Later term abortion documentary After Tiller, showing in UK
In Britain we are now seeing the ‘Americanisation’ of anti-choice tactics, with groups such as Abort67 (named after the year the Abortion Act was introduced and women in Britain were able to access safe, legal abortions) and 40 Days for Life are picketing and praying outside abortion clinics displaying provocative images and boasting about the women they turned away on their blogs. In September several student unions also reported anti-choice activity on their campuses.
Anti-choice activists (often from very fringe organisations) are choosing to focus on women – often extremely vulnerable women – at clinics rather than involve themselves in evidence based discussions in the media or in Parliament.
Nadine Dorries and other anti choice MPs have consistently attempted to use the time limit discussion as a tactic to draw the debate towards more restrictive abortion laws and increased barriers in the way of women accessing terminations generally. The current time limit in England, Wales and Scotland stands at 24 weeks in most circumstances. Later abortions are rare, fewer than 2% of terminations occur after 20 weeks, but these are often the most vulnerable women in difficult situations (as you have seen from the film). We have been clear in Abortion Rights that we can’t accept one restriction that leads to the overall undermining of access and right to abortion, that’s what I think attacks on the time limit, on counselling, on health cuts, on creating ‘wedges’ amongst us over sex-selection and about when a doctor signs a form. We must be clear that the people pushing these points are against abortion full stop, but they use these points in the media and to squeeze the legislation to make it difficult for ordinary women to take up their legal and medical right to a safe termination without stigma.
It is true that the abortion debate is much worse in the USA, but this should stand as a warning to pro-choice activists in Britain that if we are not vigilant, where America leads Britain often follows.
Abortion is not discussed, we know that in their lifetime, 1/3 women will have an abortion. However there are few representations of this common occurrence in film or TV, where it is covered in the media it is often to make points about something else – irresponsible women, the state of the economy etc (I say this as someone who deals with journalists asking for case-studies or telling me the ‘angles’ they want to use).
We believe that this is bad for a society that passes laws, educates children and makes healthcare decisions about funding if there isn’t a proper, well informed debate by people who are actually affected.
I think we should thank Lana Wilson and Martha Shane’s for making a sensitive and extremely moving documentary, is a story of people who risk their lives every day for their work, many of whom were close colleagues of Dr. Tiller and now battle to maintain this service in the face of increasing provocation and harassment from the pro-life movement. It shines a light on the real situations faced by real people. This is something we at Abortion Rights have to highlight constantly, that whatever the situation or whatever our own views, we should trust women to make their own decisions about their own bodies and their own circumstances.
I read that the directors wanted to make this documentary to take heat out of the debate but shine more of a light on the real situations and that the people shown in the film agreed to take part because ‘it would be easier to go through the experience with [people who were helping them understand the process they were going through]’. I think we need more of that.
After tiller is now available to rent on iTunes
Anti-abortion clinics should be clearly labelled as such – or shut down
It is terrifying 'crisis pregnancy centres' are lying to women to suit their agenda – and the NHS isn't stopping them doing it
A pro-choice campaigner in Northern Ireland. Unsafe practices should be ended 'by legalising abortion in Northern Ireland and around the world'. Photograph: Reuters
The battle for a woman's right to choose when it comes to abortion is usually framed in terms of geographical boundaries, time limits and clinic regulation. For a woman experiencing that knot of panic from a missed period or devastating news – sickness, job loss, relationship breakdown – during a planned pregnancy, these things are vital. But to have real control over what is happening to her, she also needs clear and accurate information about her choices.
So it was particularly terrifying to read in the Daily Telegraph this week that "crisis pregnancy centres" are alleged to be routinely lying and scaremongering to suit their own religiously driven anti-choice agenda.
At the same time, a report released today by the sexual health organisation Brook alleges that these organisations are misleading women up and down the country, including in schools and prisons.
These organisations have useful and official-sounding names, such as the Central London Women's Centre and CareConfidential. The latter is even linked to on the NHS's official website page on abortion. At first glance they look like any other medical centre.
The information they provide, however, doesn't meet the standards we expect from NHS-approved medical advice providers. Many are telling women there is a link between abortion and infertility. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says there is no evidence of such a link for legal abortion. The risks are real but only for women who have illegal, "backstreet" abortions. The conclusion we should draw is the urgent need to end these unsafe practices by legalising abortion in Northern Ireland and around the world.
They also report a link – refuted by the RCOG, Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Cancer Research UK – between abortion and breast cancer. Almost a third of the centres investigated by Brook were authoritatively talking about "post-abortion syndrome", a disorder not recognised by any medical body. In fact, the most common reaction to abortion is, unsurprisingly, relief.
Most bizarrely of all, the Telegraph reported that two counsellors visited by its reporters were making the completely unfounded and sickening claim that having an abortion could turn a woman into a child sex abuser.
What all this cynical scaremongering fails to take into account is that abortion is not something that women choose because it matches their handbag.
Women don't visit these centres before deciding to have unsafe sex. Condoms don't visit these centres before they decide whether or not to split. Antibiotics don't wander in asking if they should interact with the contraceptive pill. Rapists aren't queued up outside flicking through sexual health literature.
These women are already experiencing crisis pregnancy. The alternative to abortion is carrying the pregnancy to term and delivering it. And that does have direct links to physical and mental health risks, including infections, physical damage and postnatal depression. There's also the risk of being a parent when you don't want to be, and there's no getting round the fact that that can make a complete mess of your whole life.
Those clinics deliberately passing off lies and horror stories as medical fact need to be closed down. Those that remain need clear signage on their doors, websites and literature stating that they are anti-abortion organisations and that their advice should be taken, if at all, with that in mind. The NHS needs to keep its distance and ensure women are not being referred to these centres.
And one more thing. We need to do better with sex education. We need a major overhaul of the current decade-old set-up to create something comprehensive, fact-based and compulsory that reaches young women, and men, before this sort of crisis ever does.
I carried a watermelon, she had a backstreet abortion: how Dirty Dancing broke new ground on the big screen
Ever question how come we never see realistic portrayals of abortion in film? Abortion Rights is screening one very famous movie that gets it right, Dirty Dancing so much more than just a chick flick!
Please join us on Tuesday the 4th of Febuary at the whirled cinema
the screening will be followed by a panel discussion on the representation of abortion in the media.
You will be asked to provide proof of purchase at the event.
for more information please contact
Abortion Rights letter of solidarity with Victoria women
Abortion Rights statement of solidarity with Victorian (Australia) women
Abortion Rights fully supports the Victorian Abortion Law Reform Act 2008 in its entirety, including Section 8. We denounce any and all recent attempts by a tiny minority of anti-choice doctors to reverse any aspect of the Act. In particular, we are appalled that at least one registered medical doctor has broken the law by not referring women patients seeking a termination.
Victoria’s law is simple and explicit as to what is required of doctors – the obligation to refer to a medical practitioner who does not have a conscientious objection (not necessarily an abortion provider). The obligation to refer upholds doctors’ right to conscientiously object, and modestly asks doctors to tell women the truth and to pass the patient on. In the same vein, women have the right to be told the truth and still seek medical care– their needs should not be trumped by another individual’s opinion, particularly a doctor who has registered to uphold the right to health.
The obligation to refer is standard practice in many countries worldwide; however, the British 1967 Abortion Act does not include the obligation to refer, and the risk this poses to British women’s health should not be underestimated.
If an individual doctor is morally opposed to referrals, they are negating their legal and ethical duty of care, and inhibiting women’s right to health.
We share the belief that it is good healthcare practice and better for women to be given truthful, non-bias medical information at their request.
We offer our solidarity to those urging the Victorian Parliament to not renege on commitments already made to uphold women’s health, and to stand by Victorian women.
Executive Committee, Abortion Rights
STUC Women’s Conference Emergency motion agreed on Northern Ireland abortion access
Abortion Access in Northern Ireland
Following on from reports to the Women’s Trades Union Council of the Isles meeting in Dublin 7/8 November, Conference is very concerned about the absence of fully accessible and legal abortion services in Northern Ireland. Cases publicized early in October 2013 in the media in Northern Ireland have highlighted the unacceptable reality for many women.
Conference notes that over 1,000 women a year travel from Northern Ireland to other parts of the UK.
Conference also notes that women then have to pay for this service, free to women in all other parts of the UK under the provisions of the 1967 Abortion Act.
Further, Conference notes that the UN examining Committee on CEDAW (UN Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women’ in its 2013 Report on UK progress, called on the UK as the ‘State Party’ within the United Nations, should move immediately to decriminalize abortion in Northern Ireland and significantly extend the terms under which abortion would be legal.
Conference therefore asks the STUC Women’s Committee to work with the STUC General Council and affiliates:
- to lobby the UK Government to comply with the UN CEDAW Committee’s recommendation
- to write to all Scottish MPs on this matter
- to write to the Secretary of State for Health in the UK Government urging the removal of charges for those women who travel from Northern Ireland to access services in other parts of the UK to liaise with the NICTU Women’s Committee on this issue.
- to send a message of support to the Marie Stopes clinic now attempting to deliver a service in Belfast
Mover STUC Women’s Committee
(NOTE - this is the CEDAW UN Committee’s recommendation)
Recalling its previous recommendation, the Committee reiterates that, in line with general recommendation No. 24 on women and health and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the State party should expedite the amendment of the anti-abortion law in Northern Ireland with a view to decriminalise abortion. The State party should also ensure that legal abortion not only covers cases of threats to the life of a pregnant woman but also other circumstances such as threats to her health and in cases of rape, incest and serious malformation of the foetus.
Abortion: old war, new battles
Comedian Kate Smurthwaite explains why we must continue to fight for a woman's right to choose.
28 October 2013
A woman’s right to choose on abortion is a fundamental one, yet many people regard the battle for legal abortion in Britain as akin to the moon landings - something we ticked off in the sixties and don’t need to revisit.
The reality is that our abortion law, little changed since the days of Mary Quant and Beatlemania, was never truly fit for purpose. Most glaringly abortion is still essentially illegal in Northern Ireland and today an average of forty women a week travel to other parts of the UK to terminate pregnancies.
The price war on flights from Belfast has made these women’s lives easier, but in London or Liverpool, 'National' Health Service facilities charge them £600 to £2,000 for abortions that would be free to other British women. The law change would need to come from Stormont but the costs for Northern Irish women on the mainland is a regulatory one. The Department of Health simply refuses to budge. When women in crisis pregnancy are more grateful to Michael O’Leary than they are to Jeremy Hunt, it’s time to get a new Health Secretary.
Abortion before twelve weeks is usually achieved with two sets of tablets taken 48 hours apart. Current regulations, not laws, mean the second set of tablets must be administered on a separate visit to a medical clinic, rather than simply handed out with the first set and instructions. Two to four hours after taking this second set of tablets a normal miscarriage occurs and, thanks to this genius piece of regulation, rather than at home where they feel safe and comfortable women are likely to miscarry in clinic toilets, public transport or the motorway hard shoulder.
Abortion also remains the only medical procedure which requires two doctor’s signatures. You can have a brain transplant with one. Some of these anti-choice politicians should consider it.
However, instead of working to solve these glaring problems politicians are distracted by a new breed of evangelical, in every sense, anti-choice campaigners armed with tactics copied from their US counterparts.
The fundamentalist part of the anti-choice movement now stands outside Marie Stopes and BPAS clinics conspicuously praying or holding up graphic images of abortions which, like all medical procedures, look gross. Those of us who support a woman’s right to choose abortion rarely stand outside maternity wards with pictures of placentas.
The 'moderate' end of the anti-choice movement prefers to derail the agenda in subtler ways, exaggerating and bewailing the notion of terminations based on the gender or disability of the foetus. This misleads because it shifts the focus to the foetus. The woman herself has evaporated.
However much humanity and however many rights we afford an unborn foetus, the right to use another person’s body to sustain one’s own life is not on any international declarations. If it was organ donation would be compulsory and vampire films would get very dull as the ubiquitous virgins rolled over and muttered 'well I suppose you do look thirsty...'.
Pro-choice campaigners can become complicit in this derailment when they invoke rape and incest cases to highlight the importance of abortion rights. Yes, those cases have a particular poignancy but the same logic is used to suggest HIV treatment be made available at first to those who contracted the disease through blood transfusion rather than intercourse. Consenting to sex should not diminish basic human rights.
Whatever religious extremists would like to tell us, in our society it is not illegal for women and men, gay or straight, to have consensual, recreational sex. What is wrong is to punish women who participate by forcing them to carry and raise an unwanted child, not least because the burden of suffering inevitably falls on that child.
The battle for a woman’s right to choose is far from won in the UK. We must continue to fight it: from discriminatory laws and clumsy regulations to street harassment and the sickening notion, thoughtlessly accepted in much public discourse, that pregnancy and parenthood can function as a penalty for sexually active women.
Kate Smurthwaite is a comedian and political activist www.katesmurthwaite.co.uk
Summary of changes to Ireland’s abortion law
Summary of changes to Ireland’s abortion law
The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill was passed by the Oireachtas on 11th July 2013, and on 30th July the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Ireland’s Prime Minister, signed the Bill into law.
Members of the Dáilvoted 127 to 31 to legalise abortion in cases of medical emergencies as well as if the pregnant woman is at risk of suicide. Abortion in all other circumstances (including rape and incest) remains illegal.
The Bill includes numerous provisions that continue to restrict access to legal abortion, including stipulating that between two and three medical practitioners of varying specialties must approve the termination (except in emergency situations, wherein one physician can approve and then perform the termination). Moreover, the Bill specifies that abortions may only occur in an “appropriate institution” which only include maternity hospitals and some hospitals with emergency facilities.
Abortion Rights are concerned that these provisions, amongst others, make obtaining an abortion a very lengthy, costly and potentially stressful process for women and their families. Locational provisions disproportionality disadvantage rural women who are less able to attend an “appropriate institution”, particularly given the World Health Organisation (2008) lists abortion as one of the simplest and safest medical procedures when performed safely and legally.
Nevertheless, more than 22 years after the ‘X case’ and the promise by various Irish governments to reform and/or clarify abortion law, Irish women will now have limited access to legal terminations. Similarly, doctors now have greater clarity to guide their service provision.
However, Abortion Rights hopes that further legal advancements are made in Ireland to enable women to truly choose if and when they become parents.
According to Irish department of health figures released last week, approximately 4000 Irish women travelled to British hospitals and clinics to terminate their pregnancies last year. Given the limitations of the new law, it is predicted that many Irish women will continue to travel abroad to have their reproductive health needs met.
The Bill is now available in full.
40 Days for Choice: Speaking out against "saving" women
60 trumps 40 in London protest!
On Tuesday 24th September, more than 60 pro-choice activists turned out in Stratford to “welcome” 40 Days for Life back to London. 40 Days are an anti-choice group who hold 40 day long vigils outside abortion clinics to try to “save” women from making their own reproductive choices.
Previous 40 Days campaigns have handed out literature to women containing outright lies about abortion, such as claims that abortion causes cancer, and direct women away from regulated reproductive health clinics such as BPAS and Marie Stops to “crisis pregnancy centres” run by the anti-choice movement.
The demonstration against the opening event of the 40 Days campaign in Stratford was organised by Bloomsbury Pro-Choice, who have previously co-ordinated pro-choice counter demonstrations against 40 Days for Life in Bloomsbury, and are working with Abortion Rights to organise actions over the next “40 Days of Choice” (see 40daysforchoiceTumblr for more information).
The 15 members of 40 Days who attended their opening event were hugely outnumbered by the lively pro-choice protest outside, showing them that whilst they may be back, so are we..
Global day of action for access to safe & legal abortion
In Supoort of September 28th Global Day of Action for Acess to Safe and Legal Abortion, join Abortion Rights #SEPT28 Twitter Quizathon!
From 18th-28th, look out for the daily Q&A quiz @Abortion_Rights- Knowledge and prizes to be won!
We ask the question around noon, you answer ASAP and the first tweeter to correctly answer wins entry into the monthly Abortion Rights Pro-Choice Lottery (for the chance to win 200 pounds)!
AND for the grand finale, one quizmaster pro-choicer will win a bumper pack stuffed full of Abortion Rights goodies.. and eternal glory!