An Australian perspective on Roe v. Wade

Jul 04, 2022
An Australian perspective on Roe v. Wade. Source: @CathLAndrews/Twitter

It’s 2022, who would have thought the US Supreme Court would overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights. Jane Roe’s case was founded on a right to privacy, now women in the US may lose this.

This landmark decision on an extremely complex subject has the potential to lead to impending restrictions across 26 states. What will be the consequences for women now each state is permitted to have the option of outlawing abortion? With these changes, other decisions on access to the contraceptive pill and same-sex marriage are under threat.

Heavens above, I hope Australia doesn’t follow and get caught up in this catastrophe.

Australia in the ’70s

I remember in the ’70s when there was horrifying talk of coat hangers, knitting needles, backyard abortion and chemical cocktails. Not to forget the horrendous foetal defects if these didn’t work. No woman should have to resort to this butchery, ever.

I also remember the days of driving past Bertram Wainer’s Fertility Control Clinic in East Melbourne. Even after he became the first Australian doctor to successfully achieved legal access to abortion for women, the activists didn’t stop, many of them men, pacing outside the building with their handheld placards.

I wondered what right did they have, or anyone else for that matter, to tell women what they should be doing when they were ignorant of their circumstances?

Would they be willing to support these poor women with little to no income and help raise a child while the woman worked, that is, if they could get a job as a single mum. Discrimination wasn’t only about race back then, it was also about women in a world dominated by men with few laws to protect women. I remember it well.

Understandably, abortion is a controversial topic and I don’t think I could ever go down that track, but I would never condemn someone subjected to this grim situation.

Luckily in Australia, women have freedom of speech and choices, but the word abortion still has connotations.

Even so, women should have the right to make a choice and not be subjected to religious or male-dominated biases indoctrinated into a political-legal system.

A motivational topic

What motivates women to seek an abortion?  As a society, we are quick to condemn without knowing the circumstances, and there are umpteen of them:

  • the socio-economic situation, lack of support from the father, poverty, unemployment, personal health issues, and fetal defects.
  • age (she could be a teenager or a school girl, could she provide a financial, emotionally stable, loving, safe healthy environment for a baby) or an older woman at risk.
  • rape victims or women in a position of an overpowering partner who forbids the contraceptive pill (this still happens in Australia, look at our domestic violence statistics).
  • in some communities, abortion and contraception are illegal, with religion a driving factor. Not everyone is religious.

A woman’s right to choose

It is important to encourage thinking about the responsibility and potential outcomes, but to outlaw abortion is archaic and savage. Abortion has been known since ancient times.

Women should have ownership of their bodies. Never would it be an easy choice I can imagine. Most women I know would loathe being in that harrowing position given the sensitivity of this very personal and moral issue.

Abortion involves both the potential mother’s right to bodily autonomy and the unborn child’s right to life. Two rights set one against the other, yet it still comes down to the woman’s choice. I can empathise with why there is such global disagreement.

It’s Complicated and Polarising

There is no solitary perfect rule legally, morally or ethically.  It is far too complicated, and not simply about not becoming pregnant nor not wanting a pregnancy. Since mankind, this topic has been polarising.

There will always be unintended pregnancies and abortions will always be difficult to prevent. So let us attempt to manage women’s rights in a civil legally controlled manner in a modern society where women have freedom of choice.

In the US it will be interesting to see if the backyard abortion business will increase its profits at the sake of a woman’s health. Sadly, in too many states women will be at their mercy.

Sexual Harassment, Assault or Workplace issues: DISCLAIMER: If you are concerned about violence or misconduct impacting you, your family, friends or workplace, the numbers below may help. National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service — 1800 737 732, Mensline Australia — 1300 789 978, Relationships Australia — 1300 364 277, BeyondBlue — 1300 224 636; Suicide Call Back Service — 1300 659 467; Headspace — 1800 650 890; Kids Helpline — 1800 551 800; Lifeline Australia — 13 11 14 for confidential support, advice and referral that will help you explore your options.

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