On May 25th, over 66% of Irish people voted to legalise abortion. This is a historical victory for Irish women. But they will have to make sure that the bill legalising abortion up to 12 weeks is passed.
There is reason to celebrate, after all those years of illegal abortions in dangerous conditions, or paying for a ticket to England or Holland to have a safer abortion. For decades, the Catholic church has kept a tight control on the Irish society, to keep its power over families and women’s bodies. Not to mention the hypocrisy: rich women had the financial means to go around the ban on abortion, by going abroad. Not so working-class women, thus subject to a double hardship.
So being able to choose whether to be pregnant or not, being able to decide what to do with one’s body and life, that is a first victory.
An incomplete victory
Elsewhere, even if abortion has been legalised, women’s rights are still fragile. Only a few years ago, the Spanish government attempted to come back on abortion rights, except in case of grave health danger for the mother or in case of rape. Only mass demonstrations were able to force the plan to be abandoned.
In France, the right to abort and to sexual freedom is being threatened by cost saving policies. These policies lead to the closing of family planning centres, or to hospitals practicing abortions in degraded conditions, with long waiting lists – in parallel to the degraded work conditions of healthcare staff. Not to mention the doctors who invoke “personal conscience” to avoid doing this medical procedure.
A daily fight
The Weinstein scandal and the #Metoo movement to condemn sexual harassment remind us that women’s oppression is a big issue. In Spain, tens of thousands of demonstrators, mostly women and young people, protested against the court ruling that cleared the “wolf pack” of gang rape. The judges were particularly indulgent with this group of men who raped a young woman in an alley and filmed it, which angered a large part of the population. Sexual violence cannot remain unpunished.
At work, too, there are numerous sexist behaviours that rarely are punished. On the contrary, in many cases the victims end up punished by management. Not to mention wage inequalities between men and women, with women also more threatened by job insecurity and imposed part-time work.
In France, the first wins of the feminist movements and legalisation of abortion in 1974 were consequences of May 68 and the general strike that had mobilised ten million workers, men and women.
Women of the world, lead the class struggle so the future of mankind won’t look so gloomy.