State asserts its writ over women

Communists unequivocally support the demand for free abortion on demand. We do not recognise the right of the state or the church to intervene or interfere with this fundamental democratic right, and we positively champion this issue in the workers’ movement.

There has been a myth spread over recent years that we already have abortion on demand - in effect. This is certainly the view promulgated by the catholic church and assorted Christian reactionaries. They do this of course in order to alert us to the horrors of ‘foetal genocide’. Liberals however have also tried to convince us that we have abortion on demand - ‘Look at the 1967 Abortion Act,’ they say.

The 1967 Abortion Act effectively denies the right to abortion on demand. A woman who wants to terminate her pregnancy has to convince two doctors that if she carries on with the pregnancy she is putting her physical or mental health at risk. In other words the doctors know what is best for the woman and she has to deliver herself into their tender mercies. Tough luck if your doctor happens to be a Christian or muslim reactionary ...

In addition the cutbacks in the NHS have fallen harshly on the abortion service. This has led to an abortion ‘lottery’, so that a woman’s chances of having an NHS abortion increasingly depend on where she lives, what age she is, her social circumstances and so on.

On top of all this the case of Lynne Kelly amply demonstrates that the courts, and the ‘due process’ of law, are another weapon directed against a woman’s right to choose.

The 21-year old Lynne Kelly was due to have an abortion at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary on May 16, but her estranged husband managed to obtain an interim interdict, or injunction, the day before, which prevented her from going ahead with the abortion. Despite a ruling in her favour last Wednesday, James Kelly was granted a hearing at the court of appeal and the judges refused permission for the l4-weeks pregnant Lynne to have an abortion. The appeal was due to be heard this Tuesday at the House of Lords, but James Kelly’s solicitors announced on the same day that he was dropping all action against Lynne.

There can be no doubt that Lynne Kelly’s democratic rights were grossly violated by the actions of the courts. If she had gone ahead with the abortion while the injunction was still in place she could have been arrested, along with the doctors who helped to perform the operation. What is more, each day that passed meant that the operation became less simple, as she entered the second trimester of her pregnancy. Had James Kelly not pulled out of legal action a simple operation would have been out of the question.

The fact that the law courts have the powers to meddle in our lives reveals the anti-democratic nature of the state, and the legal vendetta pursued against Lynne Kelly starkly exposes how women are oppressed under bourgeois society. Capitalism, while happy to super-exploit women in low paid work, at the same time tries to keep them relegated to the status of second-class citizens. Parliament, big business and the courts will not give up lightly their ability to control women’s bodies and lives.

The fight for real abortion on demand, as opposed to the pseudo-right which exists now must be one taken up by the whole of the class.

Eddie Ford