On March the 15th a Viennese court made a final ruling in a court case that extreme anti-abortionists have run against Claudia Sorger, the spokesperson for women’s affairs of the Socialist Left Party (SLP), the Austrian section of the CWI.
This was over our campaign against the methods of the extreme anti-abortionists from Human Life International (HLI). This court confirmed the verdict of a lower court that the SLP is right to say that HLI uses terror, psycho terror, lies, intimidation and that the head of an abortion clinic was faced with death threats. This final court decision is an important victory in this longstanding campaign of the SLP.
In the 1990s, the extreme anti-abortionists started their campaigning work in Austria. They stood in front of clinics, took photos of women and pro-choice activists going into the clinics and called these women “murderers”. They told lies about the danger of breast-cancer after an abortion and about the mental problems they claimed every woman suffers after an abortion. The right to obtain an abortion has existed since 1975 in Austria, but in recent years it became increasingly necessary to defend this fundamental right of women.
The SLP took up this issue, organising protests against the activities of HLI, especially those they organised in front of a clinic in Vienna called ‘Lucina’. This clinic was a special target of HLI. The HLI bought the building that houses the clinic, tried to evict the clinic through a court case (which failed), and picketed the clinic on a daily basis. To defend the right of women to have an abortion meant for the SLP the need to defend this clinic, which meant a campaign over the last three years.
As the SLP was, in fact, the only organisation that decisively defended the right of abortion, the Chairman of HLI-Austria, Dietmar Fischer, took legal action against Claudia Sorger, the SLP’s spokesperson for women’s affairs because she explained in an article about the methods of HLI. In the court case a number of witnesses confirmed all the details Claudia gave and even more information about the HLI’s methods became public. In one case, a woman that wanted to have an abortion was taken by HLI activists to their “information centre”. They told the woman that this would be the clinic, but then locked her up for two hours and showed her videos about abortions.
Now a court, at the highest level, has decided that the descriptions from Claudia Sorger and the SLP about the methods of the extreme anti-abortionist are true on all points: that terror; psycho-terror are used by HLI; that women are insulted and hindered in entering the clinic; and that activists from HLI spread death threats and lies. This is an enormous victory for the campaign.
HLI has powerful friends
But we have also to understand that the HLI activists will continue with their activities. They have supporters in the ranks of the church and in both the government parties in Austria. Their ideology goes hand-in-hand with the social cuts that are implemented by the government and by the government’s policy of trying to force women back into the role of staying at home and having children. Therefore this victory has to be seen as a step for a campaign against the network of extreme anti-abortionists.
An important effect of the SLP campaign is that the social democrat-run Vienna city council has had to reduce the prices of abortions in the city’s public hospitals. Although this is an important improvement, it is still, in fact, extremely difficult to have an abortion in a public hospital.
The SLP argues for a ban on the intimidating pickets of the extreme anti-abortionists immediately outside the clinics and organises counter protests. These protests should be widened, to include women, the staff at the clinic and the people of the area.
The SLP also campaigns against the so-called “life centres” of the extreme anti-abortionists, which put forward reactionary propaganda that is aimed against women’s rights.
As part of our campaign, we demand that every public hospital must make available the opportunity for abortions in special departments. The cost of abortion must be covered by regular health insurance.
As the Lucina-clinic may possibly go bankrupt, the clinic has to be taken into public ownership, so that women can still have access to abortion services, and it must become a self-organised, women’s health centre. More of those centres should be established in other areas
Contraception has to be given out free on demand, and in all schools there should be comprehensive sex education. The health system has to be nationalised, under the democratic control and planning of working people.