On 27th April 1968, 46 years ago, the Abortion Act became law, and women in the UK – except in Northern Ireland – were entitled to get safe, legal abortions. That’s half a lifetime ago. There can be few doctors or nurses still practicing who have first-hand memories of the bad old prolife days.
Every year for the past few years, on the Saturday closest to that date, SPUC stand in a line down Lothian Road, on the Sheraton Hotel side, and express their sorrow and regret for 46 years of health and wellbeing for women.
One of these things is not like the others? After all, Thatcher’s sole political merit was that she was pro-choice. Let me explain.
Ding Dong the Wicked Old Witch is a jolly song. As Angry Women of Liverpool note in their feminist analysis of how to discuss Thatcher’s death “there are so few songs you can sing joyfully about the death of somebody thoroughly deserving”:
Tough one. The history of witch persecution is fraught with the very foundations of modern capitalist and patriarchal oppression, as anybody who’s read Silvia Federici knows. But there are so few songs you can sing joyfully about the death of somebody thoroughly deserving.
You want a proper argument in defence? Give me a minute. Continue reading
In response to your latest column in the New Statesman.
Being “a lefty” has a vague definition. To Daily Mail readers, it may mean anyone leftwing of Kenneth Clarke: to Mitt Romney’s followers, David Cameron is an unacceptable lefty. But let’s suppose it means, more or less, that you consider “social equality” to be more important than individual profit. I put “social equality” inside inverted commas because I appreciate that this is itself a concept that people have a different understanding of: it’s not so long since LGBT people were not included in any lefty mainstream understanding of “social equality”, and as we see with the current support for restricting abortion rights, for Julian Assange’s “right” to dodge being questioned on a sexual assault charge, for the silence about Jimmy Savile’s sexual abuse for so many decades, it’s still uncertain whether many men think to include women in their ideal of “social equality”.
As the Met Police gear up to investigate Jimmy Savile’s serial rapes when he was working at the BBC, and how he was allowed to continue as a presenter of shows with a teenage audience despite many at the BBC knowing that he was a predator, Deborah Orr writes:
To the people who say that understanding why Savile got away with his crimes is useless because he is dead; to the people why say it’s a BBC problem, not a societal problem, I beg this: Look at the crimes that were committed by one man under cover of a dangerously misogynistic permissiveness, and wake up to the fact that this is exactly what all those tedious feminists mean when they talk of “rape culture”. I beg this: wake up and look at the damage these attitudes did, as the whole of a nation watched. Wake up and see that these attitudes are by no means entirely of the past, not yet.
No. No, they are not.
Last week, the Everyday Sexism Project received a message from a student about to start her first year studying physics at Imperial College, London.
The message included a forwarded email, which she said had been sent by the Physics Society to all first year physics students. It read “Freshers’ Lunch…This will be mainly a chance for you to scope out who’s in your department and stake your claim early on the 1 in 5 girls.”
In 2008, fifteen Shadow ministers who are in the Cabinet today voted to cut the right to choose abortion to 22 weeks. (David Cameron: also Chris Grayling, William Hague, Philip Hammond, Jeremy Hunt, Andrew Lansley, Oliver Letwin, Francis Maude, Theresa May, Patrick McLoughlin, David Mundell, Owen Paterson, and Eric Pickles.)
David Davies, Liam Fox, Damian Green, Patrick McLoughlin, Owen Paterson – in all twenty front bench Conservative MPs, including Jeremy Hunt – had earlier voted in favour of cutting the right to choose abortion to 12 weeks.
In October 2010, Jeremy Hunt was happy to “elaborate” on the role of Tory cuts in denying people on a low income support for large familes:
“The number of children that you have is a choice and what we’re saying is that if people are living on benefits, then they make choices but they also have to have responsibility for those choices,” Hunt said on Wednesday’s Newsnight. “It’s not going to be the role of the state to finance those choices.”
Which member of the Privy Council is best qualified to be Chancellor of the Exchequer? It is not, obviously, George Osborne, who famously doesn’t even have O-grade maths and who is driving the UK into double-dip recession because he has no notion about economics beyond “tax cuts for the rich=GOOD”.
Oddly enough in a Tory Cabinet, it’s actually a comprehensive-school kid from Wales.
Maria Lewis went to Brynteg Comprehensive School/Ysgol Gyfun Brynteg in Bridgend and took a BSc in Economics at the LSE. (When she married Iain Miller in 1990 she took his surname and has stood for election as Maria Miller ever since.) She isn’t a crony of Cameron from the Bullingdon Club (they don’t let girls in), she didn’t go to Oxbridge, she wasn’t privately educated, and she didn’t marry into the web of privilege: she will never be one of the Secret Seven. I imagine as a member of the Conservative Party since she was 19 she’s got used to that kind of thing.
Maria Miller has been MP for Basingstoke since 2005. As she was born in 1964 she’ll be aware that to David Cameron (born 1966), she has a useful life only to 2018, even if the Tories scrape a win in 2015: Caroline Spelman was sacked in the reshuffle for being too old at 54.
About quarter to 12, my oldest friend, who’d been staring at the SPUC Edinburgh protesters across the road, turned to me. “You know, I remember us demo’ing for this in the 1980s. And in the 1990s. Now it’s 2012. And we still have to do it?”