The battle over abortion access isn’t just a threat to US women; but women across the globe
First off, it goes without saying that the banning of abortion in America (one of the Western world’s so-called most democratic, liberal countries) should be alarming to all women everywhere. It should be seen as an attack on us all as a collective, and one we need to talk about, fight against, and feel angry about.
That aside, UK experts are increasingly concerned that the move could impact things here in more ways than one, too.
“Repealing Roe v Wade would send shockwaves the world over and further embolden anti-choice activists here in the UK, leading to much stronger and bolder opposition to abortion rights,” explains Sarah Shaw, Head of Advocacy at MSI Reproductive Choices. “We are already seeing prayer vigils outside our UK clinics by the US-affiliated 40 Days for Life campaign, and if Roe v Wade is overturned we only expect this harassment to increase. This is a reminder that we can never be complacent about our own hard-won rights.”
Katherine O’Brien, Associate Director of Communications and Campaigns at BPAS, also agrees. “We must remember that the 1967 Abortion Act, and our ability to safely and legally end a pregnancy, lie in the hands of politicians, and we have seen a number of parliamentary bids to restrict abortion. We have managed to defeat these attempts so far, but if the anti-abortion movement were to gain the monumental “victory” of overturning Roe vs Wade, groups in the UK and across the world will definitely be emboldened.”
Examples of said proposed restrictions include those from 2008, where attempts to lower the legal limit of abortion from 24 weeks to 22, 20, 16 or 12 weeks were fortunately blocked. Such an example appears to reflect an “Americanization of the U.K. Anti-Abortion Movement,” as explored by The Atlantic in 2012.
More recently, the Conservative Party’s vice chair for women Maria Caulfield suggested the 24 week limit should be reduced, and then Nadine Dorries attempted to strip organisations such as BPAS and MSI (then Marie Stopes) of their counselling services for women seeking abortions, instead out-sourcing them to organisations that do not perform abortions.
We must also remember that technically in the UK, the act of getting an abortion is still considered a ‘criminal’ one, according to a Victorian legislation, the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, which was never repealed. Today, women still have to get ‘permission’ from two doctors to terminate a pregnancy, meaning we may have less autonomy over our own bodies than we think. And that’s before we even consider the fact that Northern Irelanders only gained access to abortion in 2020.
For the sake of women in our own country as well as in the States, it is now more important than ever to have the hard conversations with friends, family, and colleagues about abortion, reproductive freedom, and women’s rights on the whole. Talking about these issues (including on social media) is a way to de-stigmatise them, and level support against any threats that may come.
Equally, you can take action by writing to your local MP, and asking for them to fight for abortion to be officially de-criminalised, which is a massive step in the right direction.
To support women directly in the U.S., you can donate to important organisations like NARAL, the ACLU, and Planned Parenthood, all of whom work to provide women with safe access to abortion no matter what.
A decision will be made about the Mississippi abortion case next year, around June 2022.