Last month, various activist groups including Speaking of Imelda, Fourth Wave: LFA, Stop Trump UK and LIARC responded to the infamous Tories-DUP deal by forming the Reproductive Rights Coalition. They also organised their first protest, which took place in Downing Street and called for the decriminalisation of abortion for all AFAB (assigned female at birth) people in the UK including Northern Ireland. The protest also aimed to draw attention to the DUP’s terrible record on reproductive rights and the role they’ve played in restricting AFAB people’s freedoms in Northern Ireland. Amid a wave of protests against the Tories-DUP coalition, it was the only one led by Northern Irish activists and featuring Northern Irish voices.
Rachel Krengel, an activist from Fourth Wave: LFA, highlighted the inconsistencies and hypocrisies in the Tories-DUP deal when it comes to reproductive rights. In hindsight, we know she was right: Theresa May was forced to agree that women in Northern Ireland could have access to NHS abortions in England, after realising an open vote would pit ‘progressive Tories’ against her new bedfellows. Here is Rachel’s speech in full:
“In April, an anti-choice law came into effect throughout the UK. When the Tories restricted tax credits to only the first two children born to a family, they attacked the reproductive freedom of millions of mothers living in poverty.
If you are one of the 50% of mothers under 25 who regularly goes hungry to feed her kids; if your teenager regularly misses school because you can’t afford to buy them menstrual products; if you work 2 or 3 zero hours job where a day off sick might be the difference between having enough electric to wash the kids’ school uniforms or not – and then you find yourself pregnant with a third child – how can you possibly choose to carry that pregnancy to term, knowing that there will be no additional state assistance for them?
The DUP, like other anti-choice bigots, like to claim that their misogynistic policies are about “saving lives” and “protecting babies”. Leaving aside the logical absurdity of comparing a cluster of cells to a baby or claiming it has rights, by agreeing to prop up a government that is forcing people to terminate potentially wanted pregnancies, the DUP have exposed themselves for the hypocrites they are. Of course, the reason why the Tories and the DUP are so happy to work together like this is that NI’s anti-choice laws are no more about “saving lives” than the two child policy is about saving money. Both are about power and control, putting all those who were AFAB in their place and denying us agency over our own bodies and lives. So when we hear rumours that the Tories might be offering a vote on lowering the foetal age for abortions, it should come as no surprise. This is right in line with their values.
They thought we wouldn’t notice, that they could use smoke and mirrors to divide and conquer us, to keep those of us in England focused on keeping our own reproductive rights and those of us in Northern Ireland believing that the DUP are not complicit in Tory austerity. And you know what? Fuck them for that. Fuck Theresa May for even considering using my body as a bargaining chip to cling to her illegitimate power, and fuck Arlene Foster for denying my sisters, brothers and siblings in Northern Ireland their basic human rights, and fuck the lot of them for thinking that we wouldn’t stand up for each other.
We.are standing here today to tell them that we will. They can take their finger off the trigger of our rights here in England and we will still fight for those in Northern Ireland. It’s no man, woman or non binary person left behind. We know what solidarity means, and if you hurt one of us, you hurt us all. And so we’ll stand together and we will fight until everyone whose biology allows them to become pregnant has access to free safe and legal abortion in London, in Belfast, and in Dublin. In Poland, Argentina, and the US, or anywhere else around the world. We will fight and we will win.”