Fight for a woman's right to choose!

February 13, 2002

By Nicole Hoye

Women in Australia and in most other countries still do not have control over their reproductive lives. Abortion is still a crime in all states of Australia.

Women's access to abortion services still depends on judicial interpretations of the law and the availability of abortion in mostly privately run clinics. Where abortion is available in the public hospitals system, this is dependent on the willingness of medical staff to carry out abortions, and on the availability of doctors who are trained in the procedure.

In the Third World, and among indigenous women in many countries including Australia, forced sterilisation has been and still is routinely practised. Women in many underdeveloped countries are also subjected to experimental "population control" drugs and practices without their informed consent.

When you consider the facts: two out of every three pregnancies are unplanned; one out of every four pregnancies are terminated; and one in every three women will have an abortion in her lifetime — the need for abortion laws to be repealed (that is removed from all criminal codes) is a matter of urgency.

No woman should be forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. The right of a woman to decide when, if and how many children she wishes to have is a fundamental starting point for her liberation. As long as abortion remains a criminal offence, women continue to be denied control over their bodies and consequently their lives.

The experience of the many campaigns for a woman's right to choose has demonstrated two related points:

Firstly, we cannot leave it to politicians to decide what's best for women. In Western Australia, and most recently in Tasmania, this led to "reform" bills being passed which still entrench in law the fact that it is ultimately the decision of one or two doctors, not a woman, whether an abortion will be carried out.

Secondly, nothing short of repeal of all laws specifically relating to abortion is sufficient for women to have full control over their reproduction. Abortion should be legally treated like any other medical procedure.

To truly achieve the repeal of all abortion laws, we need democratic, open campaigns involving all those who support a woman's right to choose. All the formal rights which women have won over the past decades have been fought for, and if women are going to enjoy full participation in society — whether that means in education, work, or wherever else, then we must take up the demand to repeal all abortion laws, as part of this struggle.

Get active — March on International Women's Day! Demand reproductive rights for women!

From Green Left Weekly, February 13, 2002.
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