I celebrated International Women’s Day today by heading down to my local abortion rights protest, in the city centre of Cardiff. There were approximately 50 people on the protest, and although a reduction in numbers from last year, this could be attributed to the low level of support for the 40 Days for Life protest through lent. As can be seen from the photos, there was only 1 man protesting on the 40 Days for Life side of the street, which is opposite the BPAS clinic, for most of the day. The lone protester, holding his banner on one side and having to attach it to a lamppost on the other, repeatedly shouted over to us ‘what about the foetus?’, to our chants of ‘there are very many more of us than you’.
We began the protest outside City Hall, with a speech by Labour Party AM Julie Morgan, who spoke of the importance of women having control over their own bodies, and protesting to defend our hard won rights since the 1967 Abortion Act. She spoke of having to defend women’s reproductive rights, which are continuously being attacked and that women have no rights to abortion on demand, which she thinks we should have. There is unequal access to abortion, depending on where you live and GPs are allowed to refuse to give advice to women accessing abortion, as a matter of conscience. Julie credited Abortion Rights Cardiff’s relentless campaign over the last 2 years and since its inception, to the dwindling support for 40 Days for Life.
Marianne Owens, an organiser and member of Abortion Rights Cardiff spoke at the rally, following the protest. She spoke of the importance of defending the space outside the BPAS clinic, that 75% of the population believe that women should have the right to choose, and that 80,000 women died every year accessing backstreet abortion services prior to the 1967 Act. It was another victory for our reproductive rights when Fiona Bruce’s amendment to the serious crime bill, outlawing sex-selective abortion, was defeated. Further control over women’s bodies does nothing to defeat sexist attitudes towards women and there is no evidence to suggest that sex-selection takes place. We must defend what we have won, whilst recognising we have further work to do. A woman dies every 10 minutes around the world, because of the lack of access to safe abortion services.
A local activist Katrine Williams was the final speaker of the day and spoke about abortion rights being a working class issue; that women make up half the workforce and half the trade union movement. Women should have real choice when deciding whether to have an abortion or to have children. We need to fight to defend our services, including free education and living wages. Women’s rights are a trade union issue and we should get our union branches to affiliate to Cardiff Trades Council.
All in all it was a brilliant day, albeit cloudy and drizzly, and as usual it was great to see so many women and men out to defend women’s rights on IWD.
by Kat Burdon-Manley
Photos by Sara Mayo