22 Jan 2008, Comments Off on Today is Blog for Choice day

Today is Blog for Choice day

Author: Helen

Blog for Choice day, 22 January 2008

Blog for Choice day is an initiative of NARAL, the US pro-choice organisation. The website which showcases the event is called Bush v. Choice. This Blog for Choice day also marks 35 years since the Roe vs Wade decision which protected abortion rights for women in the US.

But it’s impossible to spend any time in the US feminist or political blogs without realising that the US religious right – which has been making increasing inroads into our country as well – has been threatening Roe v. Wade for some time. Pumped-up anti-choice organisations have been encircling women and their health providers, always alert for an opening or a sign of weakness. It’s not just the violence that happens around US abortion clinics. The legal and political challenges are circling around them as well, hackles raised, teeth showing, ready to pounce.

So, Blog for Choice day, where we stop and think about the abortion wars and how they’re nowhere near won, and what we can do about it.

I’m going to leave the US now though, to talk about Australia and Melbourne where I live, and the doctor who has been put through a trial by fire by an unscrupulous politician and the rest of the circling, snarling rabble of abortion opponents.

It’s a continuation of the story about the one extreme edge case of late abortion which was made into a cause celebre by MP Julian McGauran, who didn’t hesitate to trample all over the rights of the woman in question and her doctors.

Now the doctor who performed the abortion has outed himself, with articles in the Bulletin and other news outlets. His name is Professor Lachlan de Crespigny (and, oddly enough, I remember him from prenatal exams at the RWH when I was pregnant with Boychild.) He has also been speaking publicly in support of a change of legislation to entrench womens’ right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy. The anti-abortionists have done their best to ruin his life.

“It just took over my life,” he says. “It’s better now in that I don’t think about it all day every day, but I think about it a lot every day … I still wake up at night and I still lie awake thinking about it every night. It used to be for hours every night. But now I switch off and go back to sleep far more quickly.”
Most of his anger is directed at the hospital. A few months after the woman’s abortion, the hospital called a news conference to reveal the events that had transpired.
Professor de Crespigny says the news conference was called after a number of doctors told hospital administration what had happened. He was sacked first, then suspended. Five other doctors were also suspended. The suspensions were soon lifted and the doctors were able to return to work. But, because of a feeling of being wronged at least in Professor de Crespigny’s case, none of the doctors work at the hospital now.

According to the Bulletin article, because of the personal toll this six-year witch hunt has taken on him, Professor de Crespigny will retire this year at 61 (he expected to work into his eighties, as his father had done.) I can well believe it, because he appears to have most of the signs of post traumatic stress.

The corollary, of course, is clear. De Crespigny and other health professionals have been made an example of, to send a message to others. So, although on paper Australian women may have reasonable legal access to abortion, in practice, the numbers of surgeons willing to perform the procedure will fall and de facto access will be more and more restricted.

Doctors are right to be anxious about performing a legal abortion. Because of recent police and coroner’s investigations, court cases and press coverage of abortion cases, more doctors now refuse a request for abortion. This environment unreasonably denies women abortion, and it exposes women and their doctors to unpredictable legal risk and public exposure. A system is flawed when a doctor’s first priority cannot be the welfare of her or his patient.

And, as I pointed out here, although seven years have now passed since his crusade began, Julian McGauran – the MP who started it all – hasn’t been able to find another example of a late-term abortion conducted for psychiatric reasons. The number of late-term abortions conducted for purely frivolous reasons, of course, remains at zero. People’s lives have been ruined because of a late-term abortion epidemic that exists only in his imagination.

Blog for Choice day should be an occasion for all of us, Australians as well as Americans, to stop and consider how the circling, snarling anti-choicers are ripping away at our right to our bodily autonomy bit by bit. We can only stop it by looking outward, and doing what we can to chase off the circling predators. We also need to help to drag those predators off the targets they have singled out as particularly tasty.

So I’d like to offer a huge cyber-bouquet to Professor Lachlan de Crespigny, feminist ally and courageous supporter of human rights.

I’ll update this post later with links to other Blog for Choice day posts. Comments vilifying the people mentioned in this post will be disemvowelled. If you think this denies your freedom of speech, don’t hesitate to get your own blog.
Update 23/01/2008:
Jill Filipovic of Feministe lists 10 reasons to support reproductive justice on Roe day.
Alternet has a Reproductive Justice section with a massive link farm of Blog for Choice day posts.
There’s a group essay up at Salon.com as well.

I can’t find anything on the Australian feminist blogs for BFC day, but I’ll take the oportunity to plug this wonderful article by Audrey Apple, and the followup here and here. Big “awwwwww!” moment in the third link.
Update 24/01/2008:
Add some blue milk to the mix. BM points out that the Blog for Choice organisers had a specific theme, which doesn’t really relate to Australia. My approach was simply to ignore it!
And this post from Lauredhel isn’t a Blog for Choice day post, but I thought it was too important to leave out.

Crossposted at Road to Surfdom

Comments (0)

  • Lia says:

    I dont feel that Senator Julian MGauran has a genuine care for humanity or human life at all, and that it what makes the whole story so very sick.

    A couple of years ago, a friend of mine approached Senator McGauran for assistance with health issues as she was being denied a fair go by the health system for a condition that has now worsened.

    My understanding is that she was told by Senator McGauran that she should be greatful that she was walking again, and that she should just have faith in the system rather than questioning it, and insisting that a politician such as himself query the machinations that were going on in a public body.

    Senator McGauran steadfastly refused to help, and then refused to even take her calls as a constituent or to make inquiries to the actions of this public body. She was told to leave the bureaucrats to do their work and that the system did not need to be questioned.

    It is more than a bit curious, that he not only questioned the system in relation to a private abortion case (without the actual victim’s consent) but he turned it into an active crusade questioning the very “system” he claimed should not have been questioned in my friend’s case.

    If Sentaor McGauran does not care about the health and well-being of living people (and that appears to be my friend’s experience) then I find it impossible to believe that he cared about a fetus.

    What makes it so sick is the so many people appeared to have suffered not for any cause relating to Senator McGauran’s desire to defend the integrity of human life. However in my friend’s case, he trampled all over and ignored her integrity.

    He behaved as if it were a terrible incovenience for him to have to hear about and deal with my friend’s matter as part of his job –which SHOULD involve serving the people of Victoria.

    But given his enormous wealth and VERY sizeable contributions to campaign funding, the Liberal Party will just focus on that and are bound to put him up for pre-selection in 2008, and the people of Victoria will just have to suffer.

    It would be interesting for the victims in that abortion case to seek out such stories of Senator McGauran’s neglect of real life people with health issues and other desperate social issues, who have approached him for help and have gotten the stick.

  • suze says:

    Thanks, belated, for this post.
    Dr de Crespigny wrote a book about prenatal testing which I consulted during pregnancy which was an excellent resource. I’m really sorry to read about what’s happened to him.

  • Dysthymiac says:

    oh Lia that McGauran is a sleaze. Your friend must be so pissed off.

    There are many other late terminations that he should get himself Very Closely involved in: all the well-documented poor toddlers and infants bashed and brutalised by defacto non-fathers (OK yeah, and the bad mothers too).
    Every rotten case which comes to light, one assumes will be The Last, but it never is.

    I truly believe that couples wishing to keep what they pro-create should have to pass an IQ and commitment test before being allowed to.
    My parents would have terminated me if they could have – my whole family has confirmed this anecdotally – and I had a rotten childhood and repeated history by having 3 children with a man who Just Did Not Want To Be A Father.
    It’s just Criminal that a fine man like De Crespigny doing positive community life’s work, gets screwed over by a nitwit like Mcgauran who behaves as Lia describes above (and whose name has a whiff of Papism to it begorrah).

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.