- 2013 National Women's Conference
- 18 October 2012
- Carried as Amended
Conference is deeply disappointed that members of the anti-abortion group Abort67 have been found not guilty at Brighton Magistrates Court of public order offences for displaying material that is ‘threatening abusive or insulting’ outside the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) Wistons clinic in Brighton. South East Regional women’s group disagree with this ruling. If a woman swore at a police officer, she can be arrested for a public order offence. Pro-life groups such as Abort67 subject women who seek an abortion to verbal intimidation and sometimes physical attack. This is not freedom of expression, it is oppression.
In addition to this recent court case and ruling, Jeremy Hunt Minister for Health laid his cards on the table on 6 October when he 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 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. This is bound to add fuel to the tormenting activities of anti-abortion groups, not just in Brighton but up and down the country.
Conference is further concerned that on 31 October the Conservative MP 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 in 2013.
Conference notes that the first private abortion clinic in Northern Ireland, governed by strict government regulations, opened in Belfast in October to threats and intimidation from anti-choice protestors. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where the 1967 Abortion Act does not apply.
Conference recognises 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 therefore 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.
Conference calls on National Women’s committee to continue to support a woman’s right to seek an abortion without the fear of intimidation and harassment from pro-life groups.
We thank the National Women’s Committee for their work with groups such as Abortion Rights and UK Feminista and ask that the National Women’s Committee continue this work and;
1) Work with regional women’s groups and branches to raise awareness on the issue facing women choosing to exercise their rights to seek an abortion, by providing information that reaffirms UNISON’s pro-choice policy position.
2) Work with appropriate women’s groups to research and ascertain the scale of activity of pro-life groups and the impact of these campaigners on a woman’s choice and circulate information to appropriate regional women’s committee’s and branches to support local pro-choice campaigns.
3) Gather statistics on court cases involving pro-life groups and disseminate to regional women’s groups for wider circulation locally, to ensure that UNISON activists are updated on the legal status of this important issue to assist with local campaigning.
4) Lobby government to remedy the discrimination faced by Northern Irish women.
Conference further calls on the National Women’s 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 LGBT Committee and other structures of the union as appropriate to:
a) Raise awareness of the attack on women’s reproductive rights in the UK and beyond
b) Publicise the links between those who oppose a woman’s right to choose and those who oppose LGBT rights.