By Isabel Ringrose
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2813

1,500 march to defend abortion rights in London

A mass movement in the US is needed to fight against the attacks on abortion rights
Issue 2813
Image of a crowd of protestors, with 5 people holding up a pink banner reading 'For a woman's right to choose' to illustrate a story about abortion rights march

Abortion rights protesters preparing to march to the US embassy

Pro-choice activists marched through central London on Saturday to defend abortion rights in Britain—and show solidarity with protesters in the US. 

Up to 1,500 people took off from Trafalgar Square to the US Embassy. The demonstration was called by Abortion Rights UK to coincide with a day of action in the US.

The quashing of Roe v Wade in the US means up to 20 states have already banned abortion, with others set to follow or bring in restrictions. Protester Emily told Socialist Worker, “I’ve had much pent up anger since the overturning of Roe v Wade, so I’ve come to protest. 

“There’s so much stigma still attached to abortion too. The fact that laws can be taken away so easily is scary. So many places are banning abortion, it’s absolutely unbelievable.”

Protester Grace added, “We need more action to educate people and spread awareness about the reality of abortions. The more we’re out on the streets, the more it forces people to see that this is a real issue that they need to get behind. We can’t be ignored then.”

As they marched down Whitehall and past parliament protesters shouted, “Not the church not the state, women must decide their fate.” And, “Pro-life, that’s a lie. You don’t care if women die.” 

Others chanted, “Our body, our lives. Our right to decide.” When crossing Vauxhall Bridge, marchers were met with loud beeps from passing cars, buses and taxis. 

Kerry Abel, chair of Abortion Rights UK, told the crowd, “We need to be on guard. The anti-choice movement is an international movement.” Kerry pointed to cabinet member Nadine Dorries proclaiming on Thursday that abortion time windows in Britain should be reduced. “But we are the majority,” Kerry added. “Nine in ten people support in Britain. They’d love it if we kept quiet—we need to be really vocal.

“One in three women have an abortion in her lifetime. We have to keep access open. And that means better access, not just what we have now.”

Liz Wheatley, Camden Unison union branch secretary and Unison’s international committee chair, said, “Two of the US justices who made this decision have been accused of sexual harassment.

“In their statement they’re talking about turning back same sex marriage and the right to contraception. They want to turn back the clock and tell us who we can have sex with, and for it to just produce kids.”

Liz said that it’s not just the US, but also countries across Europe that are cutting out abortion rights. “We need to see off all the entitled bigots. Rich people will always be able to get an abortion,” she said. “Trade unions are fighting for millions of working class people in poverty—and that’s why we have to keep fighting for abortion rights.”

Sonia Adesara from Doctors for Choice UK and the London Socialist health organisation said, “This is about having the right to control our bodies. Woman will continue to have abortions. But it is women of colour and marginalised women who will be putting their lives at risk.” 

Sonia explained how in Britain abortion has never been decriminalised, with abortions only lawful if two doctors agree. Women could still be given life sentences for accessing abortions under the 1861 Offences Against the Persons Act, which remains on the statute book. 

“We do not have the right to access abortion,” said Sonia. “And migrant women do not have access to free abortion care. They’re being forced to have unsafe abortions like woman in US, putting their lives and heath at risk.

“We’re here to demand an end to the misogyny of our political system that sees control of women’s bodies as negotiable. We need an end to racism in healthcare and we need to stop being spectators.”

Meanwhile, some 10,000 women gathered outside the White House in Washington DC and called on president Joe Biden to act. Biden and the Democrats are pinning their hopes on November’s midterm elections. But many of the protesters were clear that this isn’t good enough. 

A mass movement across the US is needed to stop further rollbacks of abortion rights. And in Britain, activists will be gearing up to protest against the March for Life organised by anti-choice bigots on 3 September.

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