Call for vigilance as Australia's own 'forced birthers' invigorated by US

Call for vigilance as Australia’s own ‘forced birthers’ invigorated by US decision

Australians are expressing solidarity with American women following the Supreme Court decision overturning the constitutional right to abortion access.

But we can’t look at what’s occurring in the US and see it merely as something happening “over there”.

This decision is a reminder of how progress on women’s rights and human rights can quickly disappear.

And a reminder that Australia has its own versions of Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and Donald Trump (who quickly took credit for the Supreme Court’s decision) waiting in the wings. Our own army of “forced birthers” (a much more accurate term than the hypocrisy of declaring they are “pro-life”) are likely feeling invigorated by the achievements of their US counterparts.

Even without forced birthers pushing to wind back achievements made in Australia — we still have work do on ensuring that abortion is accessible to anyone who is pregnant, regardless of where they live, how much money they have, and who they are. As Madeline Hislop outlines today for Women’s Agenda, abortion access varies by state and is particularly limited for women living regionally and remotely.

So what does it mean to remain vigilant on reproductive rights in Australia? It starts by noting who is and who is not speaking out.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has described the US Supreme Court decision as distressing and a setback for women. He said people are “entitled to their own views, but not to impose their views on women for whom this is a deeply personal decision”.

We wait to hear Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s response, particularly to see if he agrees with his colleague, Queensland LNP senator Matt Canavan, who tweeted following the SCOTUS decision that it’s: “A wonderful day to protect human life.”

Minister for women Katy Gallagher said the decision is a reminder for Australians “to remain vigilant because hard-fought-for wins before our parliaments can be taken away easily”.

Shadow Minister for Women Sussan Ley described the decision as a “backwards step for women”.

Meanwhile, vigilance has inspired more than 500 Australian organisations and individuals to sign on to a statement voicing their support for reproductive rights and access to legal, safe, timely and compassionate abortion.

Those signing the statement include organisations, healthcare professionals, advocates and concerned individuals. They say they stand in solidarity with healthcare professionals who provide abortion care, as well as with every person who has accessed an abortion or may need to in the future.

Children by Choice CEO and advocate for reproductive rights in Australia, Daile Kelleher, says the Labor Government must outline steps it’s taking to progress the bipartisan commitment in the National Women’s Health Strategy for universal, free or low cost abortion access in Australia by 2030.

She says that legislation alone won’t translate into free and compassionate abortion care. Rather, every Australian state, territory and federal governments must ensure abortion care is embedded within health systems, so reproductive healthcare never becomes the subject of political debate.

Meanwhile, as the signed statement notes, we must always consider how any barriers to abortion access will disproportionately impact those who already experience barriers to healthcare — including First Nations women, women of colour, migrant and refugee women, women with disabilities and women experiencing domestic and family violence, coercive control or reproductive coercion. Silence is not an option. Vigilance is a must.

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