One hundred people rallied in Sydney on October 9 in solidarity with a young Cairns couple charged with abortion-related offences under Queensland’s 1899 criminal code. The court case begins on October 12, and the couple will be supported by a vigil outside. The rally was organised by the Women’s Abortion Action Campaign (WAAC) as part of a national day of action coordinated by ProChoice Action Collective Qld: WAAC NSW: and Radical Women Vic. It called for the repeal of all abortion laws from the criminal code and for free, safe and accessible abortion.
On September 23, the Daily Telegraph reported on a wall mural in the Sydney inner-west suburb of Newtown by artist Sergio Redegalli with the slogan “Say no to burqas”. Redegalli’s mural has sparked protests by local residents who have condemned it as racist. Sydney Socialist Alliance activist Kiraz Janicke says Redegalli’s piece “has no other value than to promote racism”. She has responded with an artwork of her own — a submission to the Live Red Art Awards, titled “Burqa revolution”.
Green Left Weekly’s Angela Walker spoke to Carole Ford, a founding member of Pro Choice Cairns, about the upcoming trial of a young Cairns couple. The couple have been charged under Queensland’s 19th century abortion-procurement laws. How has the Cairns community responded to this case? With overwhelming disbelief. I'm sure when most Queenslanders first heard of the charges, they felt as if they had regressed in time.
Efforts to pass laws banning full veils, burqa or chador, in some European countries — particularly France — have put the issue firmly on the agenda in many other Western countries. Left and feminist positions are being challenged. The dilemma is whether to defend the right for Muslim women to choose to dress as they like (for whatever reason) or to impose the Western perspective that, due to its oppressive nature, such dress should be suppressed.
In the lead-up to the November 27 Victorian state elections, the Council of Single Mothers Action Group has expressed its concern about the right of religious institutions to legally discriminate against gays, lesbians and single parents. Until amended last year, Victorian Equal Opportunities legislation granted religious bodies many exemptions. This meant they could discriminate against many groups of people in employment and service provision. The amendments did not remove the right to discriminate against gays, lesbians and single parents.
Campaigners for women’s reproductive rights are gearing up for a day of protest on October 9. A young woman and her partner from Cairns face charges under Queensland’s 19th century criminal code for procuring an abortion. The trial date is set for October 12. A National Day of Action (NDA) will be marked by protests around the country, demanding that all charges against the couple be dropped. The NDA is the initiative of three organisations: the Pro-Choice Action Collective in Brisbane, the Women’s Abortion Action Campaign in Sydney and Radical Women in Melbourne.
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.
The approaching October 12 trial of a young Cairns couple on abortion-related criminal charges shows the need for repeal of the anti-abortion laws. In response, the campaign to decriminalise abortion is gaining strength. A July 9 book launch with author Caroline de Costa attracted 90 people. Jo Wainer, a long-time campaigner for abortion rights, was a special guest speaker at the event.
On September 15, France’s Senate passed a bill banning women from wearing full Islamic face veils such as the burqa and niqab. Similar laws are being considered in other European countries. In the New South Wales Legislative Council, Christian fundamentalist MLC Fred Nile has introduced a private member’s bill seeking to ban wearing the burqa. Neither major party supporta the bill, so it is expected to fail.
Momentum is building in solidarity with a couple from Cairns who have been charged under Queensland’s anti-abortion laws (see article on page 12). The couple is to face court in Cairns on October 12, and the Pro-Choice Action collective, Women’s Abortion Action Campaign, and Radical Women have issued a call for a National Day of Action to be held on Saturday October 9. The rallies will demand the dropping of the charges, repealing of the anti-abortion laws and free, safe, accessible abortion on demand.