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Transcript:
So I’m just going to say a bit about myself, involvement. As of today I’m Assembly Member for the Vale of Glamorgan and I’m also a minister in the Welsh Government, and have been a minister since the inception of the Assembly in 1999, I represent the Vale of Glamorgan. And I also have had many different roles over the years including being a county councillor, and I want to - South Glamorgan County Council – and I want to concentrate on, I want to focus on a particular event where I was very clearly standing up for a woman’s right to choose, alongside Councillor, the then Councillor, Julie Morgan - who’s actually now an Assembly Member alongside me, for Cardiff North, and she was also of course the MP for Cardiff North - but also go back to the early days of when I was involved in, and beginning to understand, the importance of the 1967 Abortion Act, standing up for it, making sure it was being properly implemented, and I very much welcome this Safe and Legal project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

So it’s interesting to look back at a book written by Dee Beddoe, who was a professor of women’s history at the University of South Wales, formerly the University of Glamorgan. She wrote a history of women in the twentieth century in Wales called Out of the Shadows. She’s reminded me of the fact that we were setting up in the 1970s, as part of our developing interest in the women’s movement, an organisation called the Cardiff Women’s Action Group. I was an active member of the Cardiff Women’s Action Group, we had a lot of different issues, we were tackling women’s unemployment, unfair restrictions to Family Allowances and also looking at abortion rights. And of course if we look at the four initial demands of the women’s liberation movement: equal pay, equal education opportunity, 24-hour nurseries, free contraception, and abortion on demand, in a sense we were looking at those issues and campaigns and then looking at how it reflected in our experience locally. So in those mid-70s we set up that group, Cardiff Women’s Action Group. We became aware of the fact, and of course the 1967 Act had been implemented, we became aware of the fact that actually there had been set up at the University Hospital of Wales a lunchtime, what was described as a lunchtime abortion clinic. And obviously, in order to carry out abortions under the 1967 Abortion Act. And we at that time, we found out that it wasn’t being used. We asked for statistics, to find out that the usage, because obviously this would have been much more available and accessible to women who were able to get terminations under the 1967 Abortion Act. And we discovered that there was some resistance to using that Act by a particular, at that time, a particular gynaecologist – obstetrician. So we really raised this as a major issue. Now I recall now that I was, well I think that centre, according to Dee Beddoe’s book, was opened in 1973. But I was also then, obviously, getting involved as the years went by, in demonstrations and marches in 1975, 79 and 81, against various backbench member attempts to dilute the 1967 Abortion Act. But in 1976, I think, I haven’t quite checked back, I was appointed a member of Cardiff Community Health Council by the then Secretary of State for Wales Alec Jones, and was able then to sort of step, which I’ve always done, in my political life, have one, you know, clear foot and reference group in the Women’s Action Group, with, where we were concerned with women’s issues, to step into a more formal role as a member of the Cardiff Community Health Council, where I was then able to raise more formally the issue of our concerns and seek discussions, meetings, statistics and I think those, some of those minutes have been highlighted on the Safe and Legal exhibition which unfortunately I haven’t yet seen, but I know it’s coming to the Senedd, and there’s an event in January which Jenny Rathbone, Assembly Member for Cardiff Central, is hosting, and I shall certainly be at that event.

So the sort of history is there in terms of what we sought to do, I mean what we were seeking to do was ensure that the 1967 Abortion Act was being fully implemented, under the terms of that Act, as the title of this project, it was to ensure that there were safe, there was safe and legal access to abortion under the 1967 Abortion Act. So I don’t know what actually happened in the end in terms of that centre, the clinic at the Heath Hospital, in fact probably it, I’m sure, in terms of the statistics, there were terminations, at, through the University Hospital of Wales, as a result of the Abortion Act, but this, what seemed to be a very progressive way forward in terms of that, what it would have been would be a day clinic, in NHS terms, access to a day clinic which of course so many procedures under the NHS do take place in day clinics which of course particularly would have been very helpful and convenient for women. And also, obviously, enabling them to access this at a very early stage in terms of a pregnancy which was then going to be terminated under the 1967 Abortion Act, under the criteria.

So I want to move on to demonstrate the kind of, my interest and engagement in this particular issue alongside a lot of other women’s rights issues, took me on to 1981, when I was, I stood for election to the South Glamorgan County Council. What was interesting about that, as I said, I was very involved in campaigns but also, being approached to perhaps, I think the words were said to me that you know, you need to sort the, sort the system out from within as well as campaign from outside government and statutory arrangements. So I did put myself forward to stand in the election in 1981 and was elected to the Riverside ward. Now what’s very interesting is that for the first few years there were very few women on the South Glamorgan County Council, I was a comparatively young woman standing,. I was also, in 1978, I had become the co-ordinator of Welsh Women’s Aid setting up Women’s Aid refuges all over Wales. So I was well known for my women’s, focus on women’s issues, as a – and was identified as a feminist and a socialist, which was also very much the forefront of my political engagement with the Labour Party and with the Labour Women’s movement, which I was very involved in, for example in the campaign with Anita Gale, now Baroness Gale, against the use of Depo-Provera, which was another campaign issue affecting women, young women in particular. But I became a councillor and I think one of the interesting issues as, because I was well known as a women’s rights, in terms of women’s rights, as a feminist, there was some campaigning against me standing for the local, in the local elections, and I can’t remember it further, it was 1981 or 1985 which was the next election, where there was a leaflet put out particularly targeting ethnic minorities in the Riverside ward, saying that I was pro-abortion. So we thought that might have had an impact on the election but in fact it didn’t and I did succeed, and in fact was a councillor for twelve years, serving the Riverside ward and I obviously used this opportunity to try and explain my position in terms of the 1967 Abortion Act which, the legalities in terms of a woman’s right to choose, and to also, obviously, promote access to contraception, and particularly raise awareness of what was then called Family Planning, and in terms of access to local clinics.

I think I might then move on to just my second sort of, perhaps where I hit the headlines, was in 1985, when I stood again for the Council, I was really pleased to be joined by Julie Morgan, who I knew very well as a campaigner on a number of fronts. So 1985, we decided to set up a Women’s Committee. This was very much following what had happened in London in the GLC, the Greater London Council, which was led by Ken Livingstone, and Valerie Wise had set up a Women’s Committee, so we thought we’d follow the same footsteps, follow the same route, setting up a Women’s Committee, which was a formal Committee of South Glamorgan County Council. I was the Chair, Julie Morgan was the Vice-Chair, and we had a range of co-optees onto the Committee as well as our councillors, elected councillors. And we decided to have an International Women’s Day event, and in 19 – that took us - the first one I’m sure would have been in 1986. Now why this hit the headlines was that on International Women’s Day, 8th March 1986, we had the displays and information in County Hall and unfortunately one organisation, the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child, and the Catholic Mothers’ Group, who we had liaised with very closely on a number of issues, decided to put leaflets on a stall at the event which were particularly focused on the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child, very upsetting literature, and people were very concerned about it. And the, at that time, I did ask those who were at that stall whether they would remove this literature, and we just felt it wasn’t wise to have the leaflets there. Anyway, the – this resulted in quite a lot of publicity, there was a letter in the Echo around that time, it must have been April I think, 86, from myself, headed Why We Banned Open Day Leaflet, and then there was a letter on the same day, or perhaps a week later, from Julie Morgan, Councillor Julie Morgan, as well, and I think, and then there was a picture in the Echo on 21st April with myself and in fact and my daughter Jessica who was aged six months at the time, and the headline Ms Hutt Calls for Abortion Ceasefire. And the, there was quite a lot of publicity at the time about this, and in fact of course we had quite a lot of criticism from other councillors, and I think one of the important things was that I said in response to some of these issues that this, clearly, we needed to discuss this, and we had a discussion at the following meeting and agreed that we would need to set up guidelines in terms of future events. And in fact the Women’s Committee did continue and had annual events and I think it was very important that we did take responsibility for this, and that we said that this was something which we needed to handle carefully, responsibly.

So I think the, this, obviously having this Safe and Legal Campaign has reminded us of those early days, where we thought we had overcome a lot of those kinds of actions, where the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child was particularly active, and you know, since that time, I’ve had various roles and responsibilities including for nearly six years being the first Minister for Health and Social Services in Wales, and also recognising that there was so much that we needed to do in terms of providing access to services and information for women. But then also realising that the campaigns against, for example, the pregnancy advisory organisations in Cardiff started up again, and I’m very much aware of what this has meant, the harmful impact that has had on women, and in fact, only yesterday, I noted, this is, we’re now talking 22nd October, I noted in the Sunday paper, that one council, I think it might have been the London Borough of Ealing and we’d need to check, was actually considering having a buffer zone by an abortion clinic, and I think that’s, is a start of something which then could be taken up by other local authorities. And the horrendous ways in which women have been treated in terms of access to not just that clinic but indeed clinics in Cardiff as well. So I think the Safe and Legal campaign has brought us back to recognise that there is so much more to do, and that we need to take responsibility.

Now I just, looking at some of the other issues that are raised for the Safe and Legal campaign, as I mentioned and indeed, obviously others have given much greater detail about backbench members’ attempts to change the 1967 Abortion Act, but this is something where we have to be vigilant and alert to the fact that this could happen again, and I think it’s something where we have to be very clear that we have a responsibility, and it’s for me, particularly, as an elected member, but also, an Assembly Member, but also, the fact that my interest in politics came from a feminist socialist perspective, of how I wanted to ensure that women’s rights particularly were being addressed and backed, and that women were being empowered and that’s obviously my involvement in Women’s Aid for many years, but also promoting equality of opportunity.

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