IWD kicks off abortion rights campaign

March 18, 1998

By Phuong Dang and Sarah Lantz

MELBOURNE — On March 8, International Women's Day, a loud crowd of more 1000 women and male supporters rallied at Melbourne's GPO around the theme "Women united for justice and native title".

Nyrell Brooks, an activist from Melbourne University's Koori Students' Liaison Unit, spoke strongly against the cuts to ABSTUDY and for land rights: "What many people don't know is that rights such as ABSTUDY were fought for by Aborigines, and now these things are being taken from us". Brooks also told the crowd that having men stand beside and in support of women is a necessary part of fighting for women's liberation.

Lynette Dumble from Melbourne University demanded reproductive rights for all women and highlighted the current attacks in Perth where two doctors have been charged with procuring an abortion. She called for the repeal of the existing "oppressive, anti-women" abortion legislation.

The Tamil Eelam Women's Association condemned the rape and abuse of Tamil women by the Sri Lankan military.

The crowd marched to the Liberal Party headquarters where speakers criticised the government's funding cuts to women's services. Ignoring the police guarding the entrance, messages of protest and demands were plastered around the building.

The march then continued to the ALP offices to hear Vannessa Hearman of Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor condemn Labor's record on women's rights and its support for Indonesian President Suharto's repression of the East Timorese and Indonesian people, including Indonesian feminist political prisoner Dita Sari.

All women were invited to participate in the organisation of an abortion rights rally to be held in Melbourne on April 4. A meeting last week to begin to organise the rally was attended by more than 40 women and reflected a sense of urgency about organising against the attacks.

A coalition to campaign for free, safe and accessible abortion on demand has been formed and will now meet regularly to plan the campaign. All pro-choice women are welcome to attend. For more information, phone Sarah on 9660 2871 or Jo on 9329 1277.

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