Anti-choice march thwarted

May 6, 1998

By Susan Price

MELBOURNE — Hundreds of protesters successfully thwarted attempts by anti-abortion campaigners from reaching Parliament House here on April 26.

Braving inclement weather, pro-choice supporters held a colourful rally and speak-out on the steps of Parliament House to demand that the Victorian government repeal all abortion laws.

The counter-demonstration was organised by the Pro-Choice Coalition, which has been meeting regularly since charges were laid against two Perth doctors for performing an abortion. The demonstration against the right wing's "March for Little Feet" was part of a national week of activities around abortion rights.

Mary Merkenich, a trade unionist and founding member of the Women's Abortion Action Campaign in the 1970s, outlined the lessons learned by women about campaigning to turn public opinion in favour of women's right to choose abortion. A message from abortion provider Dr Sandra Hallam was read to the rally, and an open microphone attracted a diverse range of speakers.

In previous years, protesters' tactics against the annual anti-choice event gave the police the opportunity to attack the rally. This year, after much debate within the Pro-Choice Coalition, it was decided the demonstration would concentrate on being a show of strength at Parliament House, rather than a physical confrontation with Right To Life.

The Pro-Choice Coalition is planning a vigil on the eve of May 28 as part of the International Day of Action for Women's Reproductive Rights, and is investigating the possibility of a private member's bill being put to state parliament.

Coalition members have also been approached to debate anti-abortion speakers on campuses, providing opportunities for public discussion and debate about abortion law repeal.

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