Emily Rayers explains the importance of choice

Last week the UNSW Student Development Council approved a UNSW branch of the anti-abortion ‘Life Choice’ club. This marks the 4th Life Choice club to hit university campuses in Sydney over the last 12 months under the guise of facilitating productive discussion around abortion and euthanasia, while soon revealing their harmful agenda spreading misinformation through their blog and Facebook page.

Last week, on our own campus, the Catholic Society put on a lecture called ‘Alternatives to Abortion and Contraception’ which offered no such alternatives (except abstinence, which has been shown time and time again to achieve nothing but negative health outcomes for populations given no other options). A few members of the Women’s Collective attended and were appalled at the misleading nature of the presentation.
As a university we are failing our women students* by wasting our time and resources arguing incessantly with one another about the logical consistencies of supporting abortion and reaching no consensus.

Too often this topic descends into vitriolic discourse and name-calling from both extremes. Too often well-researched effects of abortion on individuals and societies are ignored. Too often the information spread through social media, traditional media and seemingly reliable and well-intentioned sources is at best untrue, and at worst deliberately traumatising and hateful. Too often the hypothetical woman in the situation is forgotten, reduced to a uterus, and too often the situation is treated as a mere hypothetical when it occurs for 1 in 3 real, actual women in Australia at some point during their lives.
The vast majority of abortions are performed in weeks 6-12 of pregnancy and abortion after 24 weeks (often the focus of ‘pro-life’ propaganda) is rare and not performed unless medically necessary.  Legal, voluntary abortion rarely has a negative effect on previously healthy women, and studies have found abortion can offer relief and improve the mental health of women. Like many significant life events, pregnancy too (whether planned or unwanted) can affect the mental health of women.

The philosophical discussion of abortion has taken centre stage to the detriment of actual medical and supportive information. Abortion is first and foremost a health issue, not a social one, and we need to start treating it that way. It’s time to change the conversation around abortion, start educating women about their rights and start providing factual information to women on campus (who are, or may become, pregnant) about all of their options.
The Women’s Collective is dedicated to preserving a woman’s right to control the contents of her reproductive organs. We are dedicated to maintaining a campus where all women feel safe and are not vilified for their reproductive choices. We are dedicated to creating a culture on campus where women can make educated decisions about their body without the interference of third parties.

If you are experiencing, or would like information or support regarding unwanted pregnancy, some useful resources include Family Planning NSW (1300 658 886, www.fpnsw.org.au) and Children By Choice (www.childrenbychoice.org.au).

If you are interested in organising with the collective around this issue, want more information about reproductive health or have any other ideas for campaigns or events, get in touch via usydwomenscollective@gmail.com, join the Facebook group ‘USyd Women’s Collective’, tweet us (@SRCwomens) or come along to our meetings – 1pm Wednesdays in the Women’s Room, Manning House.

*It is overwhelmingly women in this position, though I do not mean to ignore those who possess uteri and do not identify as women.

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