Tested, failed: Emily’s List listless when it counts

September 25, 2010

The heading at the top of the Emily’s List website says: “When women support women, women win.” But not all women will be winners from Emily’s List.

If you’re an ALP candidate, the list wants you to win. It offers publicity, financial support, and networking to get you elected. Since it was set up in 1996, the political network dedicated to advancing progressive female candidates has donated $600,000 to election campaigns.

But if you’re a young woman facing a criminal charge of intentionally procuring an abortion, as one will in court next month in Cairns, Emily’s List has given you … zero, zilch, nix, nil or whatever else you could call nothing.

Don’t think the members of Emily’s List don’t care. The website proclaims Emily’s List members of parliament “support the following principles … We believe women must have control over their own bodies and choices in their lives. Reproductive Freedom empowers women and men to choose if, when and how to begin the important journey into parenthood, without fear of discrimination, coercion or violence.”

Just don’t think the Emily’s List Queensland MPs will do anything. There has been no action by the premier, Anna Bligh, the member for Cairns, Desley Boyle, or at least four more ministers or all the rest of the 13 Queensland MPs on Emily’s List that might prevent the young woman (and her partner) going to trial.

None have called for the charges to be dropped. None have proposed to repeal the anti-abortion laws, which would show those laws up for the archaic monstrosities they are.

The excuse has been offered: there’s not a majority in the Queensland parliament for abortion law repeal in a conscience vote. Polling has shown 70-80% of the Queensland population support a woman’s right to choose, but we are told that the consciences of parliamentarians fail to reflect that opinion.

If they can’t get their consciences out of the way in repealing the anti-abortion laws, the rest of us must get these MPs out of our way (they certainly won’t shift otherwise) as we go about changing the law.

Meanwhile, not one of the Emily’s List MPs has been willing to test out where the current MPs’ consciences lie or to push that the vote be determined by party policy instead of individual conscience. With a young woman’s future on the line, however, things elsewhere have gone quite far enough.

Emily’s List has been tested and found wanting. Listless, I’d say, when it’s come to the crunch.

[Kamala Emanuel is a Socialist Alliance member and a doctor who has worked in abortion services.]

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