Abortion Rights

Positive side-effects

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"These days, nobody seems able to 'keep it in their pants' or honour a commitment! Raising the question, is marriage still a viable option? I'm ashamed to admit that I myself have been married four times, and yet I still feel that it is the cornerstone of civilisation, an essential institution that stabilises society, provides a sanctuary for children and saves us from anarchy."

This was Raquel Welch's response on CNN to this month's fiftieth anniversary of the arrival of the pill in the US. Her somewhat internally contradictory argument (she loves marriage so much, she's done it four times!) is that the advent of oral contraception has led to the breakdown of "family values" and rampant promiscuity. She is not alone in putting that case. Tory politicians such as Iain Duncan Smith have argued against making contraception more available to girls, paradoxically claiming it will lead to higher teenage pregnancy rates.

Letter from Spain

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In the wake of controversial proposals by the Spanish government, Tamara Ruiz reports on the fight for abortion rights

Controversial proposals by Spain's Socialist Party (PSOE) government to modify the country's abortion legislation have led to waves of protest both by the right, which wants them withdrawn altogether, and by a revitalised women's movement which points to their severe limitations.

Abortion: is this the moment?

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Imagine living where the prime minister believes in creationism, the chair of your parliament's health committee believes "it is the duty of government to implement god's law" and the chair of the education committee calls for creationism to be taught alongside evolution in science classes. That place is Northern Ireland (NI).

Gordon Brown has been making deals with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) fundamentalists who hold these views to block abortion rights for women in NI, in return for its nine MPs voting for 42-day detention for "terrorist" suspects.

Abortion: their morals and ours

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We need to get ready for a big battle over abortion rights, argues Judith Orr, and the deluge of moral outrage about women's lives that will accompany it

The right is seriously mobilising around the issue of abortion. Tory leader David Cameron has stated that he wants to bring the limit down to 20 or 21 weeks and Tory ex-minister Anne Widdecombe has been taking her "pro-life" road show around the country in an effort to rally the troops. This is not something a Tory has been confident enough to do on any issue for many years - though, thanks to local activists, these meetings did not happen without noisy protests outside.

Abortion rights

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When even David Steel, the man most closely associated with the 1967 Abortion Act, has been quoted as saying there are "too many abortions" it is clear that abortion rights cannot be taken for granted.

This month the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill will continue its passage through the Lords with anti-abortion politicians proposing amendments to it. There may also be amendments that make access to early abortions easier, which should be welcomed, but not at the expense of a cut in the time limit. Less than 2 percent of abortions happen after 20 weeks but the women affected are some of the most vulnerable. Abortion Rights has organised a public meeting: Defend the Abortion Act, Wednesday 16 January, 7.30pm, Committee room 10, House of Commons, nearest tube Westminster.

Defending abortion rights

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This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the private member's bill which led to the Abortion Act of 1967, allowing abortion up to 28 weeks of pregnancy, that was lowered to 24 weeks in 1990 by the Human Fertilisation Act.

The 1967 act ended 164 years of misery for women with unwanted pregnancies. In 1803 abortion was made a capital offence, after centuries when abortion had been legal until foetal movements could be felt. Countless women died agonising deaths as a result of illegal abortion. Fear of prosecution prevented them from seeking medical help. Since the act came into force, the number of abortions each year in Britain has increased from 54,819 in 1969 to 193,000 in 2006. One in three women in Britain can now expect to have an abortion.

Abortion: Still Right to Choose

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It started with the Cosmopolitan interviews - all three party leaders expressed personal unease over the abortion issue, but Michael Howard went one step further by stating that the time limit on abortions should be cut from 24 to 20 weeks, and that the current law allows what is 'tantamount to abortion on demand'.

The current debate over abortion may not become an election issue, as almost 80 percent of the British public are pro-choice. Britain is largely more secular than the US, where abortion was an election issue last year and some doctors and nurses work in abortion clinics fearing for the lives. But that does not mean that we do not need to be vigilant about defending what is already one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe. The anti-choice lobby, like the pro-hunt lobby, are disproportionately advantaged in terms of wealth, privilege and political influence.

Choice over the Future

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Women are fighting for the right to choose in Ireland's abortion referendum.

As the politicians yet again drag the abortion question into the political limelight, it is worth reflecting on the startling contradictions confronting women in Ireland in 2002. The Celtic Tiger was virtually built on the contribution of vast numbers of working women. The resulting financial independence, albeit poorly paid, has brought independence in all sorts of other areas.

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