SWASG

La historia se repite: Activismo pro-elección irlandés y español en Londres en los años 80 y ahora (VIDEO)

Feministas británicas, españolas e irlandesas de los colectivos pro-elección My Belly is Mine, Asamblea de mujeres y Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A., llevaron a cabo una acción de protesta el 2 de agosto en el centro de Londres, para dar a conocer el proyecto de ley anti-aborto en España, conocido como ‘ley de Gallardón’. El proyecto de ley será pronto presentado en el Congreso español. La acción también supuso la presentación oficial del nuevo grupo Spanish Women’s Abortion Support Group (SWASG 2.0), que tiene como objetivo proporcionar apoyo en la práctica a las mujeres que viajen desde el Estado Español a Londres para interrumpir su embarazo si el proyecto de ley pasase. Este grupo de apoyo es el Nodo Londres de la Red Internacional Federica Montseny, iniciativa desarrollada por las feministas españolas en Berlín.

Grupos de apoyo al aborto en Londres en los años 80

Ésta no es la primera vez que un grupo de apoyo como SWASG 2.0 ha existido en Londres. Abortion Support Network actualmente ayuda a miles de mujeres al año procedentes de Irlanda a practicarse abortos en el Reino Unido. El aborto nunca ha sido despenalizado en la República de Irlanda, mientras que en España, el acceso al aborto está disponible desde 2010 y ahora se encuentra bajo amenaza por el proyecto de ley contra el aborto. A principios de los años 80, Ann Rossiter e Isabel Ros López, activistas irlandesa y española, ayudaron a establecer en la capital británica el Irish Women’s Abortion Support Group (IWASG) y el Spanish Women’s Abortion Support Group (SWASG) respectivamente. En 1982, 21.000 mujeres vinieron de España a tener abortos en Inglaterra, y más de 8.000 mujeres de Irlanda -de las que 6.000 procedían de la República y 2.000 de Irlanda del Norte.

Las actuales defensoras pro-elección tienen ahora la oportunidad de escuchar a Ann e Isabel explicar el por qué y cómo se configuraron los grupos de apoyo al aborto irlandés y español. En esta película, La historia se repite, producida por My Belly is Mine, Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. y la London Irish Feminist Network (LIFN), entrevistamos a Ann e Isabel en La Biblioteca Feminista (Londres). Ann recuerda:

“Con todas estas mujeres llegando … nos preguntábamos qué demonios podríamos hacer. Y es importante decir que esto era a muy pequeña escala. Según los estándares de hoy en día, las cosas eran bastante primitivas.”

Ann e Isabel comparten sus experiencias como voluntarias en ambos grupos de apoyo: describen la organización y el día a día de estas actividades de apoyo, cómo se las arreglaron para obtener acuerdos especiales para las mujeres en las clínicas y recaudar fondos y describen el espíritu de cooperación internacional de las activistas pro-elección en aquel momento. Ann también pone la alerta sobre las decisiones difíciles y los costos financieros que las mujeres españolas tendrán que soportar si se aprueba la ley antiaborto de Gallardón.

La historia se repite: una nueva ola de activismo pro-elección irlandés y español en Londres

Ann e Isabel a menudo colaboran con Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. y My Belly is Mine en las acciones pro-elección. Isabel también asesora a SWASG 2.0. De hecho, el nombre de SWASG 2.0 fue elegido como un homenaje a la labor de Isabel y sus colegas. No sólo se forjan conexiones nacionales en esta actual ola de activismo pro-elección irlandés y español en la capital británica, sino también intergeneracionales.

Traducción: Vicky Barambones (Asamblea de mujeres)

Advertisements

Repeating Histories: Irish and Spanish Prochoice Activism in London in the 80s and Now (VIDEO)

British, Spanish and Irish feminist prochoice collectives My Belly is Mine, the Spanish Women’s Assembly and Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. will perform a protest action on the 2nd of August in central London to raise awareness of the Spanish anti-abortion bill, known as Gallardón’s law. The bill is soon to be presented in the Spanish Parliament. The action will also officially launch the new Spanish Women’s Abortion Support Group (SWASG 2.0), which aims to provide practical assistance for Spanish women travelling abroad to terminate pregnancies, should the bill be passed. This support group is the London branch of the International Federica Montseny Network, an initiative developed by Spanish feminists in Berlin.

Abortion Support Groups in London the 80s

This is not the first time a support group such as SWASG 2.0 has operated in London. Abortion Support Network currently helps many women from Ireland to have abortions in the UK each year. Abortion has never been decriminalised in the Irish Republic, whilst in Spain, abortion on request up till 14 weeks has only been available since 2010 and is now under threat by the antiabortion bill. In the early 80s, Ann Rossiter and Isabel Ros López, Irish and Spanish activists, both helped to set up the Irish Women’s Abortion Support Group (IWASG) and the Spanish Women’s Abortion Support Group (SWASG) respectively. In 1982, a staggering 21,000 women came from Spain to have abortions in England; over 8000 women came from Ireland, approximately 6000 of them from the Republic and the other 2000 from the six counties.

Prochoice campaigners now have the opportunity to hear Ann and Isabel explain why and how they set up the Irish and Spanish abortion support groups. The film Repeating Histories, produced by My Belly is Mine, Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A and the London Irish Feminist Network (LIFN), features Ann and Isabel in conversation at The Feminist Library. Ann remembers:

“With all these women coming… we wondered what in the hell we could do. And it’s important to say that this was very small scale. By today’s standards, things were quite primitive.”

In the film, Ann and Isabel share their experiences of volunteering in both support groups: they describe the organisation and the day to day of these support operations, how they managed to procure special deals for the women at clinics and raise funds; they tell too of the international spirit of cooperation of prochoice activists at that time. Ann also warns of the difficult decisions and financial costs Spanish women will have to bear if Gallardón’s antiabortion law is passed.

Repeating Histories: A New Wave of Irish and Spanish Prochoice Activism in London

Ann and Isabel often collaborate with Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. and My Belly is Mine in prochoice actions. Isabel is also an advisor to SWASG 2.o.  In fact, the name SWASG 2.o was chosen as a tribute to the work of Isabel and her colleagues. Not only national links are forged with this current wave of Irish and Spanish prochoice activism in the British capital, but also intergenerational ones.

For the 2 minute trailer of Repeating Histories, click here.

For the version with Spanish subtitles, click here.

My Belly is Mine in the Spanish Media

Spanish daily El Mundo reported last week on the new abortion support network Red Federica Montseny set up in London by Spanish feminists. The network will assist those women in Spain affected by the antiabortion leglislation which may be passed this summer.

My Belly is Mine campaigner Amanda Lundstedt appears in the article’s main photograph, which was taken during our London Underground protests.

Amanda

You can find the article here.

Our joint protests in the London Underground with the Spanish Women’s Assembly also appeared in the evening news last night by broadcaster La Sexta. Isabel Ros López, an active member of the Spanish Women’s Abortion Support Group  (SWASG) in London in the 80s and Vicky Barambones, a current member of the new network Federica Montseny, are both interviewed in this news item. Go to minute 29.52 for the report.

New Abortion Support Group for Spanish Women in London

Spanish feminists are already setting up a support network in London for women affected by the notorious antiabortion law likely to be passed in Spain in August. The Spanish Women’s Assembly is a women only subgroup of the 15M Movement in London. They launched a mission statement this morning which details the ethics and goals of this support network, made up of women from the Assembly and volunteers. This support group is still in the early stages of planning but aims to provide direct assistance to women travelling to the UK for abortion.

The network is to be known as Red Federica Montseny in honour of the Spanish intellectual, anarchist and prochoice legislator Federica Montseny (1905-94), one of the first women in Europe to hold a position as a Cabinet Minister. The idea originally sprang from Feminismos, the Berlin based Women’s Assembly, which is also part of the 15M Movement. The network is composed of different ‘nodos’ (branches) such as Brussels, Lisbon, Paris, Vienna, Bordeaux and Stuttgart.

Federica Montseny

The British capital, however, will probably be the main destination for Spanish women seeking terminations when the antiabortion legislation is in effect. With this in mind, the London branch of the RFM is also to be known as SWASG 2.0 as a tribute to the support work carried out by Spanish women in this city in the 1980s when abortion was illegal in Spain.

Protests in Spain in the 1980s against the criminalisation of abortion.

The network is therefore also understood as a political statement that draws attention to the regressive nature of Gallardón’s antiabortion law and calls for women to be in full control of their bodies and reproductive choices.

ACTIVISMO PRO-ELECCIÓN IRLANDÉS Y ESPAÑOL: UNA HISTORIA COMPARTIDA

El IWASG, ‘Grupo de Apoyo al Aborto de Mujeres Irlandesas’, se estableció a principios de los años 80 para dar soporte a las mujeres que acudían al Reino Unido desde la República de Irlanda e Irlanda del Norte en busca de abortos. Gran parte de la labor del grupo, que duró cerca de 20 años, se llevó a cabo de forma encubierta. Ann Rossiter, autora y feminista, es una de las miembros fundadoras del (IWASG). Rossiter documenta la historia de IWASG en su libro Ireland’s Hidden Diaspora: The ‘Abortion Trail’ and the Making of a London-Irish Underground, 1980-2000.

El libro de Ann Rossiter, “Ireland’s Hidden Diaspora”, documenta la historia de IWASG.

La organización Abortion Support Network (Red de Apoyo al Aborto) continúa con la labor iniciada por IWASG, ayudando a alrededor de 4000 mujeres irlandesas al año (900 de las cuales residen en Irlanda del Norte) para acceder a abortos en Inglaterra y Gales.

En Ireland’s Hidden Diaspora, Ann escribe:

Casi al mismo tiempo que IWASG se formó, una organización hermana, Grupo de Apoyo al Aborto de Mujeres Españolas (SWASG), se establecía. Tanto IWASG como SWASG surgieron de los debates, a menudo conjuntos, entre las feministas irlandesas y españolas residentes en Londres, en los que decidieron hacer algo práctico acerca de la difícil situación para las mujeres en sus respectivos países que necesitaban abortar. En el caso español, se trataba de una respuesta a la llegada de varios cientos de ‘turistas’ españolas a los aeropuertos de Londres cada semana. […] En 1985, 17.688 abortos fueron realizados a mujeres españolas en el Reino Unido […].

Desde 1981 hasta 1984, IWASG y SWASG trabajaron juntas en la misma oficina. Había dos miembros remunerados a tiempo parcial que realizaban tareas de apoyo. Iris Lyle, una mujer hispanohablante de Irlanda del Norte, recuerda su experiencia como miembro de estos grupos:

Muchas de las mujeres [solicitantes de aborto] no sabían nada de inglés y necesitaban ayuda con más o menos todo. […] Las mujeres españolas se sentían mal con el secretismo, con todos los tejemanejes que tenían que hacer. Estaban en un estado terrible. Cuando el aborto había terminado, era como si se quitaran un gran peso de encima.

Isabel Ros López, feminista española que llegó al Reino Unido en 1978, realizó trabajo de apoyo en ambos grupos. Isabel explica:

Si una mujer nos llamaba de repente, sin haber consultado a un médico o consejero en Irlanda o España, le ofrecíamos un acompañamiento completo, incluido el buscar alojamiento, ya fuese en un Bed & Breakfast o con una miembro de IWASG o SWASG. […] Nosotras entonces solicitábamos un cita para consulta y asesoramiento en la clínica.

Añade Isabel que, debido a que al trabajo de apoyo al aborto era encubierto, IWASG adoptó el nombre en clave de Imelda. De hecho, el gobierno irlandés prohibió en 1987 la difusión de información. Al utilizar el nombre en clave, las mujeres podían buscar ayuda e información sobre el aborto sin temor a ser procesadas.

 ¿Por qué es todo esto tan importante para la campaña My Belly is Mine?

En primer lugar, Ann Rossiter continua en la actualidad haciendo campaña por el derecho al aborto en Irlanda. Por otra parte, Ann es ahora parte de Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A., un grupo feminista de acción directa performativa que busca desafiar el problema actual de ‘Hacer de Inglaterra el destino legal de Aborto para Irlanda’. Las “Imeldas” a menudo colaboran con My Belly is Mine. Así, treinta y tantos años después de la fundación de IWASG y SWASG, las mujeres españolas e irlandesas siguen trabajando juntas en campañas pro-elección.

Ann Rossiter, una de las fundadoras de IWASG, en una protesta de My Belly is Mine, el 1 de febrero, 2014.

Ann Rossiter, una de las fundadoras de IWASG, en una protesta de My Belly is Mine, el 1 de febrero, 2014.

También Isabel Ros López continúa su activismo en la actualidad. Naturalmente, Isabel está profundamente preocupada por la reciente propuesta del gobierno del Estado Español para prohibir el aborto. Habiendo presenciado de cerca los momentos en los que el aborto era ilegal en España, Isabel ha podido ofrecer orientación a las miembros de la Asamblea de Mujeres del Estado Español sobre cómo proporcionar apoyo y asistencia a las mujeres españolas que acudan a Londres para practicar un aborto en el caso de que el proyecto de ley sea aprobado. Isabel también ha participado en varias protestas de My Belly is Mine.

Isabel Ros López en la protesta organizada conjuntamente por My Belly is Mine y la Asamblea de Mujeres Españolas en la Embajada Española de Londres el 27 de junio de 2014.

Isabel Ros López en la protesta organizada conjuntamente por My Belly is Mine y la Asamblea de Mujeres Españolas en la Embajada Española de Londres el 27 de junio de 2014.

No deja de ser preocupante que, hoy en día, las jóvenes irlandesas y españolas en Londres han encontrado que tienen una historia compartida.

Si estás interesada/o en saber más sobre la historia de IWASG y SWASG, el libro de Ann es la mejor fuente de información. Vamos a escribir más sobre SWASG, su trabajo y su relación con IWASG en próximos posts del blog. Mientras tanto, haz clic aquí para escuchar una entrevista con Ann Rossiter.

Traducción del inglés: Vicky Barambones (Asamblea de Mujeres)

Irish and Spanish Prochoice Activism: a Shared Legacy

The Irish Women’s Abortion Support Group (IWASG) was established in the early 80s to assist women coming to the UK from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland seeking abortions. Much of the group’s work, which lasted around 20 years, was conducted undercover. Author and feminist, Ann Rossiter is one of the founding members of the IWASG and she documents the its history in her book Ireland’s Hidden Diaspora: The ‘Abortion Trail’ and the Making of a London-Irish Underground, 1980-2000.

Ann Rossiter’s book ‘Ireland’s Hidden Diaspora’ documents the IWASG’s history.

The charity Abortion Support Network continues with the work initiated by the IWASG, helping around 400o women from Ireland (90o of which are resident in Northern Ireland) a year to have abortions in England and Wales.

In Ireland’s Hidden Diaspora, Ann writes:

About the same time as IWASG was formed, a sister organisation, the Spanish Women’s Abortion Support Group (SWASG), was set up. Both IWASG and SWASG emerged out of debates, often taking place collectively, where Irish and Spanish feminists in London decided to do something practical about the plight of abortion seekers from their respective countries. In the Spanish case, it was a response to the arrival of several hundred Spanish ‘tourists’ at London airports every week. […] in 1985 there were 17,688 abortions performed on Spanish women in Britain […].

From 1981 until 1984, IWASG and SWASG worked together from the same office. There were two part-time paid members of staff dedicated to abortion support work. Iris Lyle, a Spanish speaking-woman from Northern Ireland, recalling her experience as a member of these groups, says:

Many of the women [abortion seekers] didn’t know any English and required help with more or less everything. […] The Spanish women would be very upset over the great secrecy, all the scheming they had to do. They were in a terrible state. When the abortion was over, it was like a great wight was lifted off them.

Isabel Ros López, a Spanish feminist who came to the UK in 1978, also did both Irish and Spanish abortion support work. Isabel explains:

If a woman was ringing us out of the blue without having consulted a doctor or counsellor in either Ireland or Spain, we would provide a full service for her, including arranging accommodation, whether in a B&B or with an IWASG or SWASG member. […] We would then book an appointment for a consultation and counselling at the clinic.

Isabel adds that due to the covertness of abortion support work, the IWASG was referred to by the codename Imelda. Indeed, the Irish government had implemented a ban on information in 1987. By using the codename, women could seek help and information about abortion without fear of being prosecuted.

Why is all this relevant to My Belly is Mine as a campaign?

Firstly, Ann Rossiter is still campaigning for abortion rights in Ireland today. Furthermore, Ann is now part of Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A., a direct action feminist performance group that seeks to challenge the ongoing problem of Ireland Making England the Legal Destination for Abortion. The “Imeldas” often collaborate with My Belly is Mine, thus thirty odd years after the foundation of the IWASG and SWASG, Spanish and Irish women continue to work together on prochoice campaigns.

Ann Rossiter, one of the founders of IWASG, at a My Belly is Mine protest on 1 Feb, 2014.

Ann Rossiter, one of the founders of IWASG, at a My Belly is Mine protest on 1 Feb, 2014.

Isabel Ros López is also still an activist. Naturally, Isabel is deeply concerned by the Spanish government’s recent proposal to ban abortion. Having closely witnessed the times during which abortion was illegal in Spain, Isabel has been able to provide guidance to the members of the Spanish Women’s Assembly on how to provide support and assistance to Spanish women seeking abortion in London, should the antiabortion bill be passed as law. Isabel has also been a speaker at a number of My Belly is Mine protests too.

Active in the 80s, Isabel thought Spain would never return to the days of backstreet abortions

Isabel Ros López at the joint protest organised by My Belly is Mine and the Spanish Women’s Assembly at the Spanish Embassy, London on 27 June 2014.

It is under worrying circumstances that young Irish and Spanish women in London today have found they have a shared history.

If you are interested in finding out more about the history of the IWASG and the SWASG, Ann’s book is the best source of information. We will be writing more about the SWASG, its work and its relationship with the IWASG in upcoming blog posts. In the meantime, click here for an interview with Ann Rossiter.

Federica Montseny Network: Beginnings

In May 2014, Feminismos 15M Berlin, a Spanish feminist collective based in Berlin, and part of the 15M Movement of young Spanish exiles abroad, contacted all of its counterparts throughout Europe. They expressed the importance and aim of setting up a European support network for women in Spain, who may be forced to travel abroad for abortion, once the antiabortion law in Spain has been passed. Feminismos 15M Berlin have named the network after Federica Montseny (1905-94), a Spanish intellectual and anarchist and one of the first women in Europe to become a cabinet minister when she was appointed as Health Minister in 1936. Montseny was also renowned for her prochoice legislations.

Prochoice legislator and one of the first women in Europe to be appointed as a cabinet minister, Federica Montseny

Feminismos 15M Berlin pointed out that London is a key city in this network: an obvious destination, not only due to its proximity, the amount of low cost flights from Spain to the British capital, or the fact that English is a language most Spaniards have some familiarity with but also: London was a notorious destination for Spanish women in the 70s and 80s seeking terminations.

Front page of the very first edition of El País Magazine (1976), featuring the report “Abortion in London”

The Spanish Women’s Assembly in London has taken on the responsibility of creating the corresponding support network in the British capital for women in Spain who are forced to travel for an abortion. It is an important responsibility and one that they are taking very seriously. They have already met with a representative of Abortion Support Network to learn more about their working model and how this charity supports the almost 5000 women a year who travel to the UK from Ireland for terminations.

The Spanish Women’s Assembly are in the phase of early planning and fundraising for the network. And we will be documenting the history of the network on this blog. Unlike the fake travel agency offering “abortion packages” to London, the Federica Montseny Network is not a hoax. It exemplifies the sad reality that Spanish women will face if Gallardón’s antiabortion law is passed in Spain.

Protest at the Spanish Embassy, London

Yesterday, 27th of June, 2014, My Belly is Mine, in collaboration with Irish prochoice activists Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A and the Spanish Women’s Assembly from the 15M movement, protested at the Spanish Embassy in London against the antiabortion law that the Partido Popular are attempting to pass in Spain.

canticos4

We congregated with around 70 supporters in front of the embassy and read out the following joint statement in English and Spanish:

We have come together at the Spanish Embassy in London to protest the regressive antiabortion law that will soon enter the Spanish parliament. And we are not alone! Prochoice campaigners stand shoulder to shoulder with us today at this very moment in time in Berlin, Vienna, Lisbon, Marseille, Lima, Montevideo, Florence, Paris, Reggio Calabria, Bordeaux, Madrid, Las Palmas, Coruña, Murcia, Alicante, Almería, Cáceres, Barcelona, Ourense, Pontevedra, Santiago de Compostela, Tenerife, Vigo, Oviedo, Valencia and many more will be protesting over the next few days. We are the majority and we know that we are on the side of democracy and human rights.  
Bea from the Women's Assembly reads the joint statement in Spanish.

Bea from the Women’s Assembly reads the joint statement in Spanish.

Just as we knew would happen, the Spanish government has waited until the summer holidays to pass the new antiabortion law, as quietly and as surreptitiously as possible. In a week, the bill begins its parliamentary process to eventually become law: it will be a law that means no Spanish woman will be able to make decisions regarding her own body and motherhood. 
Cristina, from My Belly is Mine, reads the joint statement in English.

Cristina, from My Belly is Mine, reads the joint statement in English.

This law is even more reactionary than the one passed by the socialist government of Felipe Gonzalez in 1985. It takes Spanish women’s rights back to the time of Franco, to the time of clandestine abortions for the poor, lonely trips to London for those who had the money or managed to scrape the money together and forced motherhood for those who don’t have the strength or time for lengthy and tortuous bureaucratic procedure. This is a law that nobody asked for. A law that the overwhelming majority of Spanish citizens said they did not want.
There has been one tiny concession by the Spanish government: fetus abnormality will now be accepted as a reason for termination. With this concession, the government wants us to believe that it is willing to engage and negotiate.  We are under no illusion. We see this fascist government for what it is. We know that even in the case of fetal abnormality, women will be subjected to humiliating medical bureaucracy intended to show them that they are not allowed to decide what happens to their own body.
The Spanish Women’s Assembly, My Belly is Mine and Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A have come together to protest this law from the United Kingdom. We are proof again of the historic solidarity that has existed between British, Irish and Spanish women. British women have always welcomed both Irish and Spanish women onto UK soil for their terminations. Irish and Spanish activists fought together in the 80s just as we are doing today. We are well aware this law is not just a result of the Spanish right or the Spanish Catholic Church, but in times of austerity, women’s rights are always eroded, and they are forced into the role of housewife and mother. This happens to women everywhere, not just in Spain. 
We are going to protest all this summer in London. We are distributing leaflets with our contact details. We are also taking down email addresses. Please join us to oppose this law. We must show the Spanish government that we will not allow this law to pass without opposition. They may use their majority in parliament, but we will use our majority on the streets to fight tooth and nail to defend the rights of women. 
 
Isabel Ros López, an activist who was a key member in the Spanish Women’s Abortion Support Group (SWASG) also spoke, stating “this law is simply about control over women and their bodies”:
Active in the 80s, Isabel thought Spain would never return to the days of backstreet abortions

Active in the 80s, Isabel thought Spain would never return to the days of backstreet abortions

 

Isabel is living proof that we can never take our rights for granted. Indeed, the SWASG assisted women from Spain during the 80s who came to London to seek abortion. Furthermore, SWASG collaborated with the Irish Women’s Support Group (IWASG).

Comedian, activist and vice-chair of Abortion Rights, the UK campaign for abortion, Kate Smurthwaite also showed up to support our campaign and addressed the crowd. In her speech, Kate reminded us that the opposite of abortion is forced pregnancy, a cruel and perverse form of punishment:

Comedian and activist, Kate Smurthwaite addresses the crowd.

Comedian and activist Kate Smurthwaite addresses the crowd.

 

The crowd then faced the embassy to chant:

Chanting  facing
chants

And finally, we crossed the street to get our pictures taken in front of the embassy:

embassyl
embassy