The UK’s response to Roe v. Wade was alarming – and now it’s enabling anti-choice protestors
There’s a dangerous notion we carry in the UK that once won, our human rights can never be taken from us. And yet, today (3 September 2022), anti-abortion campaigners have taken to the streets of London to spread rhetoric about abortion – such as “life” beginning at conception – that only serves to limit women’s reproductive choices.
This aligns with waves of anti-abortion rhetoric rocking numerous countries in the world. So recently, we’ve watched our sisters in the United States sift through the wreckage of their reproductive sovereignty after the overturning of Roe v. Wade – a judgement made almost 50 years ago – by the Supreme Court.
In 26 states, free and safe abortions have been severely restricted or entirely outlawed, forcing any woman or trans person with a womb to make a desperate trip across state lines to exercise what they thought was their right to choose what happens to their own bodies. With the escalating cost of living crisis, the soaring price of petrol, and new offences being hastily written to prevent women crossing borders, the only option available may soon be to risk criminal prosecution by self-aborting, or by going to a clandestine abortionist for an illegal procedure.
In some circumstances, an abortion might be the only way to save the life of a mother or ensure the well-being of a 10-year-old child, for example, who suffers pregnancy after rape. We shouldn’t have to detail extreme cases like this in order to emphasise why the human right to abortion – or, as I like to call it, basic healthcare – is important. But given the latent misogyny that women encounter for choosing not to have children – she’s selfish, she’s unfeminine, she lacks nurturing qualities – relying on wider society to put ingrained sexism aside to consider the ramifications of reproductive fascism just isn’t something I’m willing to bet my ovaries on.
Naturally, seeing this dissolution of democracy from across the Atlantic, many of us are feeling a little nervous. After all, we’ve been watching the slow erosion of human rights for refugees, asylum seekers, protesters, survivors of male violence, and many more, for years under successive Conservative governments. But abortion? Surely not. It would be “hysterical,” we are told, to consider forced motherhood on these green and pleasant pastures. We’re far too polite for all that authoritarian nonsense. Aren’t we?
Do not be so sure.
There are a number of national responses – including the ripples of anti-choice protests in the UK – to the overturning of Roe v. Wade that should be cause for alarm.
Among them is the emboldening of – usually male, usually Conservative – politicians who argue that a clump of cells attached to the wall of a woman’s womb has more rights than the fully grown, very conscious woman carrying said clump. Take Danny Kruger MP, for example – a man who shares a surname with an ’80s horror movie serial killer, and who doesn’t see the irony in his anti-abortion stance quite literally advocating for the massacre of rights for millions of women.
If anyone doubts the scale of misogyny in UK society, know that it was not Kruger, but his mother, the chef Prue Leith, who trended on Twitter for birthing the man, rather than the man himself being responsible for his own stupidity.