ULA national steering committee backs away from taking a strong and clear position on women’s right to choose

Last weeks ULA national steering committee meeting had agreed that Joe Higgins would convene a meeting of the ULA TDs early this week to discuss what motion to put forward in next week’s private members’ business session, with the recommendation from the steering committee that this be based on getting across the ULA policy of free abortion on demand.

Now it appears that the ULA will be backing away from this and instead focusing on clever “tactics” that will “show that the ULA can function as a genuine parliamentary protest wing of a mass movement” which it is believed will, at this stage, only unite around X-case legislation.

The plan of the majority of the steering committee seems to be to move amendments to the Sinn Féin motion today and to resubmit Clare & Joan’s bill on the X-case next week with the TDs meeting today to  finalise this plan. It is argued that “The point of re-tabling it is to force a split in the government; and to expose the emptiness of Labour’s call for immediate action”

I argued in an email as part of the discussion:

“I am actually not necessarily opposed to re-tabling the X-case bill, indeed I was the one who initially posed that idea at the steering committee meeting, but I would be very concerned if that was to mean that the balance of ULA involvement was to tilt in that direction. In fact the balance of ULA involvement must tilt completely the other way. Every article and interview should do what Clare did on The Week in Politics and highlight support for women’s right to choose and campaigning for a referendum.”

I summed up my concerns:

“The main discourse about abortion at the moment is within the framework of the threat to the life of the mother.

“Merely appearing as the most radical within that framework is not good enough.

“Any pro-choice organisation should be conscious of the need to change that strategic framework to one based on women’s right to choose.

“Not to downplay the importance of tactics but it seems to me that the big question here is the strategic issue of women’s right to choose.

“It appears this is getting lost and the tactics being talked about are more to do with parliamentary manouvres to get short-term electoral advantage over the LP rather than tactics for how best to raise the argument for women’s right to choose and free abortion on demand.”

Unfortunately the ULA’s most recent statement – Savita Halappanavar Tragedy: Never Again – does exactly what I am concerned about by discussing the issues completely within the context of the X-case legislation without even a mention of women’s right to choose, let alone the need for free abortion on demand.


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