BY RACHEL EVANS
MELBOURNE — Following the July 16 fatal shooting of Steven Rogers, a security guard at the Fertility Control Clinic, pro-choice activists around the country mobilised to defend the right of women to safe, accessible abortion.
The murder occurred soon after a protest organised by anti-choice organisation Helpers' og God's Precious Infants, which has been picketing the clinic for months.
The shooter managed to obtain access to the reception area of the clinic. After Rogers was shot, he was overpowered and forcibly disarmed by two male clients of the clinic. He has since been charged with murder. He has refused to give his name or any personal details to police. Despite wide publicity, one week after the murder his identity was still a mystery.
On July 18, 50 pro-choice activists assembled on the steps of Melbourne's Parliament House chanting "Right to life, what a lie, you don't care if women die", and "Not the church, not the state, women must decide their fate".
The snap action, organised by the Socialist Alliance and the Pro-Choice Coalition, demanded the repeal of all abortion laws and an end to violence against staff and clients at fertility centres. Passers-by signed petitions and bought pro-choice badges.
Socialist Alliance member Linda Waldron addressed the rally. "The persecution of women outside clinics [which provide abortions] has created a climate of violence which allowed the shooting to occur", she told the rally. "This is the culmination of months of harassment by Right to Life attempting to steal back the ground which the feminist movement won during the uprisings of the '70s."
"The blame also has to be placed with the major parties. Both the ALP and the Liberals refuse to decriminalise abortion, thus legitimising and fuelling anti-choice actions. In Victoria the criminal code still stipulates that a woman who has an abortion can be imprisoned for five years. All political parties should work to repeal abortion from the criminal code and remove "conscience" votes for their members on the question."
The action was also addressed by Lynette Dumble from the Global Sisterhood Network, who passed on her condolences to the Rogers family and reiterated the importance of reproductive freedom for women, in Australia and world-wide.
Protesters discussed the possibility of protests outside the August Right to Life national conference in Melbourne.
In Brisbane, Robyn Marshall reports, the International Women's Day Collective organised an emergency speakout on July 20 in King George Square.
Thirty activists collected petition signatures demanding the repeal of all Queensland anti-abortion laws.
Socialist Alliance member Coral Wynter spoke on behalf of the collective, telling passers-by that " the right for all women to a termination must be taken out of the grey areas of illegality and morality and into the realm of a health issue for women. If Australian government's keep sticking their heads in the sand, these murderous tactics imported from the USA are going to continue".
Despite saturation media coverage of the issue, and plenty of coverage of anti-choice views, no pro-choice campaigners have been quoted in the media.
The International Women's Day Collective is organising a pro-choice rally at 5pm, August 8 at King George Square. The rally will march on Parliament House and present the petition to the Labor government.
In Sydney, Lauren Carroll Harris reports, feminists attending the National Organisation of Women Students Australia conference organised a protest action on July 19.
Attended by more than 200 women, the rally had a twin focus of supporting a women's right to choose and opposing Nike's use of sweatshops, in which most workers are women.
Although some activists at the conference argued that the rally would be more "autonomous" if only women were encouraged to attend, the conference attendees voted to encourage all supporters of women's rights to come along.
Outraged by Right to Life president Margaret Tighe's comment that she was "surprised that shootings like this don't happen more often considering what goes on inside abortion clinics", organisers decided to hold the rally outside Right to Life's Sydney offices.
These offices rang with cries of "an egg is not a chicken, a seed is not a tree, a foetus is not a baby — so don't put that on me". Protesters tipped red paint on the pavement to symbolise the blood of the 200,000 women world-wide who die of botched abortions each year.
The rally then proceeded to the Nike Store on George Street, to demand that Nike sign the Homeworkers' Code of Practice, provide their workers safe working conditions, and give their workers a livable wage. Protesters successfully blockaded the store for two hours before the demonstration dispersed.