Abortion an election issue
By Janet Parker
SYDNEY — The Women's Abortion Action Campaign (WAAC) has surveyed all candidates standing in the by-election for the state seat of Parramatta to determine their attitude to women's right to abortion. A summary of the results is being sent to local women's organisations, distributed at street stalls prior to the election and handed out at polling booths on August 27.
For over 20 years, WAAC has been fighting for the defence and extension of women's rights to abortion. Central to the campaign have been the demands for the repeal of all abortion laws and free, safe abortion and contraception on demand.
WAAC activist Claudine Holt told GLW, "It's extraordinary that after all these years and after all the changes brought about by the women's movement, abortion is still in the NSW Crimes Act. We consider that a woman's control over her own body must be her most basic right. After the Parramatta by-election, WAAC will go on to ensure that abortion becomes a crucial state election issue."
The nine candidates contesting the by-election were asked 12 questions about abortion access: would they support a repeal of the existing laws, would they support abortion being more readily available in NSW hospitals, should politicians have the right to vote on their conscience on this issue (as Liberal, Labor and the Democrats do) and a number of other questions regarding their personal opinion and/or party platform on abortion.
Labor candidate Gabrielle Harrison and the Liberal's Wendy Jones did not respond to the survey. Although few in WAAC were surprised by this, it condemned this cowardly behaviour. "The refusal of these candidates to respond to our survey or our repeated calls suggests that they have little regard for women's rights," Holt said. "Those voting should show them the contempt they deserve."
Only Miranda Fitzgerald of the Greens (NSW) gave unequivocal support to women's right to abortion. Though independent candidates Tony Issa and Charles Malkoun, Grey Power's John Verheyen and Tony de Govrik of the Daylight Saving Extension Party all supported repeal of sections 82-84 of the Crimes Act, they contradicted themselves by also supporting the conscience vote.
At the other end of the spectrum, Bruce Coleman, of Fred Nile's group Call to Australia, was totally consistent in opposing women's right to abortion. In a very emphatic response, he described abortion as "murder" and promised to call for an enforcement of the Crimes Act to prosecute doctors found to be performing abortions.