Blog: Abortion is a trade union issue

The reversal of Roe v Wade shows clearly that women’s rights must be constantly defended

Christina McAnea adressing local government conference

Last Friday’s decision by the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade, removing a woman’s constitutional right to abortion, did not come as a surprise. Anti-abortion politicians and activists have sought for decades to overrule the decision. However, the announcement was still a shock.

The speed of the reaction by US states is disturbing; abortion was made illegal in 10 states almost immediately, with 11 more expected to follow shortly.

The repercussions will be felt far beyond the United States, with devastating consequences for women.

Nearly 50 years ago, the decision in Roe v Wade to protect a woman’s right to choose inspired a new era of reproductive freedom. The reversal will encourage anti-abortion voices, threatening the right of a woman to control her own destiny. Not only in the US – a clear and concerted effort to limit access to reproductive rights is taking place in many countries across the world.

We cannot afford to be complacent in the UK.

Access to abortion is a trade union issue and, with over a million women in UNISON, we believe passionately in defending a woman or person’s right to choose. The right to have a safe abortion, in private and with dignity, should not depend on where you happen to live.

Abortion is a class issue. Rich women can access abortion whatever the legal status where they live. It is working-class women who always suffer.

Women, wherever they are, will always seek access to abortion services. Restricting abortion does not reduce its prevalence. That’s why legal, safe, accessible abortion is so important.

Children as well as parents will suffer the consequences of unwanted additions to their families, with poor people the worst affected.

Experts say that maternal deaths will almost certainly increase, particularly among Black people. Black people in the US are already 3.5 times more likely to die than white peers because of pregnancy and childbirth.

Abortion rights are high in the priorities for UNISON’s national women’s committee. We are proud to speak out and defend abortion rights. It is important that we continue to be vigilant, to raise our voices and protest. The reversal of Roe v Wade shows clearly that women’s rights must be constantly defended.