THE BLOG

This Saturday, Let's March For Real Reproductive Choice

20/01/2017 17:25 GMT | Updated 20/01/2017 17:25 GMT
Wessam Eldeeb

Let us be in no doubt, without the ability to make decisions about pregnancy, to decide if we have children, when we have them, and who we have them with - little else in women's lives is possible.

But the right to make these choices is not yet won.

When Donald Trump declared last year that women who have abortions should be punished, he met widespread condemnation.

Yet in the UK we have no right to be smug. In our country today, women can and are being punished for having an abortion.

In Northern Ireland in 2017, women have no access to lawful abortion services. They must either find the funds to travel to England at huge personal cost, or take their chances by buying pills illegally online and risk prosecution and prison terms.

Two women are being prosecuted right now, and more will follow.

Even in the rest of the UK, where the 1967 act that made abortion services lawful applies, any women who ends her own pregnancy at any gestation without the permission of two doctors can go to prison for life under laws passed in 1861 - decades before we won the right to vote. Increasing numbers of women are buying abortion pills online. They may be very young women, too scared to tell a parent or school nurse about a pregnancy, migrant women with no access to NHS healthcare, or simply intensely private women who do not wish to confide in anyone about this most intimate decision. What they may not know is that by doing so, they are risking the ultimate punishment.

The 1967 Act, which marks its 50th anniversary this year, has enabled millions of British women to avoid becoming a mother or expanding her family against her will, against what she knows is best. But it did not take abortion out of the criminal law, it simply stated that a woman would not be punished if two doctors believed her reasons for ending that pregnancy were good enough.

This is not good enough.

British women today should not to have to obtain legal authorisation or beg for permission to end a pregnancy they know they cannot continue.

We are fortunate to live in a pro-choice country, but we cannot be complacent. Women's reproductive choice is so often seen as a soft target, we are constantly on the defensive. We need to call time on this.

Rather than defending a status quo that we no longer think is good enough we must demand what we really want. And it is this: we want abortion to come out of the criminal law altogether across the UK - from Belfast to Brighton. If we think no woman should be imprisoned for ending her own pregnancy, we should no longer tolerate a law which they says they can. We want abortion to be regulated in the same way as any other women's healthcare procedure and we want women to finally be trusted to make their own decisions about their own bodies and lives.

In March of this year we should have our first opportunity in parliament to make our voices heard on this. The Labour MP Diana Johnson is tabling a Ten Minute Rule Bill which aims to remove the criminal sanctions around abortion. To decriminalise abortion in England and Wales - and let women decide.

Please email your MP and ask them to support this. This bill will not change the law overnight, but it is a statement of where we want to go - let's use our collective power to take that first step together, towards granting women the trust they deserve.