Last Monday, me and some members of the Women’s Collective were lucky enough to attend Vocal Majority’s Let’s Get Loud conference at the ANU in Canberra. Vocal Majority is a relatively new activist youth organization aimed at promoting and protecting reproductive rights. At the conference, we heard from Dr Anne Summers AO as the keynote speaker, who spoke on where the feminist movement is now and where it has to go. We heard from a great number of panelists including Julie McKay, Executive Director of UN Women Australia and Stella Young, Disability activist and editor of Rampup! We also had great workshops with Clementine Ford, writer and Anna Rose, Founder of AYCC.
One of the main things I learned from the conference was the importance of reflection within any social or political movement. Stopping at taking stock of your achievements and considering ‘where to next?’ is necessary so as to prevent burnout and to build connections and skills.
I was also reminded of Australia’s archaic reproductive and sexual health laws and provisions. In both Queensland and New South Wales, Abortion is a crime, unless doctors believe a woman’s mental or physical health are in danger. In comparison, the ACT and Victoria do not count abortion amongst the criminal code.
One of the biggest problems facing women who require an abortion is the limited access and prohibitive costs. Most abortions are performed in private clinics, and these clinics are heavily concentrated in urban, city areas. For women in regional and rural areas, this means extensive travel, and additional costs to what is an already expensive process.
While Australia has far to go, in comparison to the world at large, we have a lot to be thankful for. The World Health Organisation has estimated that 21.6 million unsafe abortions were performed in 2008 alone- causing approximately 48, 000 deaths. These sorts of statistics emphatically prove that restricted access to abortion does not stop abortion happening- it just stops abortion happening in a safe environment.
Evidence also suggests that the liberalization of abortion laws actually sees a fall in abortion-related deaths. In 1996, South Africa changed it’s laws-and saw a 91% drop in instances of related deaths.
In New South Wales, we need a better system- one which is empirically proven to be safe and better for women. And most people agree- consistent polling shows that 80%- a (vocal) majority of Australians support the removal of abortion from the criminal code.
[if you are dealing with an unplanned pregnancy, call Family Planning NSW on 1300 658 886]
SRC Women’s Officer