Written by Amy Beecham
Amid the news that Roe v. Wade may be overturned in the US, here’s how to campaign for and support abortion rights in the UK.
Women across the world are still reeling from the leaked Supreme Court document stating that the US’s landmark abortion legislation, Roe v. Wade – which protects a woman’s right to have an abortion through the first trimester of pregnancy – was going to be be overturned.
According to Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice think-tank based in the US, 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion if the legislation is overturned, setting a worrying precedent for healthcare access across the world.
As Jo Maugham of The Good Law Project noted on Twitter: “If you don’t think this is coming to the UK, if you don’t think abortion rights will be weaponised as trans rights are, and by many of the same people, you are in for quite a shock.”
Currently, UK law states that in England, Scotland and Wales, women are legally able to have an abortion up to 23 weeks and six days of pregnancy under the 1967 Abortion Act. They are sometimes carried out after 24 weeks in limited circumstances, for example if the mother’s life is at risk or if the child would be born with a severe disability.
However, services must ask women why they want an abortion, and two doctors must verify that the requirements of the Abortion Act are met. Therefore, nowhere in the United Kingdom do women enjoy full reproductive rights.
In Northern Ireland, basic reproductive rights are so restricted that abortions are almost impossible to access. Abortions are only legal where the life or long-term physical/mental health of the person is at serious risk. There are no exceptions for rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormalities, and illegal abortion carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
When one in three women will have an abortion by the time they are 45, it’s incredibly scary to consider the long-term consequences of these continuous attacks against reproductive rights.
In its latest guidance on abortions, the World Health Organization states that all “medically unnecessary policy barriers to safe abortion” should be removed. This includes the risk of criminalisation and the requirement that approval must be given by other people or institutions.
It also recommends removing limits on when during pregnancy an abortion can take place. “Such barriers can lead to critical delays in accessing treatment and put women and girls at greater risk,” it said.
One recent survey of 5,098 UK adults, commissioned by MSI, found that nine in 10 people believe women should be able to access abortion services.
So what can we do to support and uphold abortion rights in the UK?
“The most important thing people in the UK can do to support abortion rights is to be loudly, unashamedly pro-choice,” Mara Clarke, founder of Abortion Support, told The Independent.
Here are a few ways you can continue to support abortion rights globally.
Write to foreign secretary Liz Truss to condemn the assault on women’s rights in America
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) has launched a petition calling on foreign secretary Liz Truss to ask the UK government to publicly condemn the US Supreme Court draft opinion. BPAS said to overturn the 1973 ruling “[is] clearly a breach of human rights and an assault on women, their families and their lives”.
Sign the petition here.
Become a member of Abortion Rights UK
Abortion Rights is the only national grass roots membership-based campaign working to defend and extend women’s rights to abortion. Membership prices start at £5 for students and £24 for individuals, with the money raised helping them to campaign against attacks on reproductive choices.
Join Abortion Rights UK here.
Donate to Planned Parenthood
Planned Parenthood is the largest sexual healthcare provider in the United States and globally.
“We have been preparing for this. We’re ready for this fight. Abortion is still legal and we will continue to fight across the country — this will not stop us,” the group said in a statement shared to Twitter on 3 May.
However, as a non-profit organisation, they rely heavily on donations to keep their essential services running.
Donate to Planned Parenthood here.
Join in with solidarity protests
Rallies have been taking place across the US, but also within the UK. On 3 May, Abortion Rights UK hosted a solidarity protest outside the US Embassy in London, which saw hundreds gather with placards and signs decrying the decision to repeal Roe v. Wade.
Find out about upcoming protests here.
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