On the other side of the pond this week, with inescapable overtones of the ‘Handmaid’s Tale’, the US Supreme Court voted – albeit provisionally – to overturn Roe v Wade, the 1973 landmark ruling that legalised abortion in America. Not surprisingly, women across the States are protesting and demonstrating for the right to have control of their own bodies.
Understandably this has also raised concerns here in London and sparked a wave of protests this week in support of American women.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan was unequivocal in his support on Twitter saying:
‘London stands with women across the United States today. Roe v Wade enshrined women’s fundamental rights over their own bodies and access to healthcare. That cannot and must not be undone.’
On Tuesday May 3, an Abortion Rights solidarity protest took place outside the US Embassy in Battersea. Chair of the Abortion Rights campaign in Britain, Kerry Abel, who organised the protest said:
‘Repealing the right to abortion in the US will send shockwaves out across the world. We cannot sit still and watch our rights be taken away from us. The sad truth is that the events of the last year in the US have demonstrated how insecure abortion rights are all over the globe.
‘Now, the most powerful country in the world could rule out the right for abortion in a matter of months. This emboldens the minority here who want to restrict our right and access to abortion. Instead of putting the clock back we need to ensure the right to abortion is secure everywhere, including the UK where we still have abortion in our criminal code. Decriminalisation of the abortion law in Britain is the first step, we defend the right to free, legal and safe abortion.’
In light of the protests she continues:
‘We want to be as loud and clear as possible that abortion rights are human rights and they are healthcare that keep women alive.’
Londoners will know that even decades on from Britain’s 1967 Abortion Act, things are still not clear cut here. As recently as September 2020, abortion clinics have been picketed by Pro-Choice campaigners. The Independent reported that some campaigners have leafleted and targeted vulnerable women and even teenagers attending clinics. This has led to ongoing campaigns to have protest-free exclusion zones outside such facilities, but this is not currently widespread practice. In addition, under current UK law abortion is not legally available at the request of a pregnant woman. After a woman has decided that she wants to end her pregnancy, she has to have two doctors agree to her decision on the basis of arguably restrictive legal criteria. Given that one in three women will have an abortion by the time she’s 45, it’s an issue that impacts a significant proportion of the population.
A further protest is taking place outside the US Embassy in Nine Elms tomorrow at 2pm.
More details about abortion rights in the UK here.
London events not to be missed in May.
Celebrate Eid this weekend in Trafalgar Square.