ACT women score abortion rights victory

Issue 

ACT women score abortion rights victory

CANBERRA — On June 23, the ACT Legislative Assembly voted by 10 to 7 to repeal 1978 legislation banning the establishment of a free-standing abortion clinic in the territory. An estimated 2000 women wishing to have an abortion have been forced to travel to Sydney each year.

The victory follows an extended campaign by Options and the recently formed Pro-Choice group. During the same period the anti-abortion lobby organised a well-funded "little feet" campaign, intended to humanise foetuses and dehumanise women. In the public and media debate preceding the vote, the conservative forces found themselves on the defensive as the issue focused on women standing up for their rights.

A Pro-Choice meeting following the victory decided to organise in support of funding for a free-standing abortion clinic.

On the day of the vote, a rally was held at the Legislative Assembly. Anne Yuille told the rally that the 1978 legislation resulted from one of 47 recommendations by a committee which conducted an inquiry in 1977.

"Specifically, the committee recommended: a self-contained outpatient clinic, within the grounds of a public hospital, which would provide counselling and support; a choice of local or general anaesthetic; post-abortion check-ups; contraceptive information and advice; and a staff that freely elected to work there. All of these sounded like a good abortion clinic."

These recommendations had been ignored. "What we got instead was a system of referrals and processes so bureaucratic, time-consuming, judgmental and demoralising that the vast majority of women requiring an abortion make the expensive, inconvenient and, for some women, incredibly difficult journey to Sydney."

"Repealing the 1978 Termination of Pregnancy Act will not give us abortion on demand", Yuille said. "It will not even make abortion legal. What it will do is bring us into line with NSW and most of the rest of Australia. This should have happened 15 years ago."