Against the erosion of women’s rights across the UK

Friday 03-07-2015 - 17:48

As you may be aware, the Scotland Bill—a piece of legislation that will devolve some more powers to the Scottish Parliament—is currently making its way through the House of Commons. One issue that was discussed during the negotiations that led to the Bill, but ultimately was left for the future, was the devolution of abortion. It was recognised by all involved that a woman’s right to choose is one that we have fought incredibly hard to protect, in Britain, and any debate about devolving abortion had to be led by the women, and women’s’ organisations, of Scotland. 

However, in the last day or two, an amendment to the Bill, due to be debated on Monday, has been lodged by three anti-choice, English MPs, who are all members of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, who seek to restrict women's access to reproductive justice. The amendment proposes to devolve abortion regulation to Scotland. We should be in absolutely no doubt that an amendment lodged by three stridently, and publically, anti-abortion English MPs is not an amendment designed to protect women’s rights in either the UK or Scotland. Moreover, it flies right in the face of the wide consensus that any debate on the devolution of abortion must be led—as women’s issues always should—by the women of Scotland. To date, no women’s organisation has been contacted or consulted about this. 

While no one would suggest that Scotland couldn’t, or shouldn’t, have legislation over abortion devolved, it is clearly being done in an underhand way, and spearheaded by the anti-abortion lobby. Not only are there huge unanswered question about what this would mean in Scotland, the fact that it’s being pushed forward by English MPs would indicate that they are simply trying to push Scottish MPs out of any future House of Commons votes on abortion, in an attempt to possibly give themselves a bigger vote in any future abortion debates.

We all want to see the strongest possible Scottish Parliament we can, with the full range of powers we need for a fairer, more equal society. But we should also—collectively, and across the UK—take a stand against any attack on a woman’s right to choose. This amendment smacks of just such an attack. 

The women’s campaigns of Scotland, Wales and the NUS UK (and Northern Ireland, where abortion shockingly remains illegal) would encourage you all to get in touch with your MP to make them aware of this amendment, the fact it’s being led by anti-abortion MPs, and the consequences it could have, right across the UK. If you’re not sure who your MP is, you can find them here. This website also gives you the chance to email them directly; however, given the vote is on Monday, and most (if not all) MPs are now on Twitter, we’d encourage you to drop them a tweet and find out what their opinion is. You can find a list of Scottish MPs here.

If you have any questions, please do just get in touch. 

Emily Beever            
NUS Scotland Women’s Officer

Susuana Amoah
NUS UK Women’s Officer

Rosie Inman
NUS Wales Women’s Officer/ Swyddog y Menywod

Jo Gowers
NUS-USI Women’s Officer



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