Never in the history of ever have rights been dished out on a plate to groups facing discrimination. Not once has someone with heaps of power entirely of their own volition thought: hey my privilege is spilling over a bit, you want some?
As we celebrate the suffrage movement and 100 years since some women won the right to vote, we have to remember that the fight for women’s rights and freedom is far from over. We also have to be mindful that the right thing isn’t always easy – in fact more often than not it’s damn hard – but when the chips are down where do you stand, and who do you stand with?
We stand with the women of Northern Ireland, just as we stand with those in Ireland, Poland and anywhere that women are denied their reproductive rights.
We stand with those forced to travel alone, tired and scared to a country that is not their home to access basic healthcare, and we stand with those finding illegal pills online and taking them in secret. We stand with those forced to carry, birth and raise a child against their will because despite it being 2018 their Government still does not trust them enough to honour their human rights and afford them basic control over their own bodies.
Our bodies, our choices is a longstanding mantra of the feminist movement and of those fighting for women’s access to free, safe and legal abortion, because that’s what this comes down to. Choice. If you don’t like abortion then fine, don’t have one. But no-one, no-one has the right to make that decision for anyone else.
You might ask what does this have to do with domestic abuse?
The answer is everything. Because for as long as abusive men have been coercing and controlling the lives and minds of their victims they have also been controlling their bodies. Women experiencing domestic abuse are routinely pressured to become pregnant, abusive men will sabotage birth-control, use condoms inconsistently and issue threats related to continuing or ending a pregnancy. It doesn’t stop there. Rape in the context of domestic abuse sees women who have experienced significant trauma impregnated, isolated and trapped.
There is no best case scenario that can undo such trauma, but the very, very least any woman in this situation should know is that if she can to get to her doctor, alone, seeking an abortion that the doctor’s response will be trauma-informed and person-centred and that the doctor will offer access to a free, safe and legal termination and all the support needed. That our Northern Irish sisters who want to end a pregnancy in situations not dissimilar to this instead face a prison sentence is unthinkable, and yet it is so.
In Scotland our situation is far from perfect, and we will continue to use all our collective might to remove abortion law from the criminal justice system and put the issue firmly where it belongs as a matter of health.
But we will also stand with and fight for those whose rights are being routinely and seriously violated elsewhere and we ask that you join us.
Tweet your MP and ask that they attend Westminster tonight to stand up for the rights of Northern Irish women.