Austria: Important success in defending women’s right to abortion

An important case in defending women´s right to abortion was won on 10 July at the end of a lower court trial. SLP member Claudia Sorger (the Socialist Left Party is the CWI´s affiliate in Austria) had been taken to court by the radical anti-abortionists Human Life International because she had criticised their brutal methods in an article. If HLI´s case had been successful it would have meant a significant setback for defending women´s rights. The court decided against HLI´s accusations.

The SLP has been campaigning for 2 ½ years to defend women´s right to abortion against the radical anti-abortionists of HLI. HLI supporters had been intimidating women at abortion clinics for years. Women who had experienced HLI´s methods themselves gave evidence that they were called “murderers of their unborn child” and that the anti-abortionists used methods of psychological pressure against women. The head of the Vienna clinic “Lucina” received anonymous telephone death-threats. These death-threats included that telling her what would be written on her gravestone. This abortion clinic “Lucina” had been taken to court a year before – HLI had bought parts of the house in which the clinic is situated and tried to evict the clinic. This previous case was decided against HLI as well.

When the right-wing Austrian government of the conservative People´s Party and the far-right Freedom Party came into office in 2000, HLI stepped up their attacks on women. HLI´s original lawyer in the case against Claudia Sorger was from the law firm of the Freedom Party´s minister of justice, Dietmar Böhmdorfer. However for the last court hearing HLI changed their lawyer to Alfons Adam, chief of the pro-life movement and therefore himself part of the HLI-network. In his speech at the end of the trial he showed his ideological background by saying: “There is no right for abortion in Austria.”

On an international scale HLI has close connections to the Catholic Church, various groups of the extreme right and the US government. Chancellor Schüssel of the People´s Party had declared some weeks ago that “abortion is a threat that makes an intervention necessary”.

Directly after the court decided against HLI, they said that they would move for a new trial. This shows how important this decision is for them, because through this trial it was proved that HLI methods include initmidating women, death-threats against clinic-staff and propaganda about abortion.

The SLP is campagning for women´s right to decide both if and when to have children, and if so to bring up their children without worrying about how to support them. The right to free contraception, to free abortion and all necessary health care at the time of confinement should be guaranteed. In capitalist society these rights are constantly endangered. This is why fight against women´s oppression is intrinsically linked to the struggle for socialism. The campaign will go on!

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July 2003