I never expected to write about women’s right to choose as much I have. But it appears that battles once thought to be won are having to be refought.
I have been aware, like most people, of the increasing struggle women in the US have to access not only terminations but contraception. Whilst it is easy to blame it on their far right and fundamentalist Christians, there is always the little voice saying “but it can’t happen here, can it?”
Well it seems to be encroaching closer and closer. There is a right wing Christian group protesting outside the New Southern General, and they plan to continue for about another 5 weeks. A counter protest has been organised for Buchannon Steps, a more fitting location as the last thing either the staff, patients or visitors to the hospital needs is another group protesting outside their gates.
Currently for most of the UK abortions fall under Westminster control but the Smith Commission recommended that these powers be devolved, which would mean Health is then completely under Holyrood’s remit. This has been contested by the Labour Party who does not believe we should have different timescales within the UK. Because obviously as soon as Holyrood got it hands on it backwards parochial Scotland would immediately curtail access.
I fear it is Labour who have it backwards, as stated in a previous post, Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health wants a 12 week cut off time and Ben Gummer, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Quality at Department of Health, is “personally and principally opposed” to the practice of terminations. Nichola Sturgeon on the other hand has firmly stated that the Scottish Government have no plans to change currently legislation.
There a second glaring error in Labour’s statement, because we currently don’t have consistency across the UK. Northern Ireland has been allowed to go its own merry way, and it appears that both sides of the political spectrum there can finally agree on one thing; curtailing women’s rights.
Women living in Northern Ireland usually have to travel to England if they require a termination, it doesn’t matter if the child has birth defects or if the mother has been raped, they are only legally allowed if the mother’s health is at risk, and even in those cases it is rarely done, records show only 23 legal terminations in 2013-14, compared to the average 40 women a week who make the journey across to England (and these are the ones who can afford it.)
Currently both the woman and any person assisting can face life imprisonment and there are 2 cases going through the courts system. Making terminations illegal doesn’t stop them happening, it just forces desperate women to take risks.
This week, Stormont assembly members voted 59 to 40 against amending the legislation which would allow terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and sexual crime, despite Belfast’s high court ruling that aspects of the legislation contradict European human rights law last December.
Scotland’s legislation allowed for terminations before the 1967 act, but we are the ones classed as too backward to control our reproductive rights. I’m still waiting for Yvette Cooper to make a stand “for women” as she did last week.
The hypocrisy of Westminster really sticks in my craw, these so-called enlightened people won’t condemn Northern Ireland because they’d rather the political factions over there ganged up on their women or LGBT minorities as long as it keeps the peace. (Same sex marriage was voted through last November, but due to parties being allowed a veto it was blocked by the DUP.) This is the 21st century and religion has no place in government.
If you have religious opposition to terminations, don’t have one but don’t foist your views on anyone else. Same as with same sex marriage (and any other right they are so frightened of.) All this legislation does is make it legal for those who want or need it, IT DOESN’T MAKE IT COMPULSORY.
My final concern watching Hunt do his best to carve up the NHS for his friends is that in the future under privatised health insurance many women in this country will face the same difficulties as now seen in the US. That little voice was right.
We in Scotland are protected slightly from meddling Hunts but our budgets still are set dependent on English and Welsh funding. We must stand up and fight to save the NHS on both sides of the border, not only because it is in our interest to do so but because it is the correct thing to do.