Cork ULA motion on abortion

The ULA branch meeting last Wednesday unanimously passed the following motion:

The Cork branch of the ULA supports women’s right to choose how to control their own fertility. We therefore call for full abortion facilities to be made freely available in Ireland, and urge the ULA to do so nationally. The right to abortion must be wholly based on the decision of the woman herself.

This was an amendment of the original motion I had presented for the meeting

The Cork branch of the ULA supports women’s right to choose how to control their own fertility. We therefore call for abortion facilities to be made freely available in Ireland, without any limitations, and urge the ULA to do so nationally. The right to abortion must be wholly based on the decision of the woman herself.

This itself was a change as a result of concerns raised by others on the Cork steering committee who didn’t like my original version:

The Cork branch of the ULA supports womens right to choose how to control their own fertility. We therefore call for free abortion on demand and urge the ULA to do so nationally.

As can be seen there is a consistency in the concerns raised related to not wanting to openly argue for the basic socialist proposition that we are for “free abortion on demand”. It is strange that supposed “revolutionary socialists” would do this and I can only wonder if it is some kind of crass electoralism that motivates this hesitancy.

That being said the motion finally passed is still basically sound and is a massive improvement on anything the ULA has produced on this issue so far.


4 Responses to “Cork ULA motion on abortion”

  1. 1 Mark P
    April 15, 2012 at 20:16

    Is there any difference in content between the phrasing you preferred and the phrasing preferred by your branch? I can’t see any.

    There’s nothing wrong with wanting to phrase demands in an attractive manner, rather than in a manner which only appeals to the already convinced. The point is to persuade people and the phrasing adopted by your branch is, in my view, more attractive than the (poltiically identical) demand for “free abortion on demand”. I suspect that your political past may predispose you to prefer the most strident phrasing possible.

    • April 15, 2012 at 20:53

      Actually you might be surprised to find that it is not just me who uses “the most strident phrasing possible” regarding the issue of abortion…

      “CWI members across the globe have campaigned against religious bigots and other reactionaries who will not accede to the demand for safe, early and free abortion on demand.”
      From the CWI article “Remembering the struggles & victories of women workers” written for International Women’s Day 2012 (http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/5623)

      So the CWI statement for International Women’s Day 2012 is clear that campaigning for “free abortion on demand” is something done “across the globe”.

      Your argument about “phrasing demands in an attractive manner” to get that idea across in Ireland would hold more water if that was reflected in what the SPI has actually argued for. Lets have a look at the key programmatic texts presented to the Irish working class in the past few years:

      Ruth Coppinger’s election statement for the by-election at the end of last year (http://www.socialistparty.net/component/content/article/63-elections/804-socialist-party-by-election-manifesto)

      Has nothing at all to say on women’s rights let alone abortion.

      The SP manifesto for the general election last year (http://www.socialistparty.net/component/content/article/63-elections/608-socialist-party-election-manifesto)

      Also nothing.

      How about the 2004 manifesto for European and Council elections (http://www.socialistparty.net/elections/manifesto.htm)


      How about the general “What We Stand For” (http://socialistparty.net/mani.htm)


      Finally we find something in the 2007 general election manifesto (http://www.socialistparty.net/election07/index.html)

      “The Socialist Party supports the choices of women with crisis pregnancies, and believe in the provision of abortion facilities through the health service.”

      So mostly it doesn’t even get raised and on the odd occasion when it does the formulation used falls far short of presenting the idea of “free abortion on demand”.

      Sorry but facts are stubborn things and the reality is that the SPI has NOT argued for the idea of “free abortion on demand” as part of the programme it presents to the working class when given the opportunity of the wider platform of bourgeois elections. Given that it is a clear part of the formal programme of your international organisational please explain why is it wrong to think this is done for perceived electoral advantage because to present the principled position, no matter the degree of “attractiveness” of the phrases used, would run the risk of losing votes in Ireland?

      • 3 Mark P
        April 16, 2012 at 19:27

        What a bizarre response. Thanks for the little potted polemic, but next time it would perhaps be more useful if you actually engaged with my comment, even in passing, first. There is no difference in content between the phrasing you preferred and the phrasing your branch preferred. That you seek to score some kind of obscure point about it is more revealing about your own political priorities than it is about anyone else.

        Because there is no difference in content, I of course have no particular issue in principle with your phrasing, or with the slightly more commonly used version: “free, safe, legal, abortion on demand”. But given a choice between those various phrasings of the same idea, I would tend to prefer the one chosen by your branch because it puts the issue in a way which is more likely to appeal to an audience beyond the already convinced.

        Your response to me consists of a completely irrelevant rant about Socialist Party election leaflets. Yes, it’s entirely true that abortion rights have appeared sporadically in election material, as have a whole range of other important issues. You then go on from that to an entirely false and cynical conclusion – and again one that perhaps reflects your Spartoid training. If the Socialist Party was in any way interested in hiding its views on abortion, it would hardly be the main force pushing for legislation on X at the moment, and its main spokesperson on the issue, Clare Daly, wouldn’t have been so clear, repeatedly, in her media appearances on the issue, that the proposed legislation doesn’t go nearly far enough and that the Socialist Party stands for a woman’s right to choose rather than simply for abortion on medical grounds.

        Now, we could conclude that this is some elaborate, weird way to duck the issue of abortion out of electoral cowardice, by along with Joan Collins, almost single handedly making it a headline issue again in Irish society. Or we could alternatively come to the conclusion that your Spartoid training is letting you down again. The Socialist Party stands for state provision of abortion services as of right. There is no ambiguity outside of your apparently vivid imagination.

        Perhaps you’d like to answer the question in my original comment? Can you outline for us the difference in content you perceive between your phrasing and that preferred by the rest of your branch? And if you can’t, perhaps you could do some reflecting on what precisely it is about your attitude to politics that leads you to report your branch of the ULA adopting what you accept is a perfectly reasonable position on abortion through this petty lense?

      • April 16, 2012 at 21:03

        Well lets look at what actually happened.

        I had an original motion for the Cork branch which included the traditional socialist position of “free abortion on demand”.

        This was argued against, including by SP comrades, as being too confrontational and I was asked if I could come up with an alternative formulation.

        So I came up with an alternative wording but it turns out it must actually have been a problem with making the political point because another wording was suggested which, while supportable, is open to different interpretations.

        So to answer your question. No I don’t think the wordings are exactly the same in terms of clearly and unambiguously getting across the idea of free abortion on demand.

        And then I find out that the CWI itself uses that phrase which you described as “the most strident possible”.

        So I was then motivated to check what more “attractive” formulations on this issue the SPI had used in the main programmatic statements of recent years. And we know the result – this key issue for women’s liberation in Ireland is usually completely absent.

        So I have two questions for you.

        If it is an example of using “the most strident phrase possible” when I call for free abortion on demand, what is it when the CWI uses the same phrase?

        Given its political importance why is abortion rights completely absent from your “Where We Stand” document along with most of your election manifestos of recent years?

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