White Ribbon CEO reinstates reproductive rights policy

White Ribbon CEO Tracy McLeod Howe issues mea culpa & reinstates reproductive rights policy

White Ribbon CEO Tracy McLeod Howe has issued a mea culpa and will reinstate the organisation’s reproductive rights policy to the website, where it will remain pending stakeholder consultation.

McLeod-Howe says a procedural issue was misconstrued as the organisation fundamentally removing its support for women’s reproductive rights – a position she disagrees with.

It was reported on Friday by BuzzFeed Australia that earlier this week White Ribbon had removed its reproductive rights policy from its website and the backlash has been fierce.


McLeod-Howe told Women’s Agenda that since she started in the position of CEO three months ago the organisation’s policy has been a source of constant, negative feedback and complaints, not just from pro-life activists who dispute the issue itself but from staff members, volunteers and ambassadors who were not adequately trained to support the policy.

“I’ve been bombarded from different aspects of the organisation – not about pro life or pro choice – but about ‘Why is that policy up there without giving us support?’,” she says. “Whenever I have come up with policy positions in other member organisations the way you do that is by talking to stakeholders, consulting and asking for context and you then produce material from that. You don’t just do command and control and not tell anyone why the policy is there and how it looks.”

McLeod-Howe says the original plan was for a new policy to be up in a few weeks, following consultation, which might not be identical to the version removed but would  remain unequivocally supportive of women’s reproductive rights.

However, after the backlash she has faced McLeod Howe told Women’s Agenda on Friday afternoon that the policy would be reinstated on the website.

For an avowed pro-choice feminist who has personally helped finance abortions for vulnerable women at different points, and professionally supported the rights of women, McLeod-Howe says it’s difficult to countenance being described as leading a misogynist, women-hating organisation.

“This subject is very dear to my heart. As an individual my view has always been that every woman needs to have the right to do what she chooses. As the CEO of an organisation I have to take into account the fact the organisation is diverse and do consultation to inform our policies – that’s 101 of organising.”

Anyone familiar with McLeod-Howe’s work would be hard pressed to credibly frame her as being any thing other than a passionate, committed and bona fide champion for women.

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