About 200 people gathered outside the Liberal Party headquarters in Melbourne on December 4 to protest against the decision to restrict abortion in Victoria.
The Victorian Liberal Party state conference voted on December 1 to wind back Victoria's abortion laws, which were amended in 2008 to decriminalise the procedure and to require a doctor with a conscientious objection to abortion to refer a woman to another doctor without prejudice.
After the conference, Victorian Liberal Premier Denis Napthine publicly ruled out any changes to laws that "would restrict a woman's right to choose an abortion".
However, this statement gave no guarantees that the government would not change sections of the law governing doctors' conscientious objection and mandatory referral, or that it would not seek to roll back women's rights in future.
Napthine has denied his government is helping independent MP Geoff Shaw draft a private member's bill to restrict the right to abortion. Shaw holds the balance of power in parliament.
The protest heard from a number of abortion activists spanning several generations — the oldest of them was 94. Sue Bolton, Moreland Socialist Alliance councilor, sent her solidarity to the rally.
Bolton told Green Left Weekly: "Women's bodies and our right to abortion are being used for grubby political deal-making in Victoria. We need to remember that Napthine voted against decriminalisation back in 2008.
“To ensure that the government does not move against mandatory doctor's referrals, supporters of a woman's right to abortion need to remain active and organised. We also have to continue the struggle for unrestricted access to abortion in Victoria, including late term abortion — the only way to fully guarantee women's abortion rights."