflets in Doctors surgeries across Britain.

Since the 60’s when women gallantly fought for their right to chose there have been people who have tried to erode away at these rights. However, until recently, the UK has always upheld a reasonable standard of debate around the issue of abortion. There appears now to be few boundaries left. American based anti-choice groups have made their way to the UK with their horrific means of campaigning. Two people were arrested earlier this year for the offensive campaign which
compared abortion to the Holocaust, whilst another organisation stood for 40 days outside a Marie Stopes abortion clinic, holding dolls and placards with gruesome pictures and shouting abuse at anyone entering or leaving the building.

If this behavior carries on unchallenged, how long will it be before we turn into America and women will have to be escorted to family planning clinics or the lives of doctors who carry out these operations will be at stake?

So women came together on Saturday to show Nadine Dorries, Westminster and all the anti choice groups that we will not allow this erosion of our fundamental rights. We are the majority, and we can win this. However, with the cuts already taking effect and Westminster becoming increasingly anti abortion, our rights have already begun to be eroded. If our campaign is continuously reactive and on the defensive the pro choice won’t win that way, we can’t win that way. On
Saturday, that message came across, and momentum grew, but that is just the beginning. Its time for pro–active action to extend a women’s right to chose, or the work of women in the 1960’s will be lost.