Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1881

Abortion – why we defend women's right to choose

THE COURT case brought by trainee vicar Joanna Jepson to have a doctor charged for performing an abortion after 24 weeks because of 'severe foetal abnormality' has caused uproar in the media.

However genuine her reasons for taking the case, it is an attack on a woman's right to choose. Jepson says that cleft lip and palate is not a severe disability. It can be a relatively minor problem.

But in some cases cleft palate can be a symptom of something more serious, including a life-threatening genetic condition. But it is down to the individual woman who sought the abortion if she felt it was something she was able to handle.

We don't know about her life, her previous experiences-perhaps in having to spend time in hospitals with other children, perhaps seeing another child die in the course of a 'routine' operation.

The two doctors who approved the abortion did know her circumstances and they agreed she needed the abortion.For the medical staff involved, such a late abortion will have been difficult to justify.

But it is the woman herself, who at that stage will have felt vigorous movements by the foetus, who must have had absolutely compelling reasons to end the pregnancy. And it is her right to choose.

Every once in a while there is a flurry of argument about abortion for reasons of foetal handicap. It does seem peculiar for socialists and disability rights activists to defend such abortions. But we do so because we stand for a woman's right to choose.

In a society that puts profits before people, bringing up a child with a severe disability is difficult-to put it mildly. It's only when parents of children with disabilities enjoy all the support that can be provided-speech therapy, physiotherapy, respite care, financial support, suitable education, employment prospects, etc-that women will be able to decide in a positive frame of mind to have a disabled child.

But all of these things require radical economic change which conservative 'pro-life' campaigners can be counted on to oppose.
Goretti Horgan, Derry, Ireland

Angry at Bush? Now fight fees

AT UNIVERSITY College London, where I am a second year English student, we mobilised more than 100 students to occupy the common room the day Bush arrived in Britain.

The next day we organised a protest where Colin Powell was due to present awards. Thanks to the students of UCL and SOAS he was unable to make an appearance until much later. It surely puts an end to the notion of students being apathetic. Bearing in mind the top-up fees, the vital importance of this fact cannot be overstressed.
Anindya Raychaudhuri

Hosing away the homeless

DAVID BLUNKETT'S plan to take refugee children away from their parents to put in care shows how low New Labour is prepared to go.

I thought Socialist Worker might like to know of other examples how the most vulnerable people in our society are being treated under Blunkett's policies.

As a social worker, I work with homeless people in central London. In keeping with zero tolerance policy towards rough sleepers, spurred on by New Labour's anti-social behaviour orders, Westminster council are using new tactics to harass and move on homeless people off the streets.

Two weeks ago at 4.30am my colleague witnessed a scene where rough sleepers were told to move on. When a rough sleeper refused, a street-sweeping machine was deployed and with police protection sprayed water on him while he was bedded down. The machines are also used to spray water on established bed sites (usually under overhangs) to discourage people to bed down for the night.

This has happened on more than one occasion. I must admit that I did buy into the bullshit that 'things can only get better' under Labour. But it's another example how New Labour policies make the Tories look like a compassionate party.
Nathan Servini

Hope in schools

I'M ONE of the privileged few who gets a private education, funded by a scholarship and my parents.

I have been frequently frustrated by the apathy and conservatism I come across at school. But now there is a glimmer of hope. A geography teacher put on a viewing of John Pilger's Breaking the Silence: Truth and Lies in The War on Terror the evening Bush arrived. A fair few pupils turned up and the response was positive. There were also responses to the 'Stop Bush' posters I spread around the school.

Although this school's background is mainly Tory, enough people are thinking, 'What's really going on?'
Harriet Robinson

New name, more sales?

I THINK that to increase the sales of Socialist Worker you should consider changing the name of the paper.

I don't think the name Socialist Worker connects with the mass of the population who don't see themselves as socialists or workers. I would suggest a name like Solidarity, which is ingrained in the trade union movement and the subconscious of the masses. People see the word socialist and it doesn't connect or they have a completely wrong idea.

I have been reading and distributing Socialist Worker since 1986. I am a shop steward in Amicus.
Roger Wellman, Dorset

No cheer for child snatcher

I THINK Socialist Worker should use the headline 'Slaughter Of The Innocents' about David Blunkett taking away refugee children.

King Herod is alive and well under the guise of Blunkett. A very unmerry Christmas to him.
Ann Rose, Stockport

Many victims of cop bigots

I WAS reading the reports of racism in the police force, and that reminded me of the great homophobia in the police force too.

As a bisexual person I have suffered attacks from neo-Nazis. I did not feel that I could report any of the incidents to the police. At the time there were reports of police violence against gay people, so my friends and myself did not trust the police.

In Blackpool we only have one gay liaison officer, who works office hours-which is inconvenient, as hate crimes generally take place at weekends.

Send letters to the paper

BEFORE THE war on Iraq I wrote two anti-war letters to my local paper, which it printed.

I have since continued to write, arguing against the occupation, and have had another three letters printed. Blair wants us to forget what has been, but this is one way to keep the issue in the public eye.
Alan Tremer, West London

Shhh! I've got Socialist Worker

WILL ALL readers take a copy of Socialist Worker and place it with the newspapers in their public library (write 'Library copy' at the top of the front page)?

In this way people who live in a backwater like March, where Socialist Worker doesn't usually reach, will get to read it.
Sylvia Wall, March, Cambridgeshire

Perfect time for forum debate

I RECENTLY attended the Canterbury Marxist forum on 'From protest to revolution'.

Tom Behan, the speaker, gave an interesting talk which raised many points. The group of us who attended spent almost two hours discussing the issues raised. Hot on the heels of the Bush protests, this was a perfect time for this issue to be raised.
Mac Macdonald, Canterbury

Are others in working class?

KEVIN OVENDEN is right about the centrality of the class of wage earners to changing the world (Socialist Worker, 29 November).

However, we should expand our definition of the working class to include the unwaged. Capitalist exploitation depends on the labour of unwaged sections of the working class like, for example, housewives, peasants, students or the unemployed.

The struggles of these and other unwaged sections of the class can be as problematic for capital as those of waged workers. The 1994 uprising of the Zapatista peasants against NAFTA caused the devaluation of the Mexican peso and the resulting financial crisis, which rocked the world's markets. The Zapatistas not only almost brought the collapse of global financial markets, but also provided inspirational and organisational impetus to the anti-globalisation and anti-capitalist movements.
Andy Watson, Edinburgh

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Sat 13 Dec 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1881
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