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Abortion:
It's every Womans Right to Choose

Abortion: It's every Womans Right to Choose

By Patricia McCarthy.

Anarchists believe that every woman has the right to choose an abortion when faced with a crisis pregnancy irrespective of the reasons for the abortion. At least 4,000 Irish women have abortions in England every year at present. Women worldwide have always sought to control their fertility through abortion no matter how difficult it is for them to get access to abortion and they probably always will. This is because it is essential for women to be able to control their own fertility and not to be reduced to the level of their biological function as child-bearers only if they are to achieve true equality and liberation.

At present the Irish Constitution with the the Eight Amendment reduces women to being equal only to a completely dependent foetus and it tries to condemn women to become unwilling incubators. To compare an adult woman or teenage girl with responsibilities, social relationships, personal plans, and so on to a completely dependent foetus is unacceptable. The foetus has no independent existence without the woman and the decision about an abortion or a continuation of the pregnancy must be the woman's decision and no one else's.

Women choose to have abortions for all kinds of reasons: poverty, bad health, too many other children, because of rape or incest or simply because they do not want to have a child at that point in their lives. We believe that all these reasons are valid. Women should not have to answer to anyone, not the church,not the state or even to doctors for their decision. This raises the question of abortion on demand. We oppose any kind of decision making process involving ethics committees or doctors or other variations on this. A woman must have the right to abortion on demand.

The question of free access is a very important one. At present only those women who can afford both the travel costs and the operation costs can get an abortion. Abortion facilities must be made available here in Ireland and they must be free as all medical services should be.

Censorship of information on abortion is a totally insulting attack on womens' most basic rights as thinking human beings to know what all the options are when they are faced with a crisis pregnancy. To deny women information, to take books out of libraries, censor magazines containing telephone numbers, all these actions treat women as irresponsible children whose moral decisions need to be policed by small groups of right wing bigots.

The hypocrisy of allowing women to go to England for abortions is no longer acceptable to many Irish people. Apart from all other considerations, having to raise the money for the travel and to go isolated and afraid to another country adds untold trauma to what should be a fairly simple medical procedure. Abortion facilities must be made available in Ireland free and without restricted access.

Anarchists believe that a woman's right to choose also means the right to choose to have a child and to have decent housing, child care and welfare facilities available in order to raise that child in a reasonable way and in order that her life is not totally given over to child care. At present with the current housing crisis the almost total lack of free child care and the lousy welfare payments this is not a real choice.

We are opposed to all forms of forced fertility control, whether it is the state imposing limits on the number of children a woman can have as in China or the denial of proper contraceptive and abortion facilities as in this country. The right to choose means the right to choose not to have a child or to have a child in circumstances where that means that neither mother nor child suffer materially or socially for that decision.

Anti-abortionists say that abortion is murder. We reject this argument. The foetus is a potential life only - it is not comparable to the life of a person of any age or ability who interacts socially and functions independently. We don't deny that abortion takes the life of a potential human being. The right to choose means that it is the woman's right to choose whether to bring that potential life to full term or not given the circumstances of her life. As anarchists we demand that right and we will be active in the campaign for abortion rights in this country over the coming months.


Abortion: the medical procedure that dare not speak its name

By Aileen O'Carroll.

OVER THE SUMMER there were developments in the long struggle over women's rights to control their own bodies. Most of them have not been good. In the North a group known as Precious Life succeeded, following a campaign of intimidation, in closing down the Ulster Pregnancy Advisory Association. The association had been in existence for 20 years. They took the decision to close their doors following picketing of the homes of their councillors, who were all volunteers. Their head office was broken into and a fire was started.

This means that women in places such as Coleraine and Derry will have to travel to Belfast if they want non-directive counselling and advice on abortion. As the Dublin Abortion Rights Group said "it is quite clear that this section of the anti-choice movement has adopted the tactics of US groups. In America the extremist groups have realised that they are not going re-ban abortion or win their case through lobbying politicians - so they have adopted a strategy of making abortion, and other women's health care services, unavailable through intimidation of staff and/or terrorism against service providers".

Meanwhile down South, the other end of the anti-choice movement is putting pressure on the independent TD's. First Mr Harry Blaney and Thomas Gildea demanded a 'pro-life' referendum. Then there was the news that they was going to be a meeting with other independents Jackie Healy Rae and Mildred Fox and with the FF Chief Whip. These announcements came as the rumour spread that the long awaited government Green Paper was due to be published. Obviously anti-choice campaigners were hoping that a bit of political pressure might cause some last minute rewrites in their favour, and maybe yet another referendum in the lifetime of the current government.

What ever happens, we are undoubtedly going to have a tough fight on our hands. It looks like we'll exit this millennium still struggling for women's rights. Get ready.


Abortion rights - It's up to you and me

By Deirdre Hogan & Aileen O'Carroll

In the debate thrown up by this year's abortion referendum media 'experts' and commentators have been saying that the progressive changes that occurred around contraception, divorce and equal age of consent for gays in Ireland in the early to mid-nineties were a natural result of modernisation of Irish society and occurred because liberal politicians decided to push for these changes. We are supposed to feel that only our rulers can change things, that the rest of us are pretty powerless. Well, it's not true.

Certain objective conditions, such as the greater urbanisation of Irish society, have had some effect on changing attitudes away from the conservative and ultra-Catholic views that dominated Irish society in the past. However no progressive reforms would ever have occurred were it not for people organising and fighting for these changes.

Prior to the X-case in 1992 abortion in Ireland was illegal in all circumstances. It was also illegal to give out any information about abortion facilities in other countries. Clinics were prohibited from giving non-directive counseling and the Censorship of Publications Act was used to ban health books and sections of British newspapers and magazines which contained information on where to get an abortion.

However, when the government then attempted to prevent the 14 year old suicidal Ms X from leaving the county to obtain an abortion abroad, there was a huge public outcry. Through mass mobilisations, school strikes and protests outside the Dáil people forced the government to back down.

A Supreme Court ruling then removed the ban on abortion in Ireland where there was a substantial risk to the life of the pregnant woman, with the threat of suicide included as such a risk. In the subsequent referendum people rejected the proposal to overturn the X-case judgement, they also voted to end the ban on information and voted for the right of women to travel abroad for an abortion. It is clear that these changes would never have taken place were it not for people engaging in the battle of ideas about abortion and ensuring that their voices were heard by taking part in marches and demonstrations.

The referendum on Divorce in 1995, which was only narrowly won by a mere 9,114 votes, shows how important it is that people get actively involved in the battle of ideas. Many people had just assumed that the referendum would be won and it was only as the referendum date drew near and polls indicated that it might possibly be lost that activists started to distribute leaflets and canvass door to door, making the argument for the divorce to be legalised in Ireland.

Since 1995 there have been no more major progressive reforms and the government has consistantly refused to make the legal changes that would implement the X-case ruling. Over this period the "pro-lifers" have been very active and, as well as lobbying politicians, have put huge resources into attempting to influence public opinion on the ground.

They have, for example, distributed glossy anti-choice leaflets to tens of thousands of households. The government has now called yet another anti-abortion referendum, which if passed will reverse the X-case ruling and increase to a maximum 12 years the jail sentence for desperate women who attempt to give themselves an abortion.

There is little popular support for this referendum. Recent opinion polls show that only 22% of the electorate favour a complete ban on abortion (1). Yet this does not mean that it will automatically be defeated.

If the divorce referendum showed anything, it showed that we cannot leave it up to media pundits to convince people that the government proposal is a backward step. As in the last abortion referendum, one of the problems we face is voter confusion over the implications of the vote. On the Irish Times webpage, for instance, both pro-choice and ant-abortion posters were calling for both a yes and a no vote.

Furthermore abortion is a taboo subject in Ireland. The emotional and personal nature of 'pro-life' attacks on those who disagree with them has meant that many people have taken the decision to avoid taking any position on abortion. It is one of the few areas of political life where people are not comfortable making known their opinions.

It is one of the few topics that is never talked about over a few pints in the pub. Many people won't vote in this referendum because they have been intimidated away from even thinking about this issue.

And yet it is important for us to win. And we can win. But it will mean going door to door with leaflets, giving out leaflets at bus and train queues, putting up posters, convincing our friends and family that their vote counts, that it is important that they take a stand. No change has ever been won without people like you and me spending time and effort trying to make it happen. Now is the time to give a hand.

The Alliance for a NO vote is the umbrella network for pro-choice organisations and individuals. Ask them to put you in touch with others in your area who are willing give out leaflets in the weeks before the referendum.






International backlash against abortion

Talk by Dermot Sreenan at WSM meeting, Wexford, October 1992

This is a talk given to WSM meetings. As such it represents the authors opinion alone and may be deliberately provocative in order to start discussion. Also it maybe in a note form and has not been edited. Still I hope you find it useful. Other talks are here In Ireland where our own constituition enshrines such edicts as "Mothers shall not be obliged _ _ _ _ _ to engage in labour to the neglect of therir duties in the home", the battle for abortion rights can seem like a mamouth up hill struggle. However what makes our fight even more difficult is the current onslaught which womens rights, in particular abortion rights are experiencing internationally. Even in those countries where limited abortion rights have been won they are now under constant attack.

In America the supreme court recently voted by 5 judges to 4 to enforce a restrictive Pennsylavania law which requires a mandatory waiting period foe women seeking abortions and forces teenagers to inform their parents of their intentions to have an abortion. The ruling was greeted with the headline in Village Voice "Court to women : Drop Dead". This ruling will only result in adding pressure to already frightened pregnant young teenaged girls. It also only further removes working class women from the rignht to abortion by increasing the ecomomic difficulties by having an enfoced waiting period. Many women cannot afford to take weeks of work in order to have one of the worlds safest operations.

Almost since the 'Roe Versus Wade' decision which legalized abortion in America in 1973; this basic right of women to control their own fertility has been under attack. In 1978 the Hyde ammendment deneyed the funding of abortion on the Federal Medicaid (like NHS). In 1984 Regan Administration forced a ban on funding to International Organisiations who counsell women on abortions. This does not help to alleviate the problem of an estimated 200,000 women dying in back street abotions every year. The drug RU-486 is still banned in America even though it would enable women to have safe abortions enduced at home. In America a doctor may refuse to treat a women, all he has to do by law is refer the woman to another Doctor. However the fight against abortion has not just been a legal one.

It is one of the great paradoxes of our time that the 'Right to Life' campaign can encompass such groups as "Operation Resuce" who specialize in terroizing women, staff and Doctors of the clinics.

Attacks ranging from bomb scares to sabotage and fire bombings. Even the odd Death Threat to Abotion Activists is not uncommon. In 1985 a private Clinic in Massachusettes said they would not be performing Abortions dus to "Acts of terrorism around the country and the constant harassment of our patients and ourselves have forced us to make this decision". Jan 18 1985

A bomd scare at Manhattan Eastern Womens Hospital forced an evacuation of staff and women out into the street, many patients still groggy form pr-op anesthetic. Bill Baird an abortion activist has had threats on his life and his clinic on Long Island NY was fire bombed as early as 1979 . In 1984 a clinic in Pesacola, Florida was fire bombed over Christmas and the perpetrators claimed "It was a gift to Jesus on his birthday". In 1943 Hitler made abortion a crime punishable by death, it strikes me that there may be a number of people in the "Right to Life" campaign who may agree, given that the bombing of clinics is now one of their tactics.

In German law paragraph 218 permits abortion when there are 'indications of serious need' for medical or social reasons (poverty excluded) ans only in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. This type of restrictive law is one we must avoid in Ireland. In 1988 Dr Horst Theissen went on trial for performong Illegal Outpatient Abortions. He faced a minimim of 15 years in prison & disbarement from his profession if convicted. His "Crime" was to charge patients $130 to $270 for abortions , consultations, examinations and post-opertaion check ups. The state prosecutor admitted that "Poor women were treated free" by Dr Theissen. When asked why he broke the law the Dr replied that he "accepted the risk because he considered it unworthy, humilating and medically irresponsible to submit to medievalist laws". Previously that year two Nuremburg Gynacelogists were convicted on abortion counts one getting four years in prison. In Bavaria due to the counselling laws women have to meet Doctors, Counselors, Health officials Clergymen and Physciatrists before they will certify serious need for abortion. This is a further indication of how we have to make sure that the decision to terminate a pregnancy is left to the women herself and not a plethora of counsellors.

Recently in Birtain the House of Parliament voted on regulating what research could and could not be carried out on embryonic of fetal matieral. This is the first step on the murky path which leads to the ridiculous laws giving legal rights to the foetus. Already anti-abotionists are asking if the embryo has legal rights at 15 days how can it be aborted at 15 weeks. These arguments are being used to erode the limited abortion rights secured in 1967 Abortion Act. This Act allows termination of the pregnacny when it occurs in 'unsuitable circumstances'. This can be defined when two doctors must be convinced that giving brith will demage the womans of the childs physical or mental health. The law was also delibrately vague about facilities so that local health authorities were implementing the NHS cuts in the Gynacelogy Departments and some hosptals will refuse to carry out an abortion after the 12 week. Although the law initially specified up to 28 weeks recent moves have tried to limit this to 24. However it is getting increasingly difficult to find a clinic which will perform the operation after 20 weeks ( 7 Clinics in Britain ) and none after 24 weeks. These are all indications of the constant erosion of the rights won in the 1967 act. The situation in Britain leaves the Women concerned unacceptably at the mercy of MP's, Health Cuts, and didatic Doctors who continue to impose restrictions on what should be the womens decision.

In France there have been a number of recent 'Commando' like raids on clinics. In Lourde (Surprise, Surprise) on the 5th May this year a self style 'commando' tried to block the enterance of women to a clinic. At Nimes some person entered the clinic and prevented operations being performed that day. "SOS Babies" another crack oufit, invaded the clinic in Colombes near Paris, their Leader on Xavier Dos becomes over-excited and injures a woman in the process. A second attakc occured in the Pau clinic by "Operation Resuce" resulting in damage to equipment but there was a swift reply by the local collective for abortion rights (including women form the Federation of Anarchists). As you are aware the number of incidents like the ones I have already listed are becoming more prevalent as this issue is one again becomes the Battlefield for the attackers and defenders of Womens Rights.

The abortion issue is now a part of the Presidental election campaign in America with Clinton paying lip service to the freedom of choice and he has the backing of the National Orgainisiation of Women and the National Abortion Rights League (who's Chairwomen Kate Michleman is now a full time member of his campaign). However the Democrats Freedom of Choice act which they promise to introduce if they win the election will be diluted to pander to their more reactionary constituencies.

Historically it is important to remember that in 1973 the supreme court (under the nixon appointed Cheif Justice - Warren Burger) gave limited abortion rights as a concession to the newly formed Feminist movemnet and the radicalised youth of that time.

Only by getting people involved in social struggle and by being visible on the streets was any victory won. It is further proof (as if any were needed) that public movements determine political outlooks. Politicians are only as good or as bad as the last opinion pole they read. Yet, despite this NARL and NOW are both firmly behong Govenor Clintons campaign oblivious to the fact that in ARKANSAS (his home State) has one of the most invidious abortion laws.

As we observe the gradual and direct way that the right is stealing back the limited gains won by Women in America, Britain, and Germany we must pursue a very Active , Direct Campaign to win Abortion in this country. We must seek Free, Legal, Safe Abortion on DEMAND in Ireland because if we leave any gaps in our demands these will be exploited in order to impose further restrictions in teh future. We have to be aware and safe guard gainst the backlash which we are now observing internationally.

In the words of one man in America teh recent judgements didn't kill the 'Roe V Wade' Ruling " it gave the states permission to strangle it to death with REd TAPE ". When we win a victory for womens rights in this country lwt us make sure it is a permanent one safe from the hands of the beaurcratic stranglers. Let us make sure that the fundamental right of the woman to choose to have an abortiuon is her decision alone.

As Anarchists we recognise the fight for Abortion Rights as a class issue. Women have to be freed from the role of ' Homemaker' so that they can take up their righful place in society. They must have to freedom to choose when to have or not to have children. The ruling class use the idealogy of women playing teh centeral role in "Family Life" as a way to ensure less women look for work outside the home, in a time when they fail miserably to provide jobs. We in the WSM see Abortion as only one of the many obstacles which have to be overcome in order to gain some basic rights for women. Free creche facilities must be provided at workplaces, free readily availiable contraception, equal pay must finally be implemented. These rights along with abortion rights are on;ly a tep towards what amounts to human rights. It seems that under capitalism even the most basic of rights have to be fought for when they don't benefit the bosses.

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