“No return to knitting needles – defend the right to choose.” The slogan thundered in large protests, organised in 33 towns all over Norway last Saturday. The demonstrations protested against the right-wing government’s planned attack on abortion rights.
The protest in Oslo gathered over 8,000 angry protesters against the government’s cynical bartering over women’s right to choose. The governing Conservatives, Liberals and the far right Progress party are trying to secure majority parliamentary support by offering to sacrifice women’s rights over their own bodies to get the support of the Christian Democrats. It is against all of their electoral programmes and the Christian Democrats have promised again and again not to cooperate with the Progress party. The broken electoral promises from the entire bourgeois political elite show how fake and empty liberal/conservative electoral politics is! The working class is increasingly fed up with their undemocratic power game.
The women’s movement – Kvinnefronten, Kvinnegruppa Ottar and Norsk Kvinnesaksforening – gathered tens and thousands of protesters in 33 cities and towns across Norway: Over 8000 in Oslo, 4-5000 in Bergen, over 2000 in Trondheim, over 1000 in Kristiansand, 7-800 in Stavanger, around 500 in Tromsø and thousands more spread out across smaller towns and villages!
The Socialist Left party had the strongest presence of the political parties, and is the party with the strongest critique of the government in the parliament. The other left wing parties -Labour and Red – also participated. The Liberal party also participated which is an absurd situation, since they are participating in the government which is turning the clock back on women’s rights! The Socialist Left party and the Liberal party had speakers, and it was obvious that the liberal speaker got far less applause. There was also a decent trade union contingent on the protests with various union banners on display. Collectively the protest had a clear leftist- and working class profile.
The background for the protests is the internal debate within the Christian Democrats. They fell from 5.6% of the vote to 4.2% in the 2017 election (almost missing the 4% threshold), after having supported the right wing coalition government for 4 years. The party continued supporting the government, and continued to fall in the polls. The party leader, Knut Arild Hareide, then proposed for the party to do a left turn and form a government with the Labour Party. An extra congress was called and massive infighting raged within the party for a month. If he had won the argument, the right wing government would have been forced to resign.
At the same time as the debate progressed, the Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, proposed that certain parts of the law regulating access to free abortion rights for women… should be changed ? Today the time limit for free abortions is the 12th week of pregnancy. There is also an opening for an extended time limit if there are medical complications in the foetus. The proposed change would remove this option and impose a humiliating interview by a committee for everyone in this situation. The Christian Democrats clearly support this, but they are also demanding even more severe restrictions. There are also factions within the party that are demanding a complete ban on abortions. Solberg clearly made the proposal to influence the internal debate in the Christian Democrats and to secure her own power.
The government in Norway is weak and unstable since the last election. At the November 2nd Congress of the Christian Democrats, the right wing won and the party is attempting to join the government, participating with the Progress party. However, large parts of the Christian Democrats are against this, since the party supported the vote that impeached the former minister of immigration from the Progress party, the racist Sylvi Listhaug. This might mean a splitting of the party.
The rights that women have achieved after long and hard struggle are now threatened, so that the bourgeois and reactionary government be allowed to continue its existence. In 2014 the government’s earlier attempt to weaken the right to an abortion was defeated by the largest demonstrations on International Women’s Day, March 8th, since 1975. Today the struggle needs to continue and be strengthened, with the aim of toppling the government.