Right to choose is a class issue

Davena Rankin
Davena Rankin

#STUC16 The last business in a rushed afternoon was the emergency motion on abortion. Because of the time restriction, UNISON’s Davena Rankin limited her speech to just one aspect of the motion. Here we print her short but powerful speech in full.

“The 1967 Abortion Act was never applied to Northern Ireland – something we must fight to change.

“I recently attended the Irish Congress of Trade Unions women’s conference where I heard a woman eloquently explain why access to safe abortion is not only a women’s rights issue but is fundamentally a trade union issue.

“She was in her mid 20s and at the age of 18 she had been forced to travel to London for a termination. It had cost £1,000 which was over two thirds of her monthly salary.

“She was alone and frightened and stayed in a multi bed hostel dormitory. After the procedure, she was in pain and suffered from depression when she returned to work.

“She struggled to attend work and struggled to explain the problem to her line manager, after all, how could she explain her absence without announcing her abortion.

“In the end she lost her job because there weren’t the appropriate workplace policies and practices to support her.

“She lost her job because as a working class Irish women she was unable to access abortion services when and where she needed them.

“She is one of many stories that highlight why trade unions need to be defend the right of a woman to control what happens to her body and why we need to fight to extend that right to every women.

“We will have left humanity behind if we abandon our sisters in Northern Ireland to the unjust system that sees them criminalised or forced to pay for a service that is free in the rest of the U.K.

“We must campaign for the decriminalisation of abortion throughout the UK.

“Please encourage your trade union to affiliate to abortion rights and if you want to join as an individual member you can do so online.”

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