Glasgow National Abortion Campaign

The Glasgow National Abortion Campaign Group Collection

A collection of material from and relating to the Glasgow branch of the National Abortion Campaign.

About the Glasgow National Abortion Campaign Group

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1976 Newssheet of the West of Scotland National Abortion Campaign

The National Abortion Campaign (NAC) was formed in 1975. The group defended the Abortion Act 1967 against several proposed amendment bills during the 1970s and 1980s, including one by Labour MP for Pollok, James White.

The NAC in Glasgow was also formed in 1975. At the time, the campaign drew attention to the “desperate need for adequate abortion services in the Glasgow area”. The group supported the fight against James White’s bill, and were closely linked to the National Abortion Campaign in the UK, operating as a branch of this organisation. They met regularly to make local decisions and feed into the national organisation. They attended national conferences, and sent delegations to local conferences such as those held by the Scottish Trades Unions Conference Women’s Delegates Conference.

James White’s Bill was never passed and NAC campaigned against another two more Abortion Amendment Bills by MPs in the 1970s; one in 1977 by William Benyon and the other in 1979 by John Corrie. Large demonstrations and events were organised against them by NAC, locally and on a larger national scale. The group had support from several branches of Trade Unions, and from several MPS; including Jo Richardson (1923-1994) who spoke at several conferences and demonstrations.

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National Abortion Campaign flyer

The Glasgow group were keen to campaign positively for access to abortion outpatient clinics in Glasgow, but were to some extent hampered by a lack of capacity, and were obliged to concentrate on defensive campaigning against such organisations as Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC). Their positive campaigning involved going to the Barrows (in the east end of Glasgow) on Sundays to collect signatures for petitions and raise awareness, as well as offering speakers for local groups such as tenant associations, trade unions, political parties and public meetings.

In 1978, the Glasgow branch of NAC began to raise their profile, campaigning locally on the subject of access to abortion in relation to the 1978 Garscadden by-election. “To date, NAC in Glasgow has had a very low profile, to the extent that we are next to unknown. The bye-election presents a challenge to us to make sure the views of the anti-abortionists are not the only ones that are heard on the subject of abortion.” Notes on NAC National Planning meeting, Glasgow Women’s Centre, Saturday 1st April 1978.

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1978 flyer for March at Blythswood Square Glasgow

The methods used during the by-election campaigns included interviewing candidates, and writing to them to ascertain their views. They also took travelling exhibitions and petitions to areas where people were voting for new members of parliament.

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1978 Flyer for March at Blythswood Square Glasgow

During the 1980s NAC fought several campaigns and tried to launch more positive abortion legislation. In 1981 Jo Richardson introduced a Facilities Bill to hopefully improve NHS abortion facilities, however the Bill did not receive enough votes for a second reading. In 1983 at the National Conference the group split into two: one continued as NAC and the other formed as the Women’s Reproductive Rights Campaign. Eighteen months later NAC started the Reverse Gillick campaign, this was against the High Court ruling (instigated by mother of ten, Victoria Gillick in 1983) that children under 16 could not be prescribed or talk to doctors about contraceptives without their parents’ knowledge. The House of Lords overruled this in 1985, as long as doctors followed certain guidelines when discussing contraceptives with young people.

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Scottish Abortion Conference booklet, 1981

Another Abortion Amendment Bill was introduced in the late 1980s by the MP David Alton, and this focused on changing the time limit. This Bill got a large amount of support and several adverts were printed in national newspapers by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) asking MPs to vote yes. NAC again held several large demonstrations and eventually the Bill failed. NAC also campaigned against the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill in 1990. This was passed and it mainly concerned the regulation of fertility treatments, but the Abortion Act was also affected: the time limits were reduced from 28 to 24 weeks.

About the collection

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National Abortion Campaign flyer

The collection contains news cuttings, circulars, publicity leaflets, posters, newsletters and correspondence.

Finding aid

Please contact Special Collections or 0141 287 2988 if you would like to access this collection.

Further reading

Browne, Sarah (2014) Women’s Liberation Movement in Scotland. Manchester University Press.

Hay, Kristen (2021) ‘More than a defence against bills’: feminism and national identity in the Scottish abortion campaign, c. 1975–1990. Women’s History Review. 30:4, 594-612

The National Abortion Campaign collection is part of the Wellcome Library’s Archives and Manuscripts collection. The catalogue can be searched on the Wellcome Library's online catalogue using the reference: SA/NAC. In 2003 NAC merged with the Abortion Law Reform Association (ALRA), whose archives are also in the Wellcome Library, to form Abortion Rights.

The Glasgow Women’s Library have a collection of material relating to the Scottish Abortion Campaign, including correspondence, press releases, agendas and minutes of meetings, newsletters, event material & press cuttings.

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