England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

Abortion is not a crime! Fight for the right to choose

The sick sexist establishment strikes again! A woman has outrageously been jailed for 28 months – longer than the average sentence for violent crime – for taking an abortion pill beyond the time limit allowed under archaic and restrictive legislation. This is despite the fact that it was impossible for her to know how far through the pregnancy she was, as she had been unable to attend a scan during Covid lockdown conditions. This is one of a number of recent criminal cases in which people have been prosecuted for seeking or obtaining abortions in the UK. 

It shows yet again the need for the feminist and workers’ movements to build mass action to defend and extend the right to bodily autonomy for all women, gender non-conforming and pregnant people. Protests against this cruelty – demanding an immediate end to criminalisation of abortion and the release of anyone jailed via such laws – should be organised around the country in the coming days and weeks.

Abortion is life-saving medical care, and all restrictions placed upon access to it are potentially harmful to anyone who can become pregnant – working-class people most of all. The shocking removal of abortion rights for millions in the US – the most economically ‘advanced’ capitalist country on earth – is a stark warning that, under this system, all progressive change is vulnerable to being reversed and must be defended through mass struggle. 

But we should not expect any fundamental steps to defend our reproductive rights to be ceded willingly by this government. Over the last few years, the Tories have waged a ‘culture war’, inspired by the Trumpite right in the US, playing to the most base and reactionary sentiments in a desperate attempt to salvage support amid an economic crisis and a mass strike wave which has put them on the back foot.

This has included doubling down on patriarchal gender norms. So far this has mainly been directed at trans people, who they see as an easy target. But it is clear that this is a government that is diametrically opposed to any attempt at progressive change for women, LGBTQIA+ people, or the multi-racial, multi-gendered working class as a whole. However there is potential to link the fight for reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ liberation and against the cost of living crisis together in a mass struggle against this government.

Teachers currently confronting the government over pay also have a key role to play, alongside students, in organising to oppose new plans to attack the rights of trans children in schools, and in fighting for fully inclusive sex and relationships education. Healthcare unions fighting privatisation and underfunding in the NHS can play a vital role fighting for reproductive health to be fully resourced. All trade unions can and should also play a leading role in the political struggle for the right to choose, a vital necessity for all working class women and gender-nonconforming people. 

We say this means fighting for: 

  • The immediate removal of abortion from criminal law and the release of anyone imprisoned for seeking to terminate a pregnancy. All those convicted under such laws should be pardoned.
  • The guaranteed legal right to bodily autonomy for all pregnant people, with the provision of abortion care on demand
  • LGBTQIA+ inclusive sex and relationships education in schools
  • A fully funded, publicly-owned and democratically-run NHS, with reproductive care fully resourced and available to all
  • Living benefits, properly funded domestic violence provision, free childcare and high quality low-cost public housing – necessary for real choice in pregnancy
  • Socialist change – for a society run for people not profit, based on solidarity


Fight this sexist system: for a socialist society

The recent criminal cases brought against people for seeking or obtaining abortions, remind us that the court system is not designed to provide real justice for working class people. Its role instead is to uphold and protect the capitalist system. Capitalism is a system which generates and perpetuates many forms of oppression (including sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and ableism). It profits from the unpaid domestic and caring labour of women and gender non-conforming people. It relies on patriarchal gender norms to justify both this and the gender pay gap – which is even bigger for women of colour. 

We fight for a different kind of society, one that is founded on the solidarity of all working-class and oppressed people. A socialist society – based on public ownership and democratic control over the economy – can lay the foundation for a world that is free of all forms of oppression. If you want to help us build this socialist alternative, join us!

International Socialist Alternative 

We are a revolutionary organisation active in over 30 countries. In Ireland in 2018, ROSA – Socialist Feminist Movement, launched by ISA, was decisive in reversing the Irish government’s reactionary ban on abortion and especially to winning 12 weeks on request. In the US last year, Socialist Alternative, alongside ISA’s socialist councilmember Kshama Sawant, led a movement to make Seattle the first right-to-choose ‘sanctuary city’ following the reversal of Roe v Wade. We are active in all struggles of workers and young people against this system. Join us to fight for a socialist feminist alternative to capitalist oppression!


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