Wednesday, 8 June 2011

New attacks on women's sexual and reproductive rights

[by Beth Granter, Brighton Wednesday branch]

(Picket of Tory MP Ann Widdecombe's anti-abortion meeting 6 February 2008, photo Paul Mattsson)

Women's sexual and reproductive rights have taken quite a beating in recent weeks. The latest assault comes at the hands of Tory MP and education minister Michael Gove.

He has launched the government's new Sex and Relationships Education Council. All nine "sex and relationship education providers" represented on the council are either pro-abstinence faith groups or anti-abortion education, or both.

LIFE, which opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest, has been newly appointed, whilst the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), with over 40 years of experience of providing sexual health services including abortions, has been kicked off the council.

Reactionary MPs Nadine Dorries (Tory) and Frank Field (Labour) have tabled amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill to require women seeking abortion to receive mandatory counselling from 'independent' organisations.

BPAS called the amendments "misguided and unnecessary". Clearly, Dorries and Field believe women to be incapable of making independent decisions about their bodies without first having to endure 'independent' advice including from anti-choice Pregnancy Crisis Centres. The amendments give no regard to existing counselling services and risk increasing obstacles to abortion.

Earlier this month another Dorries' bill, proposing abstinence teaching for girls aged 13-16 in particular, passed its first reading in parliament with support from the Conservative Christian Fellowship. The bill positions women as the gatekeepers of sexual intercourse and disregards the equal responsibility of men. Abstinence teaching has never been proven to have any positive impact on unwanted teenage pregnancy or Sexually Transmitted Infections rates.

A motion was passed at last month's PCS civil service union conference for PCS to campaign against the bill and to re-affiliate to Abortion Rights. Socialist Party members have been leading a growing campaign against the bill, which you can join at It was working class struggles that led to the 1967 Act which legalised abortion.

Each of these actions have been positioned by the government as being in the best interests of women, while their truly ideological impetus is the capitalist drive to reduce services offered to working class single mothers, benefit claimants and NHS patients.

As socialists and feminists we must fight back against every attack the Con-Dem government makes against our human rights, to protect and build upon what previous campaigns have achieved.

Come to our branch meeting this Thursday to discuss the issue and the feminist movement from a Marxist perspective debating how class is impacting all on our rights:

8.15pm Thursday June 9
at the Phoenix Community Centre, Phoenix Place, Brighton

For more Marxist feminism check out this site: