Abortion doctor murder kindles determination

June 5, 2009

Kate Smurthwaite-Feminist writer Kate Smurthwaite is on the executive committee of Abortion Rights. The opinions expressed are her own. –

The murder of U.S. abortion provider Dr George Tiller comes as horrifying news for the many thousands of women who have been helped by him, their families and friends and the worldwide community that supports a woman’s right to control her own body. It also comes as a stark reminder of the strength of feeling and culture of intimidation that has developed among a small minority of those who oppose a woman’s right to choose whether to have a child.

Tiller survived an attempt on his life in 1993 when he was shot in both arms. Others involved in providing abortions have lost their lives in the U.S. over recent decades. His decision to keep open the doors of his clinic was a brave one and one for which so many women will be forever grateful.

Here in Europe we like to think the anti-choice movement is more respectful of the democratic process. Sadly that is not always the case. In Britain, 83 percent of the public support a woman’s right to choose, yet during recent parliamentary debates on issues including extending the 1967 abortion act to Northern Ireland, MPs were sent plastic foetuses with graphic (and inaccurate) descriptions of the abortion process.

The latest development is even more insidious – a group of anti-choice campaigners are attempting to use the Freedom of Information Act to obtain detailed breakdowns of late term abortions carried out for medical reasons.

If they are successful the data granted will likely enable them to identify women who have made the difficult decision to end a wanted pregnancy because their own life is at risk or the foetus would die at birth or suffer a brief and tortured life. When you look at the news from the U.S. it’s easy to see why confidentiality simply cannot be compromised.

Meanwhile abortion in England, Scotland and Wales remains legal, available on the NHS, for free and in total confidence. We will continue to fight to keep it that way.

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