Today, something amazing happened. A tiny, incremental step that will change lives for the better. An abortion clinic opened up. Not just any abortion clinic, though. This one is in Belfast, in the heart of a country where reproductive choice and bodily autonomy is a right which has been historically denied to women.
Women in Northern Ireland (and the Republic, where the law is similar), have to travel to mainland Britain to access abortion. The opening of the Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast has changed this.
It’s offering contraception advice, help for women, and medical abortions up to nine weeks. It’s not enough, of course it’s not enough, it’s hamstrung by its attempts to comply with existing regulations, but in the context it’s a giant leap. They’re there, in the open, saying “women have abortions and that’s OK. We’re here to help.” And of course it’s drawn the usual attempts to shut down and silence from the usual suspects.
Today, on its opening day, the clinic is plagued by religious fundamentalists and fascists harrassing people. The clinic has asked for there not to be a counter-demo, which is fair enough as a confrontation is the last thing women trying to access abortion in such a hostile environment need.
However, there’s some things that can be done. I hope that in Belfast, a network of abortion escorts is being drawn up; people who can meet women accessing the clinic and guide them through the rabble of fascists safely. I hope there’s other measures for safety to counter these affronts on bodily freedom.
And for those of us who are not physically in Northern Ireland, we need to be loud and vocal in our support, and drown out the clamour of those who seek to control our bodies. Speak out about your support for what Marie Stopes are doing in Belfast.
Attempts to increase access to abortion are important, and I applaud the bravery of Marie Stopes International.