By James Patricks
As a man it sometimes feels wrong to be writing about issues like sexual violence and abortion when they are issues that I will never (or probably will never) have experience. However these are important topics and I’ve done my best to research them thoroughly so I can give an honest assessment.
In the US last week Roe V. Wade was overturned meaning that any state can criminalise abortions. As it stands 22 states have decided to roll back on Roe V Wade in some way. This is a major blow for women’s rights and will lead to the deaths of women, disproportionately black women. It is important to remember that this will also negatively impact trans men and non-binary individuals.
However, what does this have to do with refugees and the UK?
Despite being decriminalised in 2019, Northern Ireland still haven’t implemented any abortion health care meaning that hundreds of women still travel to England every year to get an abortion. Travel is paid for but only for one person. It was found that in 2012 a Chicago based pro-life organisation had poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Northern Irish anti-abortion groups which helped to set back pro-choice movements. While no longer in power the DUP have used their seats to block bills that would expand women’s abortion rights in the country as recently as December.
In the UK abortion is legal up to 24 weeks however it is only allowed under medical circumstances or in cases of rape. Similar to Northern Ireland anti-abortion groups in the England recieve training and funding from US groups and there’s fear that the Roe V Wade overturning could lead to further protests against abortion clinics in the UK. A YouGov poll has found that 85% of Brits support a woman’s right to choose. However this hasn’t stopped the Conservative government from threatening unpopular policies to divert attention from their current failings.
With the government recently throwing out the Human Rights act and pulling out of the European Court of Human Rights they plan to create a new Human Rights bill that will allow them to continue to deport refugees to unsafe countries. A new human rights bill means that all is to play for and with the DUP, having seats in parliament and potentially emboldened by SCOTUS’ Roe V. Wade rulling, could fight to push back on women’s rights to an abortion in our new human rights document.
How does this impact refugees? Any issue that affects women tends to affect female refugees ten fold. In a report from 2014 it was found that 21% of women in conflict zones or fleeing conflict zones are victims of sexual violence and even when they arrive in Europe 69.3% of women and girls have reported sexual violence.
Because of these compounding factors this could lead to refugee women arriving in the UK, being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term only to then be deported to Rwanda.
Women, trans men and non binary people have a good reason to be scared and because of this refugee charities and organisations need to stand in support with pro-choice organisations to make sure we don’t see the same impact happen here.
Consider supporting the National Network of Abortion Funds in the US which helps women travel to states where they can get a safe legal abortion.