19 Aug 2008, Comments (17)

Labor can’t be trusted on reproductive rights

Author: Helen

Against abortion? Don't have one

The bill to legalise abortion has been introduced into the Victorian parliament. You’ll remember that that’s the one with the options A, B and C.

The Bill allows unrestricted abortions in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, but termination would have to be approved by two doctors after 24 weeks.

That looks to me like the draft bill has gone with option B – Choice for women up to 24 weeks but with legal constraints imposed after that. Option C would have left the choice completely in the hands of the pregnant woman. Therefore, this bill, if it becomes law, won’t stop forced-birthers hounding and harassing women who need an abortion after 24 weeks – and their doctors.

This, of course, is because of the persistent idea that women are all mad keen to get very late term abortions just for the hell of it— an idea which I find very stupid, but it seems to persist along with the myth that the ALP (State and Federal) still has any tenuous connection with progressive thought. Fortunately, while forced-birthers like to create the impression that the typical abortion is late-term, these are relatively rare and may be even more rare if women aren’t delayed by the fear of illegality and delays from mandatory “pregnancy counselling”. That would benefit the majority of women who don’t even come within cooee of 24 weeks. But will the bill even go through as it is?

The coverage in the local paper today consisted of a human interest story about Greens MP Colleen Hartland, who I know and like, and a short drive-by interview with Labor MP Christine Campbell. Here’s what Campbell has to say:

WOMEN who are considering an abortion need more information and better decision-making counselling, Labor MP Christine Campbell has warned.
With legislation to decriminalise abortion expected to be introduced into State Parliament today, Ms Campbell said: “My big concern is that everyone’s so hell bent on decriminalising abortion, we might forget to put in place the support and care systems that women and couples need.”
Ms Campbell, who is expected to vote against decriminalisation, said she is leading a “Living Labor” group to push for amendments to protect women, whatever the result of the vote.

Maybe there were space constraints – heaven knows there was TEH SPORT taking first priority – but this leaves a few pertinent facts out, mainly that Christine Campbell is specifically anti-choice, and that in this country “women who are considering an abortion need more information and better decision-making counselling” is code for “women need to be badgered out of having an abortion and should definitely not be referred for same.”

Exhibit A: the former Federal government’s “pregnancy counselling” centres, run by religious anti-choice groups, which were the subject of a GetUp campaign, Stop Deceiving Women, because they concealed the true nature of their operations and advertised as if they were a neutral service. When Democrats senator Natasha Stott Despoja introduced the Pregnancy Counselling (Truth in Advertising) Bill in 2007 to counter this practice, Federal Labor refused to support it.

The bottom line is that social conservative Labor says that you can’t be trusted with your own body. I say that I don’t trust them with my reproductive rights.

Comments (17)

  • Oz Ozzie says:

    So, Helen, at what point do you think that the unborn has rights?

    > the persistent idea that women are all mad keen to get very late
    > term abortions just for the hell of it– an idea which I find very stupid

    so, in that case, we could safely restrict abortions post 24 weeks to cases of medical necessity then, since the baby has become viable, and it’s not going to cost anyone anything since why on earth else would the question of abortion come up at that time?

  • armagny says:

    I know, I know, but I think it’s a bit wilfully narrow to just say Labor is against choice- as you well know a large portion of labor are vehemently pro choice but the party is compromised by a large religious conservative wing.

    The compromise is a way of getting the law changed in a deeply conservative society.

    If the party was truly against it there is no groundswell demanding this change. Read again- there is no groundswell among the fairly socially conservative marginal suburb dwellers. It’s happening because (a) the left and (b) the non-shoppies right have fought for change for decades.

  • Bernice says:

    I do not buy the line that Australians are inherently so conservative that they support “the compromise” position. Every poll I’ve seen overwhelmingly shows that across all demographics, Australians support the right for women’s choice.

    Like so many other aspects of contested legislative agendas in Australian parliaments, it bears little resemblance to the mood of the electorate and far far more to do with internal party pressures and cross bench showmanship. The gender specific nature of the last comment was intentional.

  • kate says:

    Oz the time restrictions make women hurry up on having an abortion rather than preventing them. Various problems that might qualify as “medical necessity” aren’t diagnosed until tests at 20 weeks. Realistically, what with appointment times and pathology taking time, it might be 21 weeks when you have the tests, and 22 weeks when you get the results. Which gives you less than 2 weeks to make a decision and get an appointment for a termination. This may, up to this point, have been a very wanted pregnancy. The woman and her partner may need some time to work out what they can live with, what they can manage, what they think is best for them and for the fetus/potential child.

    All restriction serves to do is make the whole thing more traumatic, it doesn’t stop women from terminating pregnancies when they believe they are necessary. What counts as ‘necessary’ in my life is none of your damn business.

  • Anna Winter says:

    Helen, I get why you’ve said it, but as one of those fighting the fight within the Labor Party, I have to say that it’s incredibly frustrating to keep seeing things like “Labor can’t be trusted on reproductive rights”.

    Labor Senators worked pretty hard to get the counselling bill happening. A Labor Senator co-sponsored the Bill. But they weren’t in government, and it didn’t happen.

    We should all be loudly supporting the Bill’s reintroduction post-Kevin07. We should all remember to lobby hard for the changes in Victoria. But it would be more effective and more supportive of our pro-choice sisters in Parliament, and the hard work they do behind the scenes, to keep emphasising the fact that the Christine Campbells do not speak for Labor values, rather than lumping them all in one anti-choice pile.

  • Oz Ozzie says:

    kate, you have a good point. time pressures are not a good thing (on a side note I note that all the major wars recently have been started by people who feared they were running out of time). And I understand that the word “necessary” is hard to pin down. Maybe the things you are talking about are medical necessity and maybe not. I presume you have downs in mind.

    You say:
    > The woman and her partner may need some time to work out what
    > they can live with, what they can manage, what they think is best for
    > them and for the fetus/potential child.

    I like that balance – but how can the law reflect that balance, rather than only for one side or the other?

  • Helen says:

    I like that balance – but how can the law reflect that balance, rather than only for one side or the other?

    The answer is that the law has no place in that decision, except in out and out medical malpractice (which option C provided for.) It should be between the woman and her doctor/specialist.

    Anna and Armagny, I’m torn sometimes because I know that many good bloggers and blogfriends are Labor, but given
    -the anti-Green Dirty Tricks campaigns that come out with every by election
    -The extreme right-wing and climate change denialism as exemplified by Marn Ferson and the New City website
    -The terrible policies, e.g. Victorian public transport debacle which is getting to be a total infrastructure breakdown, and let me also mention Tim Pallas’s derogatory comments about bike paths on St Kilda Road
    -The social conservatives exemplified by Joe De Bruyn and the shoppies who think they should tell us to do with our bodies
    I am becoming increasingly fed up with them. Yes there are good elements in Labor but who gets quoted in the AGE? Christine Campbell. Good Labor politicians need to be more active!

    My mum joined the Labor party a few years ago to try and reform it from within. 😉 She’s an optimist, unlike me!

  • […] Because Helen at Cast Iron Balcony covered all the issues so well that I had nothing to add – read it there. […]

  • Anna Winter says:

    I agree with all your points. I’m not trying to defend any of that.

    My point is that it’s about supporting our pro-choice sisters in the ALP who are doing the really hard yards behind the scenes, and who need our support. It’s about making sure we don’t make the mistake of disappearing them. Just because we don’t see their work, doesn’t mean they aren’t doing it. Talking to the media is often what one does when they aren’t able to do the numbers; it can be a good sign that they aren’t pissing potential supporters off by running non-party lines.

    It really shits me when people like Leslie Cannold (whom I admire very much), say such things, when they know first hand how hard these women are working.

  • Hattie says:

    It sounds as if abortion law in Australia is a mess, which makes me feel very glad for Roe v. Wade. But there is nothing to feel smug about here, since the loonies are working night and day to take away abortion rights in the U.S.

  • MsLaurie says:

    Hattie, Australian law is very messy in this area, but the practicality of the situation is that for people with reasonable access to healthcare (i.e. people in metropolitan areas with mulitple health care providers) can generally get an abortion when they require it.

    There is some protesting outside clinics and things, but quite low-key, and they do not get much sympathy from the general public.

    Last year (? or maybe the year before?) a vote in the federal parliament changed the laws to allow for medical abortions to occur, with the end vote being something like 70% in favour of the change. This was broadly seen to reflect public sentiment.

    The anti-choice voices might be noisy, but they are few.

  • armagny says:

    Hey Anna we should start a new faction ;p

    I know Helen, and I feel the same frustration. It’s actually very difficult to find a place in the party if you see yourself more as centre-left than socialist left, but don’t subscribe to social conservatism.

    I DO lose sleep over the issue. Although I lose more sleep over crying Bears of course!

  • Emma says:

    Hi Helen, I’m a very occasional lurker here, I admire the words that I get the time to read.

    I have been following the new closely on this issue and I was bitterly disappointed to read that our parliamentarians were heading for option B. To me it’s a sign that our elected representatives, deep, deep down, still don’t trust pregnant women with moral choices. They don’t trust women at all… not really…. The Greek “wandering womb theories” and the later “hysterical theories” of male physicians left scars that run too deep to be countered in this generation.

  • Dr S says:

    Although option C may well have been preferable, I suspect it was never going to fly. Although public opinion is supportive of abortion on demand, once it crosses into the same weeks of gestation as the “my baby’s a fighter” stories the Herald Sun run once a week the possibility of a scare campaign ruining the whole thing was pretty high.

    In practice, I suspect there will be little hindrance. Most abortion practitioners are not hugely fond of third trimester terminations and would probably be uncomfortable performing them without seeing a need. Not to mention the fact that no-one is going to ask for one without need. Two doctors just means Dr Bev in the next cubicle pops in as well to have a quick chat and commiserate that things have reached such an awful pass before making an extra note in different hand-writing. Then the procedure gets booked, hopefully not less urgently because there is no deadline.

    The issue at the moment is that you can go through the head of department, the legal team and the hospital ethics committee with the sworn statement of a psychiatrist that this woman is going to kill herself and still end up in court because a Catholic senator doesn’t like it. Also, there is no legal or procedural obligation for a public health service to provide termination services, witness Bendigo for instance.

    Not perfect. Much better. Probably the best possible.

  • Helen says:

    Absolutely – here’s my post on the truly disgusting McGauran.

    Oh and welcome to Emma, I’m a reader of your blog, good to see you here.

  • I’m afraid I’m late to this, but if anyone’s still kicking around, can you explain to me how option C was going to provide for cases of “out and out medical malpractice” (as Emma says)?

  • Helen says:

    Medical malpractice is medical malpractice – whether someone treats your little toe incorrectly and it goes gangrenous and drops off, or someone does a mississippi appendectomy. And it’s illegal. (It sometimes goes unnoticed that pro-choicers support the choice to give birth as well as to avoid it.)

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