EM1 – Defending our reproductive and sexual rights

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2012 National LGBT Conference
8 November 2012

Conference is concerned that on 6 October the newly appointed Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, stated that he backs halving the legal time limit for women to have abortions, from 24 to 12 weeks. Only days earlier Maria Miller, the new Minister for Women and Equalities, said she supported a cut to 20 weeks. This was backed by Home Secretary Teresa May and by Prime Minister David Cameron, who gave his support to a “modest reduction” in the time limit.

Conference is further concerned that on 31 October the Conservative Member of Parliament Nadine Dorries was granted a debate on reducing the abortion time limit from 24 to 22 weeks. Although the debate did not go to a vote, Dorries gave notice of her plan to hold a full debate and vote in parliament next year.

Conference notes that the first private abortion clinic in Northern Ireland, governed by strict government regulations, opened in Belfast on 18 October to threats and intimidation from anti-choice protestors. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom where the 1967 Abortion Act does not apply.

Conference notes UNISON’s pro-choice policy, that there is no new scientific evidence to support a reduction in the abortion time limit, and that all the UK’s major medical bodies comprehensively support the current 24 week limit.

Nonetheless, Conference acknowledges that reproductive rights are under attack from religious and far right extremists across the globe and that this attack is part of a broader attempt to control both sexual and reproductive freedoms in the name of “family” and “traditional” values. They seek to control and curtail the rights and equality both of women and of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people, with United States organisations in particular pushing a programme of anti-LGBT legislation, abstinence based sexual health education and limits to family planning and abortion in Africa.

Conference welcomes the establishment in 2011 of Global Interfaith and Secular Alliance (GISA), a platform for faith-based and secular advocates working together to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights, which ILGA-Europe has recently become an ally of.

Conference calls on the National LGBT Committee to explore with the National Executive Committee (NEC) the possibility of UNISON becoming an ally of GISA, and to work with the NEC, National Women’s Committee and other structures of the union as appropriate to:

1)Raise awareness of the attack on women’s reproductive rights in the UK and beyond

2)Publicise the links between those who oppose a woman’s right to choose and those who oppose LGBT rights

3)Work with organisations such as Abortion Rights to campaign to defend women’s reproductive rights and to lobby government to:

(a) improve abortion services and reduce waiting times;

(b) reduce rates of unintended pregnancy by increasing access to contraception;

(c) halt the intimidation by protesters outside clinics and ensure women seeking access to abortion can do so in privacy and safety;

(d) remedy the discrimination faced by Northern Irish women.

(496 words)