Dundee women’s rights campaigners slam end of right to abortion in the United States

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Violence against women campaigners in Dundee have spoken out in favor of protecting women’s rights and services against an international backdrop of increasing anti-abortion and anti-women sentiment.

The call comes in the wake of the US Supreme Court decision last week to strike down the landmark Roe v Wade decision, transforming abortion rights in America and allowing individual states to ban the procedure.

It also follows Monday’s cross-party summit on abortion care in Scotland and the recent introduction of a member’s bill at the Scottish Parliament to protect workers and service users at termination clinics using so-called “buffer zones”.

Ann Hamilton, chair of the Dundee Violence Against Women Partnership, has called on Dundonians to continue supporting women’s rights in Scotland.

She said: “Last week’s abhorrent Supreme Court decision to effectively allow mostly male politicians to decide what happens to a woman’s body is the latest and highest profile example of a slow erosion of the rights of women.

“It may seem like America and its divisive politics are a long way away from us, but it is part of a background narrative that emboldens and legitimizes those who would do harm to women by taking away our voices and the right to decide for ourselves. “

Women’s rights campaigners and health professionals have reacted angrily to the decision to overturn Roe v Wade – a landmark 1973 ruling which concluded that an American’s right to an abortion was enshrined in the US Constitution.

Anti-abortion campaigners on Dundee High Street in 2019
Anti-abortion campaigners on Dundee High Street in 2019

However, last week’s decision by the largely conservative Supreme Court to strike the law down has led to fears that women’s health will be put at risk.

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Some states have already introduced de-facto bans on abortion and others are expected to follow suit shortly. Of those, a number do not make provisions for abortion even if the pregnancy is conceived through rape or incest.

Dundee has the highest abortion rate of any area in Scotland, according to official statistics. On average there were 18.7 terminations per 1,000 women in the city last year, and 16 per 1,000 across the entire NHS Tayside board area.

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The city council has sought to support women in avoiding unnecessary pregnancies through the controversial Pause programme, which offers women who have had children removed a wide range of support – on the condition that they abstain from sex or agree to take contraception.

Ms Hamilton added: “We need to challenge the kind of thinking which drives this type of behavior wherever we encounter it and make sure we are heard.

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“It is important in this country that we do not allow what is happening elsewhere to bolster anyone who thinks that removing women’s services in whatever form is a good idea.

Glasgow's Sandyford clinic has been targeted by anti-abortion protesters
Scottish maternity clinics have been targeted by anti-abortion protesters

“That is why the summit and the bill play such an important part in protecting women’s rights and services in Scotland.

“We have been making progress increasing awareness of the issues surrounding violence against women in all its forms, but we must remain vigilant and continue to bring the full glare of scrutiny to bear on people, systems and physical spaces which enable violence against women.”

Scotland’s cross-party abortion summit on Monday largely revolved around the subject of “buffer zones” – exclusionary areas around maternity clinics that would prevent pro-life campaigners from standing immediately outside. Activist groups such as Back Off Scotland say such tactics are predatory, intimidating, and invasive.

Abortion-rights protesters in Washington DC on June 25
Abortion-rights protesters in Washington DC on June 25

Ms Hamilton was backed by women’s support charity Dundee and Angus WRASAC, which stated that abortion rights were “human rights [which] should be accessible to all”.

In a statement, the organization said: “Within Scotland we have seen an increase of anti-abortion protesting around clinics and hospitals, with people being harassed and blocked from accessing clinics.

“We fully support Back Off Scotland who today are attending a meeting with first minister Nicola Sturgeon to begin talks around national buffer zone laws, creating a safe space around clinics.”

Earlier on Monday, SNP MSP John Mason was criticized for appearing to support the end of Roe v Wade. In response to a public inquiry, the MSP said the move was “good for democracy”, adding that he was “speaking out for the weaker party, namely the baby.”

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Among his critics were members of his own party. Women’s minister Maree Todd said the notion of ending abortion in Scotland was a “non-starter” while education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville suggested Mason understood “very little about what goes on either inside or outside clinics.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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