Defending the right to choose

As Victoria's parliamentary debate on abortion decriminalisation nears, pro-choice activists are stepping up their clinic defence against anti-abortion zealots. On the fourth Saturday of every month, pro-choice activists stand outside Melbourne's Fertility Control Clinic to keep anti-abortionists on the other side of the street.

But Saturday, May 24, was different. In April, the Helpers of God's Precious Infants, who video women attending the clinic, had attacked the defence line. They tore down the Campaign for Women's Reproductive Rights (CWRR) banner with its message, "Women Must Decide Their Fate", and trampled over it. The defenders linked arms and protected the clinic entrance.

CWRR and Radical Women (RW) put out a call for supporters of women's right to choose to join the next defence in May. A turnout of about 50 outnumbered the anti-abortion campaigners. A spirited rally of women and men — from campuses, unions and socialist and feminist groups — chanted "Not the church, not the state — Women must decide their fate!" and "Our bodies, our lives, our right to decide!" over a powerful PA system.

Motorists honked in solidarity, and passersby stopped to show support. Speakers emphasised the need for Victoria's majority, who believe in a woman's right to choose, to bombard their MPs with pro-choice messages in the lead-up to the parliamentary debate on abortion decriminalisation. Pages of a petition for free abortion on demand, organised by CWRR and RW, filled up with more signatures.

Organisers stressed the importance of building the clinic defence in these months before and during the debate. For the first time in 50 years, Victorians have the chance to remove abortion from the Crimes Act and make the procedure legal and accessible to every woman who wants it.

The next clinic defence is on June 28, 10am, at the Fertility Control Clinic, 118 Wellington Parade, East Melbourne. For more information, email Radical Women at radicalwomen@optusnet.com.au or phone (03) 9388 0062.

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