Removing the right to choose is a form of violence

The removal of the right to choose is a form of violence that we cannot ignore in Australia

The overturning of Roe v Wade and the right to choose is a form of violence against women.

The effects of this erosion of rights as a result of the recent US Supreme Court’s decision have rippled throughout the world over the past few days, with people in Australia set to march with fear and fury this weekend.

Women are angry. They fear for their future, even in a country like Australia where abortion is a relatively accessible part of our healthcare system. Many women and allies in this fight are feeling a sense of agonising powerlessness.

The overturning of Roe v Wade is a direct attack on the rights and lives of women, and it will disproportionately affect women of colour, women who are already experiencing violence, and women from low socio-economic backgrounds.

This ruling hits the jackpot when it comes to endorsing the drivers of violence against women. The Supreme Court justices have endorsed the removal of women’s independence, the advancement of men’s control of decision-making, and cultures of dominance and control.

This decision removes the right to choose for everyone who needs to access abortion and removes the right to bodily autonomy for LGBTIQ+ people who, like women, have faced a long history of their rights being challenged and destroyed.

Here in Australia, abortions are accessible in all states and territories, though there continue to be barriers depending on your location, stage of pregnancy, and the cost of the procedure.

The right to choose was hard-won by tireless feminists who wanted a better future for women and girls both here and in the US. And while it’s unlikely that reproductive rights will be rescinded here any time soon, as a member of a globalised community, we cannot be complacent.

The overturning of Roe v Wade was the result of a concerted, coordinated campaign by those who seek to denigrate the rights of women. Those attitudes and the people that hold them are not rare, nor are they unique to the US.

Women still face stark inequalities in Australia – in workplaces, homes, relationships, and communities. Sexual and intimate partner violence continues to be the most significant threat to women’s lives, and the bulk of the domestic and emotional labour still falls to women in heterosexual relationships.

Gender inequality feeds the risk of violence against women, and vice versa. The more barriers that women face to reproductive healthcare, equal parenting, the workforce, safety in relationships and in communities, the higher the risk of violence.

Right now, many of us are fuelled by rage and fear, and we must use it for good. There is a glimmer of hope amongst the solidarity; by reflecting and taking action on the rights of women here on home ground, we can do everything in our power to create change.

The evidence tells us that collective activism rooted in feminist values is effective in driving significant change.

Prevention of violence against women is a choice that we have the power to make together – women, men and everyone who sits outside of the binary. We can choose to call for safe, free and accessible abortions for everyone, and a commitment from state and federal governments to uphold reproductive rights and autonomy.

We can choose to work together to change attitudes towards women, to unpack our biases, and to have frank discussions about our culture. We can promote bodily autonomy, independent decision-making, and gender equality.

This heart-wrenching decision is designed to divide and exhaust us. And while many of us have needed to take a moment to grieve, the next steps are ours for the taking.

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