Pro-choice activist will be rallying outside the East Melbourne fertility control clinic on November 24, under the slogan “Our Clinic, Our Bodies, Our Choice”.
The rally is organised by Melbourne Feminist Action (MFA), an exciting new women’s rights collective.
MFA was initiated by Jacinda Woodhead and Stephanie Convery who work for literary journal Overland. They were motivated by what seems to be a growing and renewed public interest in women’s rights in Melbourne.
It came on the heels of packed-out feminist forum “Destroy the Joint”, which was hosted by Overland at very short notice. Melbourne had also just had its biggest Reclaim the Night march, mobilising between 5000 and 8000 people.
The size of the iconic anti-sexual violence march was largely a response to the brutal rape and murder of a young woman in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick in September.
The first MFA meeting attracted more than 120 people, with representatives from current women’s rights and activist organisations, diverse community groups and student bodies attending. There were also many women and men present who had never been involved in activism or feminist organising before.
The meeting resolved to be an activist group, organising around the principle of local, women’s rights based actions. The first action the collective voted to take was a defense of Melbourne’s fertility control clinic.
The clinic, on Wellington Parade, has just celebrated its 40th anniversary. Founded by abortion law reformers Bertram and Jo Wainer, it was the first clinic in Australia to provide safe and affordable abortion, as well as other reproductive health services.
Even though Victorian women won the legal right to abortion in 2008, unhindered access remains an issue for many women. The clinic is picketed daily by Christian fundamentalist anti-abortionists who harass and intimidate patients and staff.
The anti-abortion crusaders also march once a month after mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral to the clinic.
Melbourne Feminist Action is holding this rally to demonstrate publicly that the harassment of women trying to access a health clinic is unacceptable and that women are more than capable of making informed decisions about their own bodies and lives.
Rally organisers will also show solidarity with Savita Halappanavar, a young women who died on October 28 in Ireland after having been denied an abortion.