Jess Phillips: Right-wing politics will take women's rights backwards

The MP was speaking at the Parlay Parlour at Glastonbury Festival in a talk dedicated to murdered MP Jo Cox.

Jess Phillips has warned that women’s rights in the UK are at a “dangerous and critical” state due to right-wing politics.

The MP for Birmingham Yardley was speaking at Glastonbury Festival in a talk dedicated to Jo Cox, the MP who was murdered in 2016.

Ms Phillips was one of six speakers at the White Ribbon Alliance’s event, entitled Our Bodies, Our Rights.

Glastonbury Festival 2019 – Day 4
Labour MP Jess Phillips (left) talks at Our Bodies, Our Rights at Glastonbury Festival (Aaron Chown/PA)

She said: “The women who inspire me and always will inspire me are the women who I worked with in refuge, in rape crisis.

“There are amazing women survivors who actually are still living in violent relationships, who are still struggling with the psychological damage that was done to them that get out of bed every day.

“That is what survival looks like. Most women have a story about their body, something that has happened to them and we are all just trying to keep surviving.

“At the moment it is being reversed. We are in a dangerous and critical area where the religious right in this country and the right-wing politics of this country will take us backwards.

“Our politics are rubbish but our people are brilliant. We are some of the best, most brilliant people and they can’t take it if we don’t let them.”

She said that policy-makers such as herself wanted to show solidarity with women in countries such as the US, but she described current British legislation as “heartbreaking”.

“There are women this week being criminalised for procuring abortion pills in Northern Ireland and being taken to court, there are mothers in parts of the UK being charged for trying to procure abortions for their daughters,” she said.

“There is not a rolling back of rights here in the UK – we never, ever progressed.

“As a British policy-maker, the idea that women in the UK still don’t have rights over their own bodies thanks to the law – because of people who work in the building where I work – is heartbreaking.”

She described seeing daily examples of migrant women being treated as if they were having babies purely to secure visas.

“I have had to myself pay for DNA testing to the Home Office for women that have got to prove that the baby they say is theirs, their British baby, belongs to them,” she said.

“The conclusion from that is the Home Office thinks migrant women are kidnapping babies to stay in our country.

“This is not a minority thing – this is happening week in week out.”

She said the status of a woman as the mother of an abusive man’s child was “the single most controlling element in her life”.

“She will do anything to protect her children and he knows it,” she said.

“Today the state colludes with that.”

Ms Phillips said there was “huge problem” with how health services in the UK deal with fertility and gender.

She asked to be sterilised after the birth of her second child, when she was 26, but was told she would have to have counselling before the procedure.

“My husband however went to get the snip the next day and he’s only three years older than me and nobody asked him if he wanted to have any counselling,” she said.

“There is a huge problem with the way we treat women and people with wombs in the system as being nothing more than people with wombs.”

She said it was positive to have female politicians making policy decisions and to remind others that “women exist”.

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