Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

For a womans’ right to choose

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As socialists we argue that it is always the right of a woman to make decisions about her own fertility. This includes the right to choose to terminate her pregnancy and to have access to a safe accessible public health system. Women should also be able to choose to complete a pregnancy knowing there will be excellent health care and social support for both her and her child.

The right to abortion is once again being raised by the conservative politicians and ‘pro-lifers’ in an attempt to place the issue back on the agenda.

We campaign against conservative MPs such as Tony Abbott who uses his public position to put forward his own anti-abortion opinions. Anti-abortionists put the right of the foetus above all the life conditions and problems faced by a woman.

Margaret Tighe from Right to Life is outraged that abortions are carried out under the Medicare system.

They always talk of the moral position but their morality is hypocrisy. Those in favour of pro-life are not out campaigning for the improvement in the daily living conditions of children living in poverty or by increasing social welfare payments to families in need.
They are more interested in cutting the access to the public health system so that those in most financial difficulties without access to the public system and without the money to pay for a private clinic would be forced to keep their child.

This narrow argument does not take into account the forces driving women to seek an abortion – in the days prior to legal abortion women went to unsafe and unlicensed abortionists.

Andrew Child President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists supports safe publicly funded abortions. His determination to support this comes from the days prior to legal abortions when “we had to have a ward that would have 10-15 women, often schoolgirls with infections from unprofessional abortions. Some would die. That would be the inevitable consequence of any ban.” He also states “abortions are never going to go away. There are good safe responsible systems and facilities in place now and I would hate to lose that.”

However we would argue that although the public health system is safe there are many ways in which it could provide a quicker better service to women who need an abortion. At the moment an estimated 25% of abortions take place in the private clinic system due to improved facilities including counseling and the speed with which they can happen. If you have the money to pay. The decision to have an abortion is driven by the time and circumstances of the pregnancy.

Whatever the reason for the abortion as socialists we support the individuals right to chose. Some women know that financially they could not afford to lose their jobs due to no maternity rights, couldn’t afford to pay rent or mortgage. Plus the lack of affordable childcare are all reasons why a woman chose an abortion.

The issue of fertility is linked to the position of women in society. As socialists we argue that all women should have a right to choose their own fertility. But we see the bigger picture and that includes changing the social and living conditions that face many women.

That is why we call for:

-Timely access to public health services for abortion
-Services that include pre and post counseling options
-Free contraceptives to all women from family planning clinics staffed by experienced doctors and nurses
-Sex education provided in all schools
-Public ownership of pharmaceutical companies with research into more effective safe contraceptives with no side effects
-Maternity benefits for all women including those in casual jobs. Plus maternity and paternity leave for 12 months
-A livable single parent benefit that takes into account the living costs
-Good quality flexible and free childcare

By Samantha Ashby