By Hilary White

BRIGHTON, September 12, 2008 ( – The Trades Union Congress (TUC), the largest umbrella organisation of trades unions in Britain, and a highly influential group with the governing Labour party, has called for the total de-restriction of abortion in Britain. At its meeting in Brighton this week, the TUC announced its belief that abortion is a “fundamental right.”

Proposition 19 of the Congress documents says, “Congress believes abortion should be legally available at the request of the woman and the requirement that two doctors agree to her decision should be ended.”

Further, it says, “Congress believes the law should be modernised to allow women, not doctors, to make the abortion decision, like every other medical procedure.”

The TUC is calling for its Women’s Committee to campaign and lobby in Parliament and among other union affiliates to “defend the current legal upper limit of 24 weeks and oppose any mandatory ‘cooling-off’ period and compulsory counselling.”

The Committee should “work closely” with abortion groups and “ensure” a change in law to further liberalise the abortion law and to extend the 1967 Abortion Act into Northern Ireland, a move vigorously opposed by the parliament and people of Northern Ireland. In addition, the TUC called for more and “improved” sex education and contraception, or “family planning”, in schools.

John Smeaton, director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said that the proposals are deceitful in presenting abortion as an “equality” issue. “The truth is,” he wrote, “that abortion hurts women and abortion is the antithesis of equal rights.”

“My worry is that promoting abortion in places of work will also promote an anti-woman, anti-motherhood, agenda in the workplace.” Smeaton says he is concerned that “unscrupulous employers” will use the TUC policy of promoting abortion to avoid paying maternity leave. “How convenient for employers to put their selfish business interests first under the guise of women’s rights!”

Very few real restrictions on abortion still exist in British law and the system as it is provides for virtually unlimited abortion on demand. The law requires that a woman obtain the approval of two doctors for abortion under 24 weeks gestation: but that approval is now a matter of form. Abortions for eugenic purposes on children suspected to have a “serious” defect is without restriction.

In recent years, British abortion providers have been criticised but not penalised for referring women over the 24 week limit to other EU countries to obtain late-term abortion on healthy children.

During the debates on the government’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill, proposals have been put forward as amendments that will abolish these restrictions. Efforts to tighten restrictions and limit abortion have been defeated.

In the same TUC document, Proposition 16 also chided the government for focusing on what it called “traditional protections from discrimination on grounds of sex, race and age” and neglecting the “newer equality strands” that support the homosexualist political movement’s aims. The Congress calls for lobbying in support of the “newer and more controversial strands” of “equality” focusing on “sexual orientation” and “transgender status.”

With fifty-nine affiliated unions and a total of about 6.5 million members, the TUC remains a strong influence on the Labour party, which has its roots in trade unionism. The TUC was the body which initiated the Labour Representation Committee in the late 19th century which went on to become the modern Labour Party. Although there is no formal link between the TUC and the party, the major TUC affiliated unions still make up the great bulk of the British Labour Party affiliated membership.


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