Campaigners in Glasgow gave the campaign to defend abortion rights a fantastic boost last week with a young and lively protest against Tory MP Ann Widdecombe.
The MP has launched a speaking tour and is travelling the country attacking a woman’s right to choose. This comes as the government’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill – to which anti-abortion amendments are expected – passes through parliament.
Widdecombe will speak at eight meetings as part of her tour – and protests have been organised at every one.
Julie Sherry and Tara Topteagarden are students at Glasgow university, where the first meeting was held on Wednesday of last week, and spoke to Socialist Worker about the 100-strong protest outside.
“The picket encompassed a broad spectrum of political forces, from Labour students to trade unionists, to people who hadn’t previously been politically active at all,” they said.
“There was an atmosphere of defiance and anger, with an array of homemade placards with slogans such as ‘Keep your laws off my body and I’ll keep my hands off your throat’.”
Southampton and Belfast are the next unfortunate places to be visited by Widdecombe. Activists in both areas are building broad-based protests.
“We’ve had a good response from the networks here,” reports Sean from Queens University Belfast. Delegations of students and trade unionists will be key to building the protests.
Liz Wheatley, a Unison union member in Camden, north London, told Socialist Worker, “We affiliated to Abortion Rights at our trades council meeting and agreed to publicise its events.”
Meanwhile, anti-choice members of Gordon Brown’s cabinet, including Ruth Kelly, Des Browne and Geoff Hoon, are demanding a free vote on the entire Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.
They have reportedly been told that they can be “absent” to avoid having to vote. They already have a free vote on any abortion amendments.
Following the government’s Science and Technology Committee, which concluded that there was no scientific basis to restrict access to abortion, Gordon Brown and Harriet Harman – a long standing supporter of abortion rights – reassured people that the government would follow its recommendations. This now looks set to be the latest broken promise from New Labour.