Monday, September 8, 2008

A radical, feminist party

After a workshop with a guest speaker on the final day of the Green Party conference today, I asked the speaker (who had better remain nameless since I didn't ask her if I could quote her) how different she'd found it to other party conferences that she attended. "You're a lot more radical," she said.

And of course she's right. You start to regard such radicalism as "normal" after a few days at conference - and not realise how views about basic fairness and equality are still regarded as radical in the "outside world".

But sometimes it can be very pleasing. I moved, with the support of our new leader Caroline Lucas, among many others, the following emergency motion:
The Green Party conference notes that in October Westminster MPs will be voting on an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill to extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland. It notes that women in Northern Ireland, through the rulings of the parliament in London, have suffered daily discrimination in having to travel to England to pay for an abortion. It notes that it is the poor, the young and the otherwise disadvantaged for whom this presents the most difficulties, but that for all women this means delay that results in abortions that are carried out later than would otherwise be necessary.
Conference calls on MPs to support amendments extending the same access to abortion that has been available to women in England, Scotland and Wales to the women of Northern Ireland.

That motion was not only passed by conference, but passed by an overwhelming majority, with only a very few hands raised in opposition.

It's not an easy topic to raise and get attention paid to. As soon as you mention any issues associated with Northern Ireland a great many journalists and political types roll their eyes and change the subject, and then if you combine that with abortion – a subject that tends to sink into conversations of uncomfortable silence – you're really fighting a battle.

But the Green Party is prepared to take on the difficult issues, the challenging issues - one reason why I'm involved with it, when I can't imagine being involved (and never have even previously considered getting involved) in any other party.


Jim Jay said...

Being flippant for a moment... having spent one workshop arguing over where a hyphen should be for HALF AN HOUR I was very interested to notice where the comma came in "radical, feminist party" as it would make quite a bit of difference to the meaning!

Douglas Coker said...

Jim. Hmmm ... but where were you when you used the word "overseas" in the post above?


Douglas Coker
Enfield Green party

progreen said...

Im a Green Party member in Northern Ireland and if I was at the conference (im also a member of E&W) I would have voted against the abortion act motion.

The Irish Green Party do not have a consensus on abortion because everytime it was raised at conference or convention it was literally 50/50 votes for and against.

So really because there is no consensus the NI Greens, as a regional party within the Irish Greens, could not support the motion imposed on Northern Ireland by the E&W party.

Perhaps this could be sent to the NI Green Party Executive?

Jim Jay said...

Hi progreen,

For clarification, our motion wasn't instructing the Irish Greens to think or do anything it's about Westminster politicians and what their attitude should be on abortion.

Obviously at the next general election we're likely to have MPs and they will be voting on these issues so it's important that the party they are accountable to has a clear policy on this - and GPEw is very firmly pro-choice and that will be how we expect our MPs to vote.

Natalie Bennett said...

Hi Jim, yes I was careful with the comma - it does matter :-)

To progreen, I am aware of the Irish issues, and there is talk that abortion law will be devolved to Northern Ireland (although there is no talk of that happening with Scotland). But my argument (aside from all of the obvious arguments about women's access to abortion) is that what Westminster should bequeath to Northern Ireland at that point should be the UK norm - the "UK model". If NI politicians want to change from that it should have to require active effort on their part, not simply inaction.

progreen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
progreen said...

Thanks for the replies everyone!

It is always great to hear everyones opinions on the matter.

Im am more leaning to pro-life but i am not a religious person in anyway so my conscience isnt to do with passages from the bible.

Anyho my main point was that this motion that was passed should be forwarded to the GPNI executive as it will effect us more than England and Wales Greens.

Also we have devolution in the north now so in my opinion the final say in the matter should be from the Assembly and not be imposed by westminster. The four main parties wrote to westminster mps against abortion being made legal in the north of ireland.

Mystery Green Blogger said...

What we all need to do whatever our view on abortion is seek to reduce the amount of unwanted pregnancies occuring in the first place.

I accept that some women the decision will be medical and pregnant through rape and that like any other humane person would not expect a women to go through with a pregnancy in those situations.

Adoption does not seem to be a option these days and perhaps the Green party should look at that to see if it can become a a viable option for some women with unwanted pregnancies.