One arrested as Cardiff confronts anti-abortion bigots

widd-demo.jpgThere was no sign of Ann Widdecombe in Cardiff last night as the protest against her “Passion For Life”(sic) anti-abortion roadshow exceeded all expectations (video).

Over a hundred pro-choice demonstrators packed the pavement outside the City Temple to give the anti-abortionists a reception they will not forget in a hurry.

Speeches by Katy Ladbrook of Abortion Rights, Leanne Wood AM, Mariam Kamish of the Socialist Party and Jon Blake of Permanent Revolution stressed the bogus nature of the “pro-life” arguments and the need to keep up the offensive in support of progressive reform of the UK’s antiquated abortion laws.

Meanwhile the “Passion For Life”‘s clientele, bussed in from as far afield as Cheltenham, was given a clear message from chanting protesters: “Pro-life, that’s a lie – you don’t care if women die”. With 80,000 women estimated to die each year in backstreet abortions around the world, the slogan perfectly encapsulated the rank hypocricy of religious bigots who aim to put women back in the dark ages when they were classed with the mentally ill as people incapable of making moral decisions.

The protest was militant but commendably disciplined in the face of police heavy-handedness, confrontational meeting organisers and one cowardly anti-abortionist who sent a jet of water over two babies in prams from a passing car.

The police had been all warmth and sunshine to the members of Bristol Feminist Network who had contacted them about the picket. On the night, however, they suddenly sprang a demand that the protest take place on the other side of the road. When protesters refused, police reinforcements were called in and a well-known Cardiff anarchist singled out for arrest on a trumped-up charge of assaulting a police officer. If taking a photo now constitutes assault, civil liberties is in an even worse state than we feared.

Cardiff PR have often bemoaned the sectarianism of the Cardiff left, but the solidarity shown by protesters in heading off to the central police station after the demo was heartening indeed.

A grey-faced meeting organiser, clearly rattled by the strength and passion of the demo, demanded the right to speak. However, pro-choice activists can be assured of one thing: the Permanent Revolution megaphone will never be allowed into the hands of an anti-abortionist. He was given short shrift, along with his bogus talk of free speech – strange it hadn’t occurred to this bigot that the pro-choice argument had no chance of being raised in the meeting he supported.

In an age when awareness of sexual politics has been eroded by an overwhelming sexism in popular culture, the number of young people on the demo, both male and female, was encouraging. Now, however, we need to build on this protest to create a lasting pro-choice activist group in the Cardiff area which will go on the offensive to fight for the abortion rights that women need. Cardiff PR, in association with other local activists, have set up Pro Choice Cardiff for this purpose. Dozens signed up for this at the protest – it’s also possible to join on Facebook. Let’s ensure that Widdecombe and friends truly get the reward they deserve for daring to bring their medieval roadshow to our city.

Stop Press: Pro Choice Cardiff is organising a follow-up meeting next Weds, 12 March, at Cardiff University – details to follow.

Below: a reminder of how some of the left got suckered into an alliance with a well-known anti-abortionist – never again!

Let’s ensure the left never again gets in bed with anti-abortionists!

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This entry was posted in abortion, pro-choice, socialism, Uncategorized, Wales, Widdecombe and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to One arrested as Cardiff confronts anti-abortion bigots

  1. rob says:

    An excellent demo and agood report.
    However it’s a shame that someone who “bemoaned the sectarianism of the Cardiff left” feels tha need to get in a sectarian dig about Respect.

  2. permanentrevolution says:

    Sectarianism for us means putting the interest of your group or party above the interests of the class as a whole. It doesn’t mean shying away from political argument. The sell-out on women’s rights by the SWP in their blinkered pursuit of the now failed Respect project was a disgrace which all the left should be reminded of and their members and supporters should reflect on with due seriousness.

  3. rob says:

    Do a post on Respect then.

    And I’d just say there was no sell out on women’s rights. Respect policy is for a woman’s right to choose.

    http://www.respectcoalition.org/index.php?ite=506

    “Abortion

    Noting the following provisions in the Founding Declaration of Respect – The Unity Coalition:

    Opposition to all forms of discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs (or lack of them), sexual orientation, disabilities, national origin or citizenship.
    The right to self-determination of every individual in relation to their religious (or non-religious) beliefs, as well as sexual choices.

    Respect therefore opposes any change in legislation that restricts abortion rights and defends the right to choose.”

    I’d be interested in what you have to say on Respect but having a wee dig at the swp at the end of another wise good report on a successful demo is a bit off.

    Especially as it was swp women comrades who initiated the protest outside the police station.

  4. permanentrevolution says:

    Now that the split with Galloway has taken place, the SWP are covering their backs on abortion.
    Fact: Galloway, Respect’s sole MP, was an outspoken anti-abortionist. Would Respect have required him to vote pro-choice on the HFE bill? No!
    Fact: Lindsey German said that she would not make a “shibboleth” of gay rights. In other words, people would not be required to support them to join Respect.
    Fact: The Respect website studiously avoided any mention of contentious issues concerning women’s or gay rights. Phil Dore (www.butterfliesandwheels) came up with the following count:
    “A search of the website under the word “gay” returned just one document – a newsletter from the Brighton and Hove branch of Respect that made brief reference to a Stonewall protest for gay rights in their area. Searching under “gay rights” again returned just that one document from Brighton and Hove. “Homosexual”, “bisexual”, “feminism”, “feminist”, “abortion”, “contraception” and “sexuality” all returned no documents whatsoever.”
    A vague paper position in the Respect constitution, in practice, meant nothing. The anti-abortionists in Respect’s ranks accepted it as the price of keeping the SWP on board so long as there was no open promotion of the women’s and gay agendas.

    In order to move forward on the left we first have to be honest when we’ve made a mistake.

    A protest against Val’s arrest was planned as soon as it happened, but we applaud the involvement of SWP members. It makes no difference to our criticisms of Respect.

  5. rob says:

    Fine.I’ve no problem with you stating your views.I just feel that a snippy little dig in your post is a bit uncalled for. There’s enough nasty obsessive blogs having a go without you having a go.And I’m sure your’e not like them.
    So,maybe a bit more comradelyness 🙂

  6. nectarine says:

    who aim to put women back in the dark ages when they were classed with the mentally ill as people incapable of making moral decisions.

    that totaly reads like you dont think mentaly ill people are capable of making moral deciscions, change the wording or check your ableism

  7. nectarine says:

    damn thats suposed to read “incapable of making moral decisions”

  8. permanentrevolution says:

    Apologies if that’s your interpretation but that’s not what we say. It’s just a fact about the law that reflects on capitalism’s view of both groups. In fact, of course, the whole definition of “mental illness” is highly political, with women who transgressed bourgeois social norms, especially in sexual affairs, regularly incarcerated in psychiatric hospitals.

  9. rob says:

    Since you couldn’t find anything on the Respect website with a search using the word “gay” I found this quite quickly:

    http://www.respectcoalition.org/index.php?ite=506

    “LGBT rights

    This conference welcomes the production of a Respect leaflet for London Pride.

    It supports the policies outlined in that leaflet i.e.

    An end to discrimination against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people
    For Equal partnership and pension rights
    For strong policies to tackle homophobia in all public bodies
    For an increase in public services that meet the needs of lesbians, gay men bisexuals and transgendered people, rather than money wasted on war.
    Conference instructs the incoming National Committee to produce similar material for all Pride events next year and urges local groups to make sure the material is distributed at events in their area.”

    And Respect did indeed have a presence at the last year’s pride in London.
    Of course using your strange logic I suppose this means we’re all homophobic bigots.

    As for Galloway and abortion sometimes you have to make alliances with people you don’t agree with on some things on the basis of things you do agree with.

    If Galloway had been actively agitating for anti-abortion and speaking at SPUC meetings or on the same platforms as Widdecombe then that would have been a problem but he didn’t and doesn’t.

    Respect’s policy in support of the right to choose is there in black and white . Take it or leave it.

    A small point on the protest at the police station. It was an SWP comrade who asked people over the megaphone to go up to the station. This was just before the speaker from the Socialist Party.Just previous to that I heard the same comrade suggesting that that’s what we should do. It doesn’t really matter whose idea it was,whether it was the SWP or anyone else,as long as the protest took place. I just resent the implication that I’m lying.

    On a positive note it was a fantastic demo the day after a highly successful Stop the War meeting with over 200 people. It looks like Stop the War have 3 or 4 buses going
    to the demo in London on the fifteenth. The same Unison branch that paid for a minibus to the Peace conference in London last year is helping to sponsor the transport to the demo. It feels as if Cardiff has a viable left for the first time in years.

    My last comment on this blog by the way , I find sectarian point scoring quite tedious.

  10. Pingback: Abandon all protest now, major rethink in progress « Mind the Gap

  11. The silence from the Equality and Human Rights Commission is deafening. Doesn’t Kate Bennet support a womans right to choose even withour HER permission. EHRC should condemn this anti-abortion road show.

  12. permanentrevolution says:

    Rob – at no point have you denied that Galloway is anti-abortion; this is why we raised the issue. You say: “As for Galloway and abortion sometimes you have to make alliances with people you don’t agree with on some things on the basis of things you do agree with.”
    Quite right – if you’re talking about a united front against the Iraq War.
    Absolutely wrong – if you’re talking about a political party, even when this is disguised as a ‘coalition’.
    Respect involved both Galloway and the SWP trying to face two ways to hold together incompatible constituents. That is absolutely plain to everybody except Respect supporters. In the Independent on Sunday, 5 April, 2007, Galloway said the following: “I’m strongly against abortion. I believe life begins at conception, and therefore unborn babies have rights. I think abortion is immoral” The statement was followed by this press release by the Muslim Association of Britain: “These comments , as well as his statements on faith and God in the same interview, will surely be welcomed by British Muslims who see Respect as a real alternative.”
    In contradiction to what you say, therefore, Galloway deliberately raised his anti-abortion credentials to build Respect. And was not condemned for it by the SWP.
    Again, we make no apologies for drawing attention to this. It is not petty point-scoring, but a comment on an inexcusable sell-out for which no-one is taking responsibility!

  13. Aurelia says:

    Anne Greagsby complains that the Equality and HUMAN Rights Commission was silent about a lawful public meeting raising awareness about a legitimate subject of public debate. That’s probably because it takes the view that freedom of speech, assembly and thought are basic human and civil rights which it is in the business of upholding not suppressing.
    It says a lot about the pro-abortion cause that it attracts such flabby-minded petty Stalinoids who expect government bureaucracies to squash civil liberties on the one hand, and middle-aged male wierdos who use more crude methods of forcing their weltanshauung on everyone on the other.
    Like surrounding the entrance to a building and straining at the barriers so terrifying old aged pensioners exercising their democratic rights to go to a public meeting.
    Like bellowing abusive slogans at them through a cattlehorn. Like employing inflammatory rhetoric and accusing them of bigotry, a charge more suited to the accuser than the accused. Like taking delight in their intimidatory tactics and boasting about them on their self-serving blog.
    Let me tell you that those OAPs had more guts than you will ever have, braving that barrage of abuse and intimidation to get to a public meeting.
    Well done to MINDTHEGAP for dissociating herself from the disgraceful scenes on Tuesday night.
    Jon Blake should issue an IMMEDIATE public apology on behalf of himself and his grouplet for the distress they caused the Cardiff Passion For Life attendees and they should promise never to do it again.

  14. permanentrevolution says:

    Since we published this article we’ve had nearly 500 hits on our website (up to Sun am), so it not surprising the anti-choice lobby has made use of our comments facility. Normally comments involving personal insult and misinformation are barred, but since this one can only do damage to its own cause, it’s been allowed.
    The writer was clearly not at the demo, and is basing his argument solely on our article and the accompanying video.
    In the first place, Cardiff PR, while proud of our role in building the demo, were most certainly not responsible for everything that occurred on it, as was suggested by the bizarre article on Cardiff Mind the Gap’s website which has given such comfort to the anti-choice lobby.
    However, there was nothing about the demo from which we would want to disassociate ourselves either.
    Everybody present on Tuesday was remarkably united on two things: that we would make our feelings abundantly clear, but that there would be no attempt to prevent people attending the rally. There was not. There were, however, insults aplenty from people going into the rally, who were not the poor victimised OAPs the anti-choicers and Mind the Gap allege, but a range of people, male and female, old and young, only united by their determination to deny a woman the right to choose on abortion and to return us to the days of backstreet operations through which countless thousands died, and in those countries where abortion is illegal, still do die.
    The megaphone was used to make speeches, not to shout slogans, and Katy Ladbrook’s excellent and informative speech can be read on http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2008/03/last_nights_pro. One of the points Katy made was that nobody was “pro-abortion”. One of the points we have consistently stressed is that free contraception and universal sex education are desperately needed to cut down on the number of abortions, and where abortion is necessary, it should be carried out as early as possible, by nurses as well as doctors. The “Passion For Life” promoters are against all of these things.
    Finally, others on the left are more than welcome to post their opinions here, but publishing their comments does not necessarily mean we agree with their strategies.

  15. Pingback: Mind The Gap temporarily taken over by anti-choice Alien Overlords! « Mind the Gap

  16. permanentrevolution says:

    Can anybody find the reference to Mind the Gap being anti-choice?
    We refer readers to our previous comment about the demo, and encourage the Mind the Gap bloggers to get in touch with Abortion Rights and the Bristol Feminist Network to solicit their opinions on whether the protest was appropriate and worthwhile.
    One final point: Cardiff PR attempted to get all pro-choice groups and activists together in the week before the demo in order to discuss precisely how it should be conducted (allowing for the fact there is always a spontaneous element in these things). We got a reply from Mind the Gap saying they were going to protest the rally and that it would be a good idea to organise together. But no-one from MTG was at the subsequent meeting.

  17. Katy says:

    I do not believe that mind the gap is anti-choice whatsoever. They have some valid concerns regarding the suitability of the picket on the 4th, but I have no doubt that they powerfully support the right to choose.

    In response to MTG’s two previous articles on the demo (which I am unable to respond to on the blog), I would like to make two points:

    1. The pro-life lobbying around the HFE bill does pose a real threat to the Abortion Act. The last time there was an HFE bill they were successful in reducing legal access to abortion. Abortion Rights correctly called for demos across the country against P4L, who are a very well organised and well funded anti-choice campaign group. I think we were right to protest in Cardiff.

    2. Apart from the unfortunate arrest of a photographer, I think the demonstrators and police behaved very well. I did not witness any intimidation of meeting attendees and was happy to see that access to the meeting was respected by protesters. If anyone did witness protesters threatening people (elderly or not, doesn’t matter) please will they email me. I found it to be a peaceful protest and am genuinely disappointed to hear rumors that this may not be true.

    Please can all we try to maintain that rare sense of unity on this issue?

    Thank you to everybody who has worked so hard to protest peacefully and with respect, even towards the people who you may disagree with.

    abortionrights at gmail dot com

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