Abortion

Error message

  • Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (line 579 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/menu.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Deprecated function: implode(): Passing glue string after array is deprecated. Swap the parameters in drupal_get_feeds() (line 394 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).

Fresh audio product: Ukraine and abortion

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 30/09/2022 - 7:15am in

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

September 29, 2022 Anatol Lieven on the horror in Ukraine and diminishing chances for peace • Anne Rumberger, author of this article, on the history of the Christian right’s attitudes toward abortion (they weren’t always against it)

Cartoon: Harmacy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/09/2022 - 11:20pm in

Many women are finding that in states with strict abortion bans, drugstores won't fill their prescriptions without special confirmation from a doctor or a privacy-invading consultation with the pharmacist. It's yet another way in which anti-choice extremism is upending healthcare. This article in The Guardian provides an overview.

Support these comics by joining the Sorensen Subscription Service! Also on Patreon.

Follow me on Twitter at @JenSorensen

Teaching and Writing About Abortion in Idaho (and elsewhere?)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/09/2022 - 8:23pm in

Tags 

Abortion, teaching

“Academic freedom is not a defense to violation of law, and faculty or others in charge of classroom topics and discussion must themselves remain neutral on the topic and cannot conduct or engage in discussions in violation of these prohibitions without risking prosecution.”

That is from an email from the University of Idaho’s General Counsel to the university’s employees on the subject of the state’s abortion laws, particularly a 2021 law prohibiting the use of public funds for abortions. Much of the email concerns the impermissibility of university employees encouraging, performing, or contributing to the provision of abortions while at work. But the email also includes guidance on teaching about abortion.

Faculty are permitted, for example, to have “classroom discussions on topics related to abortion when limited to discussions and topics relevant to the class subject.” But during such discussions, there must be “instructor neutrality.”  The General Counsel writes:

Classroom discussion of the topic should be approached carefully. While academic freedom supports classroom discussions of topics related to abortion, these should be limited to discussions and topics relevant to the class subject. The laws discussed above, specifically including those addressing promoting abortion, counseling in favor of abortion and referring for abortion, will remain applicable. Academic freedom is not a defense to violation of law, and faculty or others in charge of classroom topics and discussion must themselves remain neutral on the topic and cannot conduct or engage in discussions in violation of these prohibitions without risking prosecution.

Many applied ethics courses include the moral and legal permissibility of abortion as topics, with the reading, presentation, and analysis of arguments for various positions. It is unclear how the analysis of such arguments can proceed in a way that is likely to strike interested observers as “neutral.”  So it is unclear how the General Counsel’s guidance is compatible with the academic freedom of instructors teaching these arguments, or with the academic freedom of instructors who are deterred from teaching about them for fear that the university will not defend them against charges of violating the law.

Further, according to the email, “Employees who wish to counsel, promote or advocate in favor of abortion must do so outside of the performance of their job duties and without use of any university resources.” Does this mean that faculty may not write papers or books in which they argue for the moral and legal permissibility of abortion?

It is a pity that the university administration did not write to faculty promising to defend their academic freedom. Instead, they promoted an interpretation of the law that threatens academic freedom, and in doing so, laid the groundwork for accusations that faculty who discuss the ethical and political dimensions of abortion knowingly violated the law.

Inside Higher Ed reports further on the story here.

UPDATE (9/30/29): The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) released a statement about the email from the University of Idaho’s General Counsel. An excerpt:

Under principles of academic freedom widely endorsed by the higher education community, college and university teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject. All decisions about curriculum, subject matter, and methods of instruction should be made by educators who have expertise in the subject. Any attempt to limit that freedom must be soundly rejected by the faculty, the administration, the board, and all who care about the core academic mission of the institution. Advising the faculty to “remain neutral” will certainly chill speech, but its vagueness is also problematic… The proposed guidance here is indefensible from the point of view of public health, public education, academic freedom, free speech, and even simple logic. It undercuts the university’s educational mission and discredits its reputation.

The Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA) published a letter it sent to the University. An excerpt:

It is true that the Idaho Code § 18-8705 prohibits the use of public funds to “promote abortion,” but construing that statutory language to require state university professors to “remain neutral on the topic” is a vast overreach and inconsistent with the requirements of the First Amendment. It is imperative that the University of Idaho not merely inform the faculty of the potential risks of teaching with such a law on the books but also strongly voice its objections to any such interpretation or application of the state law. The general counsel’s guidance sends a chilling message to every member of the faculty who must discuss difficult and controversial material relating to abortion as part of their teaching duties. The statute itself might not recognize “academic freedom [as] a defense to violation of law,” but the First Amendment is an overriding limitation on the power of the state legislature to impose such a restriction on classroom teaching in state university classrooms.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) also sent a letter to the university. An excerpt:

U of I’s sweeping policy directly contravenes the university’s legal obligations and impermissibly chills in-class speech by placing faculty in perpetual fear of punishment for their protected expression. It does not take a significant stretch of the imagination to see how the university’s guidance will adversely impact classroom instruction. For example, a political science professor publishing a public policy argument that abortion should be lawful will have
to self-censor to ensure the discussion is not perceived as being “in favor of abortion.” A philosophy professor interested in prompting his or her students to consider the arguments for restricting access to abortion may play devil’s advocate by arguing for such restrictions—a decision that would violate so-called “instructor neutrality.” Even a constitutional law professor’s discussion of past court cases pertaining to abortion is at risk of being perceived as
violating “instructor neutrality.” The university must defend—not erode—First Amendment rights on campus. It must begin by publicly retracting this unlawful policy.

Boston Review Philosophy Today

Our Given Body: Roe v Wade

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/09/2022 - 1:54pm in

Second wave feminism shines a long beam still on the question of abortion. Wherever young feminists and other activists sit vis a vis arguments about the ‘assignment’ of sex and gender at birth, both something of the passion born specifically of women’s connection to abortion, and second wave feminism’s modern raising of abortion to the status of a woman’s right, seem to have fuelled the recent demonstrations and massive outpourings around Roe v Wade.

The slogan ‘We won’t go back’ meant clearly enough that ‘we won’t go back’ to before there were open and safe abortion services, where women wouldn’t bleed to death at the hands of backyard abortionists; which effectively means before second wave feminism. Abortion visibility and rights were an achievement of that diverse movement, an issue around which both the liberal feminists of old and social feminists would readily join together in political demand, even if their analyses of women’s position and of the sexual ‘economy’ between men and women differed significantly. They even jointly used the notion of ‘right’, even if, again, it meant something rather different in the hands of liberal individualists and those others who sought to trace out histories of women’s relationships to systems of social positioning, if not systematic abuse, or the social relations of ‘oppression’, in the old lingo.

The slogan ramifies further: we won’t go back to being that kind of woman; the woman who had no rights; whose body was shrouded in ‘mystery’ and relegated to the private; to a realm where ‘freedom’, or discourses of freedom, were a practical and logical non-starter, because everything pointed to women’s bodies being in the realm only of the given. How to lift the body into the realm of discourse has in fact been a key focus of social theory throughout the whole post Second World War period, in a sense framing the second wave, and amplified in every wave since.

‘We won’t go back’, then, indicates a history of successful abortion struggles, perhaps a Progress narrative in terms of rights, while the passion, it might be surmised, still relates to women’s given bodies, as well as to the process of psychical embodiment—here figured in the relationship, actual or potential, of women to abortion. Indeed if the abortion debate is especially impassioned on the side of the feminists, and considered in Manichean terms by (some) pro-life advocates on the other, it is arguably because women’s bodies—which bleed and get pregnant—and the specific passions lived through them—pain, fear, death, joy around the reproductive complex—set some basic structure, context or force-field that in key ways grounds women’s experience of their bodies and their selves, and in turn the terms of the abortion debate.

This is an unpopular notion in today’s culture of radical choice, individually driven and offered in various technologies, where bodies are said to mean nothing (not to hold presumptive meaning). But while it may be true that bodies never mean anything purely, and are never only biological entities, and certainly of themselves never simply authorise right forms of conduct—for example God-given femininity or a notion of natural motherhood, as if it is not always enculturated—they are both always-already symbolically present in the culture as potential frameworks of meaning and an unavoidable substrate of individual personhood. Love them or hate them, women’s bodies shape elements of common life, if varied experience, among girls and women.

We can trace some of this force-field in the typical ways in which second wave feminists and anti-abortion advocates have figured the body in different but equally visceral images and narratives. That these still reach into the public arguments today, a setting in which scientific technologies confirm quite new realms of radical ‘freedom’ around sex and gender and undergird new disciplines around chosen identities, suggests still that there is something unable to be fully elided in woman’s body.

*               *             *

Photographs of dead foetuses make this visceral connection of women to their bodies and given sex plain.  Such photos were and remain a standard of anti-abortion protests and the pro-life imaginary, and it is indeed hard not to have a visceral reaction to them. Of course this is part of their purpose. They are disturbing, gross and frightening. They set you back. They are a powerful visual ‘outing’ of the literally visceral and abject products of women’s bodies, constructing an ‘obvious’ evil in their apparently unmediated presentation of the aborted foetus. Sitting as such representations do against conceptions of motherhood and babies as pure gift and natural guide to womanhood, they are a radical tactic. Their own violent representation is meant to propel shame for a gruesome, hidden violence done against the child. Feminists have always reacted to these images as being in radically bad taste; as an insult and menace to the women seeking abortions who might have to pass protesters on the way to a clinic; and as scare-mongering generally thanks to out-sized images of otherwise tiny entities. It’s not as if feminists are not also in touch with the visceral and the abject. It’s not as if they do not know what abortion entails practically. Indeed they believe themselves to be better in touch with blood, bodies and their ‘products’ than both men generally and those who profess ‘life’; feminists face up to it. They also see themselves as in touch with much worse in the related bloody violences practised on women’s bodies, such as in rape.  

One of the things that has always left feminists dumfounded about the typical pro-life outlook is that while ‘life’ is held as paramount, this commitment has done little apparently to counter this same constituency’s support of death-dealing in other quarters, most notably in the United States—gun ownership, the murder of abortion providers, the violence of the US imperium generally, and sparse compassion for the women who historically, and still feel they must, put their lives at risk in seeking abortions.  This last image, of the distressed woman pushed to seek an abortion by oppressive circumstances—poverty, rape, incest; for emotional and even physical survival’s sake—remains a key trope on the ‘choice’ side of the debate, as resonant in the recent US protests as at the beginning of second wave feminism. Young women, women of colour, poor women, rape victims all figured in ample media coverage of the Roe v Wade reversal as just such women, and providers were in tears as they were forced to shut their doors on girls and women in distressed circumstances. The violence to be done by closing abortion clinics was worse than any such represented in images of aborted fetuses.

 *                                  *                                *

Of course ‘We won’t go back’ was chanted in defiance, because feminists of all ilks are now caught in the headlight of a vicious reaction, a culture war in which one side is looking like vanquishing that redolent evil, the woman intent on ‘child murder’, and her modern accomplice in state-supported abortion services. In Australia’s much more pragmatic culture, and where the legitimate role of the state is much broader, the culture war around abortion is very much subdued. The philosophical divisions remain, but the institutional reaction could be nowhere near as powerful or the struggle as fraught as it is in the United States. There we are witnessing a crumbling legal and social edifice—possibly the demise of fifty years of institutionalisation of the feminist revolution—in the hands and hearts of the ‘originalist’ jurists now in power. In the American context, abortion has only increasingly become a ‘master category’, pointing to an ultimate value around ‘life’ but also condensing the meanings and anxieties that are fuelling the radical Right’s larger political struggle—offering ordinary folks a visceral connection to overcoming something ‘rotten’ in the established liberal system.

We have had five decades of the abortion struggle defined according to the typical divisions described above: arguments from the social, and for women’s autonomy in decision making about their bodies, and a counter in a moral argument that starts from an absolute principle and ends in an absolute sanction against abortion. It is possible to argue some intervening position that recognises that abortion cannot be wholly reduced to a ‘health’ or social issue, that questions about the moral status of the foetus, especially in late-term abortions, should be taken seriously, even if not in the terms of the radical Right. But today the problem seems that we may all be rather missing key elements of a larger setting, of social and cultural change, that play back on what it means to be a woman and whether we can count on social programs that are intended for them. These changes include new forms of capitalist organisation and development; the long-emerging counter revolution in the conservative reaction already mentioned; a radical shift in understandings of the body and new forms of governance of it; and the role of science in facilitating a culture of radical choice. All of these surely crisscrossed the pro-abortion consciousness of the various constituencies of women who participated in the US demonstrations, as they do feminists in Australia.

We might look to feminism itself, then, for some clues as to how these larger issues have been missed by many in the movement, or arguably have been misunderstood. Another way to put it would be to ask why we are prone to contradictions, logical and cultural, in our thinking that we stand for women.

The terms of the historical struggle over abortion have been boiled down to ‘pro-life’ versus ‘pro-choice’, and both sides seem still to take up the question within this truncated framework. Certainly the liberal media do. Whether these ever accurately described more complex actual positions is one question. The other is whether they adequately even pointed to where the apparent choice between contending frameworks came from, or, in particular, why choice as an ideal emerged from within feminism as an overarching value. Indeed, in hindsight, within the feminist movement what did ‘choice’ really refer to? What did autonomous decision making over one’s own body encompass? Were any of the distinctively modern frameworks for wresting woman’s body into visibility and discourse—rights (social or individual), the righting of a ‘social ill’ like an unwanted pregnancy through humanistic medicine, arguments for ‘equality’ against patriarchal power structures—really able to grasp the nature of the emergent society in which those demands were being put?  

In the old conceptual breakdown of second wave feminism there was a third force of argument, named ‘radical feminism’, neither liberal-individualist nor social-collectivist in its primary formulations. In the hands of authors like Shulamith Firestone it struck one of those discordant notes, speaking a certain truth about second wave feminism’s generative context whose implications were nevertheless unsettling. One might even turn a blind eye to it. Early second wave feminism barely talked about the Pill as a condition of women’s new ‘liberty’ from the 1960s on. Firestone most famously advocated for industrial-scale out-of-body gestation, not as a sci-fi scenario but as a modus operandi for women’s liberation—from their bodies. It helped to plant seeds of a culture and ethics of radical choice facilitated in scientific/technological interventions. Today, Donna Haraway’s ‘cyborg feminism’ is no longer metaphorical; technological surrogacy in Third World countries is carried forward in apparently socialist-feminist arguments for ‘Surrogacy Now’; artificial wombs are being constructed in laboratories. Such interventions are way beyond any humanistic assistance a good doctor might provide a woman in poverty and distress, or even one who has made a bad choice, and knows it, and needs a ‘low-tech’ abortion to set her life back on track. The abortion argument has lingered in this latter humanistic realm, with both social and liberal arguments for abortion as a woman’s choice attached to some notion of women’s right to autonomy from husbands, fathers or brothers in making decisions about their reproductive bodies. Revolutionary, still, no doubt, but rather lagging in a rising context that suggests much more than that kind of freedom. Women may be caught in what might be called a ‘cultural contradiction’, believing their hoped-for autonomy means one thing while the culture draws them into a field of choices whose scope and terms are much more far reaching than they realise.

In this issue of Arena Quarterly, some of the lineaments of an accelerating techno-scientific, politically unstable world are explored. Several point to how in this culture, technoscience, together with consumption capitalism, is undoing the ground of human being and security that has been underwritten in some large degree by the schemas and experiences afforded by our given bodies, in human community—see especially Richard King’s ‘Zero Gravity: Floating Towards Posthumanism’. The abortion debate sits somewhat uneasily here. On the one hand pro-choice feminism argues for women’s capacity and right to rationally choose, but, unbounded in a culture today that doubts the specificity of woman’s body, ‘pro-choice’ tends towards the transcendence of embodied being, including women’s. On the other hand, abortion, in all its visceral reality, and the pity for life it engenders on both sides of the modern debate, absolutely reminds us that women’s bodies are a reality to be contended with.

“Happy” Accidents

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/09/2022 - 9:27am in

Pregnancy and parenting will never “just work out” for everybody. Nine years ago, I told my mother that the man I was seeing didn’t want children. I wasn’t yet sure what I wanted, and at the time his certainty was both comforting and concerning: I appreciated that he knew his own mind but wanted to keep my options open. “Oh, well,” my mom said. “Sometimes certain people meet...

Source

There Can Be No Nonviolence in Human Gestation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 31/08/2022 - 3:00am in

Even if all the people who currently “mother” in society were suddenly magically treated with respect by courts and medical doctors, left alone by cops and social workers, supported and assisted to become parents, and lavished with strings-free checks courtesy of the state, it would still be necessary to deprivatize care....

Read More

The Grassroots Fight for Legal Abortion Has Always Been Bipartisan

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 29/08/2022 - 10:00pm in

New York became the second state to legalize abortion (the first was Hawai’i), and the only state that lacked a residency requirement. Within two years over 200,000 women poured into the state for safe, legal abortions. And by setting a standard of 24 weeks, New York’s law influenced the ruling in Roe v. Wade three years later....

Read More

The 1970s and the fight for abortion rights in Australia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 21/08/2022 - 8:16pm in

Abortion became a political battleground in the 1970s, as social attitudes, court decisions and the Women’s Liberation Movement forced dramatic changes writes Judy McVey

Until 1969 abortion in Australia was illegal, with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. After that court decisions and law reform began to change this. The radical struggles of the period, including the emergence of the Women’s Liberation Movement, were also vital in securing access in the decade that followed. Abortion shifted from a taboo subject to become a major political issue.

Abortion has always been common. But before 1969, “Women who had means could attend a skilled abortionist; otherwise they went to someone less skilled or tried to abort themselves”, according to pro-choice doctor Stefania Siedlecky. Corrupt police ran a protection system for underground abortion rackets.

The legalisation of abortion saved lives, “abortion still remained the highest single cause of maternal death in Australia until the 1970s”, Siedlecky noted. “Annual deaths from abortion declined from 125 in 1941 to 14 in 1970, but in the triennium 1973-75 there were only 2 abortion deaths”.

Indigenous women faced different issues including forced sterilisation, and state-enforced removal of children, which still occurs today. People with disability continue to suffer non-consensual sterilisation too.

From liberal to radical reform

The changing role of women in the workforce and the availability of the pill from 1961, which gave women greater control over the decision about having children, helped shift attitudes to abortion.

Humanist Societies and civil libertarians took the first steps for legal reform, opposing state interference in what they declared were “private” individual decisions including homosexuality and abortion.

They set up Abortion Law Reform Associations during the late 1960s, inspired by the 1967 Abortion Act in Britain which legalised abortion in the first 28 weeks of pregnancy, subject to agreement by two doctors that the woman’s physical or mental health would be endangered by continuation of the pregnancy, or a serious risk of foetal abnormality. In 1969, the state government of South Australia introduced reform along similar lines.

But Liberal Party governments in the largest states, Victoria and NSW, were unwilling to follow suit, despite growing evidence of police corruption and women dying at the hands of back street operators. Under the spotlight, police responded more vigorously against abortion doctors, with unintended consequences.

When two doctors were arrested in Victoria, Judge Menhennitt acquitted them and ruled that the particular abortion was necessary to preserve the woman from serious danger to her life or to her physical or mental health. The Menhennitt ruling acknowledged that some abortions were lawful, setting an important precedent. Doctor Bertram Wainer then set out to test the issue, daring the police to arrest him for performing abortions and threatening to expose corrupt police profiting from illegal abortions. His stand established that abortions could be performed legally.

In Sydney the smell of scandal compelled the government to send the infamous “Abortion Squad” to raid the Heatherbrae Clinic in May 1970, arresting five staff under the anti-abortion law.

Over the next year the Women’s Liberation Group in Sydney held six major demonstrations protesting about the arrests. They submitted a petition with 9000 signatures to the NSW parliament on 20 April 1971. With only 15 Labor MPs voting in support, feminists concluded the prospect for abortion law repeal was “very slim”. But in October 1971 Judge Levine acquitted all Heatherbrae staff and handed down a ruling similar to Menhennitt’s.

The growth of a militant new left would help push the abortion struggle forwards.

The first women’s liberation groups formed in early 1970. They grew out of a period where protest against the Vietnam War became a catalyst for deepening youth rebellion, encouraging other radical movements including Indigenous demands for land rights and a growing strike wave.

The Women’s Liberation Movement (WLM) would use militant protest tactics to break through cultural and political obstacles. Challenging the idea of sexuality and abortion as private matters, they insisted the personal was political.

Inspired by Vietnam and other national liberation struggles, the WLM demanded “self-determination” for women, control over their bodies, equal pay and abortion on demand. Socialist unionist Zelda D’Aprano, a leading equal pay campaigner, joined the abortion campaigns, saying that despite “all the scandal and exposure of the abortion [graft and corruption] trials, women were silent”. The first WLM demonstration in Melbourne, “Contraceptives, not Chrysanthemums!” demanded free contraception and abortion on request.

In November 1971 street marches were held in Melbourne and Sydney for a woman’s right to choose. The following year Women’s Abortion Action Coalitions were formed demanding “free abortion on demand”, and thousands joined marches for abortion rights. These efforts helped establish widespread support.

As early as the 1970 Gallup Poll, 57 per cent agreed that abortion should be legal “in all circumstances” or “in cases of exceptional hardship, either physical, mental or social”, a shift of 9 per cent since 1968. Only 11 per cent opposed legalising abortion.

The radical mood in society led to the election of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in December 1972. Whitlam publicly supported abortion and sought to push the issue. However, the Labor party also allowed a “conscience vote” where MPs could vote according to their “own conscience”, and against party policy.

In 1973 when federal parliament debated abortion law reform for the ACT, right-wing Catholic ALP MPs used the “conscience vote” to defeat it.

Abortion law liberalisation had only succeeded in three of the six states—SA, Victoria and NSW. Thousands of women would travel to Melbourne and Sydney to access safer abortions.

But the legal changes made medical practitioners the gatekeepers instead of women themselves—no abortion would be lawful simply based on a woman’s choice to have one.

Whitlam also funded women’s centres and refuges, as well as Medibank, the forerunner of Medicare. When it was introduced in July 1975, all women who received “lawful” abortions could access a rebate (subsidy) covering most of the cost of the procedure, Australia-wide.

Because of these initiatives people began to understand abortion as “normalised”, affordable and safe.

Yet the Right never gave up. MP Kevin Harrold raised anti-abortion amendments twice, unsuccessfully, in NSW parliament. Clinics were banned in the ACT in 1978, and subject to ongoing police harassment in NSW.

The core political issue at stake over abortion is women’s right to control their own bodies and sexuality; in order to play a full part in social life.

Anti-abortion groups and the religious right defend what they see as women’s “traditional” role in the family bringing up children. This clashed with women’s demands for equality and the right to work outside the home as well as make their own decisions about abortion, marriage and children.

In the boom period after the Second World War, more and more women began entering the workforce. The workforce participation rate of married women rose from 8.6 per cent in 1947 to 18.7 per cent in 1961, and 32.7 per cent by 1971.

But women faced a contradiction: capitalism increasingly wanted them as part of the paid labour force; yet the system continued to rely on women in the home to care for and bring up children as part of the nuclear family. Without this unpaid labour in the home, capitalism would have to meet far more of the cost of bringing up the next generation of workers.

These developments created the circumstances for abortion law reform, but change was not automatic.

Beating back the backlash

The Whitlam government was undemocratically sacked in November 1975. The new Malcolm Fraser Liberal government immediately began to undermine funding for women’s services and attacked Medibank, sparking a national general strike of two million unionists in 1976.

In 1979 conservative MP Stephen Lusher moved a motion to stop Medibank funding abortion services. WLM and pro-choice supporters initiated broad-based rallies around the country and the Lusher Motion failed 62 votes to 52. Many MPs, concerned about their own support, recognised this as a class issue—that without subsidies working class women would not be able to afford the procedures, but wealthier women could still access them.

After the opening of Queensland’s first abortion clinic in 1979, the conservative Bjelke-Petersen government responded with a new bill banning abortion unless a woman’s life was immediately threatened, and even banned women travelling interstate for the purpose of abortion. The right mobilised with a “Celebrate Life” march and played the “heartbeat of a foetus” over commercial radio. Pro-choice groups including Children by Choice, Labor Women and Women’s Campaign for Abortion, with the support of the Trades and Labour Council (TLC), held rallies and illegal marches. The government retreated.

With this victory it was clear that bans on abortion were unlikely to succeed anywhere in Australia.

The social power of the union movement was a major factor. The Queensland TLC, along with ten major unions, helped build the pro-choice movement in 1979-80, arguing that, “The question of pregnancy termination should be the decision of the woman and her doctor”.

Today most states have laws allowing abortion at the request of the woman until between 16 and 24 weeks of pregnancy. However, availability and access are still a problem. Decriminalisation has been an important step forward but we still need to fight for free access to abortion accessible in public hospitals, and the full right to choose an abortion at any stage in the pregnancy.

Women are now a permanent part of the workforce and over half of union members, with great potential social power. While there is no prospect of the frontal attack on abortion rights here as in the US with the overturning of Roe v Wade, the right has used equal marriage, the Religious Discrimination Bill and opposition to transgender rights to try to maintain the status quo and enforce traditional gender roles.

The fight to ensure abortion remains affordable and accessible continues. The working class movement remains key to defending and extending women’s rights.

The post The 1970s and the fight for abortion rights in Australia appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Cartoon: The strategists

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 08/08/2022 - 10:00pm in

Tags 

Abortion

As always, if you find value in this work I do, please consider helping me keep it sustainable by joining my weekly newsletter, Sparky’s List! You can get it in your inbox or read it on Patreon, the content is the same.

Run on Abortion

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 05/08/2022 - 11:01pm in

Abortion bans are moral disasters. The result of these bans shocks the conscience of any decent person. That’s part of why we saw Kansas go the way it did. It’s also why Democrats need to run on abortion rights....

Read More

Pages