Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2139

Fight backdoor threat to our abortion rights

The right wing press reported last week that a third of GPs would refuse to work at a surgery offering abortions. What is behind this story? A survey of 480 doctors who replied to an email sent out to subscribers of GP Newspaper.

Given the self-selecting nature of the poll, it is unsurprising if a disproportionately high number of anti‑abortion doctors choose to reply. And, with the Royal College of General Practitioners stating that there are over 35,000 GPs in Britain, the survey is hardly scientific.

Eight primary care trusts are considering providing early medical abortions (EMA) in general practice. The EMA procedure is carried out after the woman has received counselling and the information to make an informed choice.

It includes two visits to the practice, hours or a day apart, to take pills which induce a miscarriage later at home. It would be offered to women less than nine weeks pregnant.

The right for a woman to have an abortion is a basic right to choose, and every child has the right to be a wanted child.

Two days after the lurid headlines on abortion the Daily Mail continued its attack by targeting a plan for GPs to offer contraceptive jabs and implants to teenagers who have visited them for the morning after pill.

Unwanted teenage pregnancy is a serious problem in Britain and the right wing press is quick to criticise teenage parents. Any restrictions on contraception and safe abortion affect young, particularly working class women the greatest.

Frankly I don’t care if a small number of bigoted GPs leave their practices over this issue. Our doctors should be giving patients the information they need to make informed decisions about their treatment.

It’s the patient’s right to choose that counts, not the doctor’s.

Maggie Falshaw, GP practice manager, east London

The EastEnders TV soap has recently been running a story about a young woman who is considering an abortion. As is often the case in such programmes, the prospect of a termination is shown as a highly traumatic experience that can ruin a woman’s life.

It is like watching anti-abortion propaganda. The soaps always show women as being full of guilt and remorse, yet for most people who are seeking an abortion this is not the case.

I’ve worked in reproductive health and know that women don’t take the matter of abortion lightly. They consider their options carefully before making an informed choice.

But once they have made their decision and have planned their termination, they are generally not in a state of panic and desperation.

They know that by having an abortion they will be able to continue with their education or work – without the responsibility that caring for an unplanned child brings.

Isn’t it about time that we were presented with storylines about abortion that actually reflect the experience of most women who have them?

Carole Vincent, East London

Keep racist MP Geert Wilders out

The British government’s decision to refuse entry to the racist Dutch MP Geert Wilders was greeted by angry howls from the Dutch media and government ministers. But there were also a lot of people in the Netherlands who greeted the decision with a smile.

The ban follows the recent decision by the Dutch supreme court that Wilders is eligible for prosecution on the grounds of racism and inciting hatred.

Part of this is related to his “film” Fitna – which is a vitriolic but rather incoherent set of cut-and-paste YouTube images.

Wilders compares the Quran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, calls Moroccan youth “street terrorists”, and even called for the Dutch army to withdraw from Afghanistan and go into largely immigrant inner cities instead.

Anti-racist campaigners have celebrated the supreme court ruling, although shamefully the parliamentarian left has largely kept aloof or joined the “freedom of speech” chorus.

But Wilders himself is not an advocate of free speech.

He often calls for foreign imams to be refused entry into Holland, and has lambasted the government for not introducing stricter controls over the content of speeches in mosques.

And at one point his party even attempted to get a government ban on a meeting of the International Socialists because we were discussing Wilders’s racism.

I was arrested twice in 2008 for distributing a poster calling Wilders an “Extremist and a menace to Dutch society”.

Some anti-racist campaigners worry that the British government’s decision could allow Wilders to present himself as a martyr.

But the blame for this falls at least partly on the shoulders of those in the mainstream parties who still protect Wilders from criticism for fear of losing seats.

To break this passivity much more will be needed than foreign government bans or court cases. It needs a large and active campaign against racism and Islamophobia on Dutch streets.

Pepijn Brandon, Holland

‘Personal budgets’ are just more NHS privatisation

How much more of the NHS has to be privatised before our unions launch a real campaign against the government’s plans?

Last week Socialist Worker rightly pointed out the mess that Private Finance Initiative hospital schemes are in.

You’d think that experience would make the government think again before launching further profit-making schemes.

But no. In spring this year the Department of Health will launch “personalised budgets”. Initially these will be for sufferers of conditions like Parkinson’s disease, but could soon be expanded to many others.

Patients will be given their own slice of the NHS budget to spend with whatever provider they think appropriate.

Profit-seeking firms will doubtless offer the easier treatments and leave the more difficult stuff to the NHS, just as they’ve done in Independent Sector Treatment Centres.

And, of course, the health secretary has nothing to say about what will happen if your “personal budget” runs out but you still require treatment.

If the current pace of NHS privatisation continues there will be precious little left of our genuinely public health system.

It is vital that we resist, yet our unions seem to believe their main job is to defend the government. That has got to change.

Diana Swingler, Health worker, east London

Words that reflect a racist society

Was it racist for Carol Thatcher to call a black man a “golliwog” or Prince Harry to refer to an Asian man as “sooty”?

Of course it was. Yet some who defend this racism call it harmless fun, and accuse those who object to it of over reacting.

Being called a “paki” is a bit of harmless teasing, they say.

It is nothing of the kind.

Racist name-calling is neither benign nor born of ignorance.

Its purpose is to reinforce racist prejudices and reflect power relationships in British society – the power of the largely white ruling class over the rest of us.

These people are not content with discrimination that leads to disproportionate numbers of black and Asian people in the lowest paid jobs, in the worst housing, in our psychiatric hospitals and our jails.

It seems that they expect us to put up with their crude, arrogant abuse too.

Well done to the workers at the BBC’s The One Show who objected to Carole Thatcher’s racism and more power to ordinary people in every workplace who refuse to accept such abuse.

Charlotte Ahmed, Glasgow

Little justice in tribunals

I was pleased to read your comments on the problems of the employment tribunal system, in the report on NHS whistleblower Karen Reissmann (» Karen Reissmann NHS whistleblower tribunal is settled, 7 February).

I’ve been a tribunal representative for the past two years, having before that worked for a trade union.

In my experience, workers are repeatedly surprised by the raw deal they get from the hearings.

It’s not just that some tribunal chairs are lazy or biased – although plenty are both. It’s also that the law itself contains all sorts of hidden obstacles that privilege the employer’s version of events over the worker’s.

Some of the worst rules concern compensation.

It’s almost impossible for a worker bringing an ordinary unfair dismissal claim to be awarded as much in benefits as they would have earned if they had not been sacked.

David Renton, North London

Why no army of snowploughs?

Geoff Hoon, Labour’s transport secretary recently asked the rhetorical question, “Are we expected to keep fleets of snowploughs at £100,000 a time on standby for a once in an 18-year event?”

Apart from the fact that heavy snow happens a wee bit more often than once every 18 years here in Scotland, why don’t we keep fleets of snowploughs and materials on standby in case people need them?

£100,000? How much does a military tank cost? About £5 million – that’s 40 snowploughs per tank.

How many tanks do we keep on standby just in case we “need” them for illegal invasions and things?

Why are we better prepared for war than we are for snow?

Colin Cameron, Fife, Scotland

Too negative on strikes

Your reports of the “British jobs for British workers” strike has been far too negative.

Although couched in nationalistic terms, this dispute was about attempts to drive down the going rate for a job.

Workers celebrated the action because they put unofficial strikes and solidarity back on the agenda.

You were right to criticise the strikers for repeating the crass language used by Gordon Brown, but your arguments would have been much more persuasive if you had stood shoulder to shoulder with the strikers.

David Waller, West London

A spanner in Israel’s works

Your article “Why is Britain supplying arms to Israel’s war machine?” (Socialist Worker, 31 January) illustrated well the relationship between Israel, imperialism, and transnational corporations.

A spanner has been thrown in the works of Brighton-based arms company EDO MBM, which supplies components for missiles and fighter aircraft, and has contracts with the Israeli military.

Last month £250,000 of damage was done when nine intrepid “decommissioners” entered EDO MBM and smashed equipment.

Please send letters of support to two of the protesters who have been held in prison since their exemplary action. They are Elijah Smith [VP7551], Wing A and Robert Alford [VP7552], Wing F, HMP Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 1EA

Nasser Mashadi, North London

Life is game – for the rich

Indian bosses last month paid £1 million each for two English cricketers to play in India for three weeks.

In the last ten years 182,936 indebted farmers in India committed suicide.

How can these two figures be reconciled?

NK Rohan, Kerala, India

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Tue 17 Feb 2009, 18:16 GMT
Issue No. 2139
Share this article

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.