The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Archive for the ‘reproductive rights’ Category

A precedent set in Queensland abortion law, what next?

Posted by caitlinate on October 14, 2010

As many of you will be aware, earlier today Tegan Simone Leach and Sergie Brennan – charged with “procuring an abortion and supplying drugs to procure an abortion” – were acquitted at trial.

This is a fantastic result and one I’m sure the Cairns couple (as they seem to be universally known) were and are very relieved to hear. It’s also being hailed by feminists as a victory for reasons relating to the draconian laws currently in place in Queensland. Under the 110 year old law of that sunny state, abortion is illegal except to protect the mother’s life or her physical or mental wellbeing.

Which leads me to wonder if this is a victory not just because the couple have been acquitted but because of the legal precedent it sets. Apparently there is some feeling amongst those who have worked in women’s health in Queensland that an open challenge to the abortion laws currently in place would be a very precarious undertaking. That not only would any move to progressively alter the laws fail but that it might result in even more restrictive ones being put in place instead. There has been a lot of criticism heaped upon the Queensland Premier Anna Bligh (a self proclaimed feminist) for her failure to express solidarity with the Cairns couple or to undertake any party lead reform (she even went so far as to put a dampener on a colleague’s attempt to legislatively push for reform). I’m not necessarily adverse to criticisms of Bligh and I certainly don’t have much faith in politicians to actually follow through on their professed ideologies (though conservative politicians are generally more reliable on this account). What I wonder is if having this case go to trial and result in an outcome that declares that women in Queensland can take control of their bodies and their fertility without successful state persecution is better politically than a) the case being dropped or b) unsuccessful or further damaging attempts to legislate (without precedent).

I’d even go so far as to posit that the public outrage, media attention and political involvement of organizations like GetUp only came about because the case actually went to trial and that if it hadn’t we’d be stuck – loud in our feminist corners but still invisible in the mainstream – hailing that, rather than today’s outcome, as the victory it might not have necessarily been.

Obviously none of this might matter to Brennan and Leach who have probably had an unimaginably horrible time dealing with the public attention cast on them. I’ve read reports that they received death threats – a despicable and terrifying thing for both of them to have had to experience. I can only imagine the strain this would have put on their lives and their relationship and there is no reasoning that excuses or makes acceptable what they’ve had to endure. While I can argue that the way things panned out – while risky and awful for those directly involved – was a more successful route to change for feminists and women in Queensland, it’s distressing that no matter what path we take it still has to involve pain and suffering for those doing something as simple as seeking an abortion.

This wouldn’t have had to be the way change came about if members of the Queensland parliament listened to the 90% of Australians who believe abortion should be legal and stood together to legislate accordingly. As it is, my totally-not-legally-trained self sees this as a potentially good precedent. That’s really not enough. Let’s see the laws change now, before any more women have to stand trial.


Posted in law, Politics, reproductive rights, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Feminism Has Failed, not really, however, it will be debated tomorrow night

Posted by Rhiana Whitson on September 21, 2010

Don’t miss this event!

Tomorrow night! 6.30pm!

Feminism Has Failed

part of the Wheeler Centre’s Intelligence Squared debate series…


Author of The Feminist Denial Monica Dux, ABC journo Jennifer Byrne, journo Gay Alcorn and a few guys also…

I’ve gotta run, however, here’s what the Wheeler Centre has to say about tomorrow nights event…

After generations of effort, women still bear a disproportionate burden of domestic labour. Women are under-represented in the senior ranks of politics, business and the professions.

Women continue to be denied equal pay for equal work.

Perhaps more troubling still is the fact that the basic structures of power and influence bear the cultural marks of masculinity. In all significant ways, it remains a man’s world.

However, it could be argued that If feminism has failed, then it is because it has failed to mobilise women and that female acquiescence rather than male determination has preserved the status quo.

Or should feminists be celebrating a deeper victory in which a new generation of young men and women take equality for granted thanks to feminists who ushered in a deeper concern for justice – irrespective of gender?

Want more info? Check our Clem’s great interview with Monica Dux and Zora Simic posted here on TDC way back in 2008…


Tomorrow night 6.30 – 8.30pm


Melbourne Town Hall

90-120 Swanston Street
Victoria 3000

Tix are  $20 full and $12 conc.

and are available online

Posted in Dawn Chorus Library, Interviews, Politics, reproductive rights, sex, Uncategorized, women we love, Women's Health | 2 Comments »

The Twenty-Eighth Down Under Feminists Carnival

Posted by caitlinate on September 4, 2010

Oh my gawd, hi everyone. So this is the first time I’ve done a blog carnival and I put my hand up for it 6 months ago not realising that this was going to be like the busiest two or three weeks I would be having all year. So! There is no theme and things might be organised a little incoherently but I hope I’ve done a good job and you like…

WELCOME to the 28th Down Under Feminists Carnival!

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Announcements, Blog Watch, body image, domestic violence, Family, glbt, Interviews, law, Media Watch, music, Politics, porn, Relationships, reproductive rights, sex, Trans, violence against women, women we love, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

The contentious debate about pain relief during childbirth

Posted by Nic Heath on July 20, 2009

Dr Denis Walsh, one of Britain’s leading midwives, caused a global furore last week when he spoke out against the ‘epidural epidemic’ currently sweeping the UK. Dr Walsh claims, among other things, 20 per cent of epidurals are given to women who don’t need them, and advocates alternative methods of pain relief during labour such as yoga and birthing pools.

Despite being reported by the BBC as saying in some cases epidurals are very useful, Dr Walsh’s comments have been taken as a personal insult by women all over the internet.

The collective outrage has been fed by provocative and misleading headlines:

Just put up with pain of childbirth: UK professor Dr Denis WalshHerald Sun

Male Midwife Tells Women Take Pregnancy Pain Without DrugsFox News

Dr Walsh’s comments seem to have struck a sensitive seam of guilt felt by many women in relation to childbirth. The many stories and blog posts on the web about the issue have drawn thousands of comments from readers, and many mothers speak defensively about guilt and of being judged.

 Remola from Wagga on a Herald Sun forum:

“All I can say is I AM A SUPER MUM just for being a mum and I’m happy to say I took the drugs 2 yrs ago and I will take them again if I feel the need despite what is said.”

Mammamia reader claystep asks “do mothers really need more stuff to feel guilty about??”

Another point of contention is Dr Walsh’s gender.

Liz45 on Crikey:

“To have a male carry on in this manner is just too ludicrous for words. What the hell would he know? … He can say what he likes, safe in the knowledge that he’ll never have to experience it!”

Mia Freedman struck up the refrain, ‘no uterus, no opinion’, in her blog post on the subject, ‘Brave man tells women in labour to toughen up because pain relief is for wussbags’, which many of her readers reiterated.

This is surely a counterproductive and reactionary response to Dr Walsh’s comments, not to mention one that is plain sexist. The reasoning behind it is dangerously exclusionary. It’s too easy to substitute one element and end up with something much more malevolent – say, ‘no uterus, no admission’ etc. Suddenly such logic is pretty clearly discriminatory.

It is the sort of thinking that many feminists have been seeking to overturn for years – when applied to circumstances such as the role of women in professional sport like AFL.

Dr Walsh is a senior midwife and associate professor in midwifery at Nottingham University, a good reason to take into account his opinion, and there have of course been more rational responses to his views.

Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists president Dr Ted Weaver:

What we want to get away from is the sort of maternity care where mothers are given an epidural to shut them up so they can…be baby-sat while the labour progresses.

Alison Bailey commenting on Crikey:

“As women, we have been inculcated to believe that childbirth is a horrible and scary experience full of pain and fear. It is well known that fear increases pain and no doubt also increases the number of women opting for epidural, regardless of how their labour may or may not go.”

This whole episode raises a number of questions – like why have women reacted so strongly to a man recommending more options for women during childbirth, while actions to limit choice – the new restrictions on homebirths – have been almost entirely unremarked upon? Why would a woman feel guilty about her labour? And what can be done to make childbirth a more positive experience for women?

Posted in Media Watch, Parenting & Family, reproductive rights, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , | 13 Comments »

Thankyou Mr Smith For Finally Doing The Right Thing

Posted by Leah on March 21, 2009

In 1996 the Government created Family Planning Guidelines for the Australian aid program, which has meant that ever since no Australian aid funding could go to organisations involved with the provision of abortions. We can thank Brian Harradine for the Guidelines.

Following in President Obama’s steps, the Australian Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, changed the guidelines on March 10.

It’s a strange situation – great news but it’s truly a tragedy it didn’t happen sooner. Around 68,000 women die from unsafe abortions every year. Obviously Australian aid is not going to save that many women, but this is still certainly a step in the right direction.

Posted in Politics, reproductive rights | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Godbags At It Again!

Posted by caitlinate on March 8, 2009

SO there is this article in The Age today. The headline reads as such:

abortion law under threat

Well, actually, it isn’t. But anything for a good headline right? Though, in my own personal dream world, something along the lines of ‘Catholic Church attacks women’s rights again! World expresses outrage but not surprise!’ would be preferable.

The basic gist is that the Church has gotten some legal eagles to state that a clause in Victoria’s abortion law contravenes international law and a bunch of federal senators have jumped on the bandwagon to state that it’s making them real sad and they’re full of a whole lotta concern. They’re worried about the rights of medical practitioners who have to reveal their religious beliefs! Yep. The rights of godbags to not tell people they’re godbags should come before the right of a woman to gain information that effects her health, well being and autonomy!

The international law they cite is in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and part of the make up of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Also part of the DHR is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which covers measures to be taken for eliminating discrimination against women in political and public life, education, employment, health, marriage and family. But we must not let such unimportant things distract us from our important crusade of, well, discriminating against women.

Just to be clear. As I understand it both a covenant and a convention are legally binding and Australia has ratified both without reservation. Through ratification, a country becomes a “States Party” (sometimes called a “member”) to a convention, and must implement and enforce its principles.  This means that its national laws must conform to the provisions of the convention. Contained within the Convention is the following:

Article 10

(h) Access to specific educational information to help to ensure the health and well-being of families, including information and advice on family planning.

Article 12

1. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, access to health care services, including those related to family planning.

Article 16

1. (e) The same rights to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights;

International law? Two can play at that game.

Personally I don’t care why said medical practitioners believe in forced pregnancy. I just need to know they do and be directed towards someone who isn’t a woman hating loony. I’m perfectly happy for them to keep their religious beliefs to themselves, honest. And yes, I don’t care if they get prosecuted for failing to refer their patients to someone who will provide them with adequate health care. If a medical practitioner can be prosecuted for negligence in failing to make such a referal I don’t see why another can hide behind the curtain of religious belief/godbaggery.

Send an email to Robert McClelland letting him know you don’t think the law should be overturned and support his current stance in rejecting such a notion.

ON a whole other topic I’m really interested in the senators quoted or named in the article who think the law should be overturned. Can they be named as having this opinion without their consent? Because if not it means they’ve either ratted out their own woman hating to the media or have at least confirmed it when asked. Which, to my mind, means they’re out there publicly announcing their concerns and objections as a method of bolstering the actions and views of the Church… gross.

Posted in Faith and Religion, Media Watch, Parenting & Family, Politics, reproductive rights, Women's Health | 2 Comments »

The Dead Women of Juárez

Posted by caitlinate on January 28, 2009

The dead women of Juárez

At the end of 1993 the United States, Canada and Mexico created a trilateral trade agreement called NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). As a result of this a lot of multinationals from the United States moved their factories and production lines over the border from the U.S. in Mexico. In particular to a city called Ciudad Juárez in Mexico. Currently over 400 maquiladoras (factories that import materials and equipment on a duty-free and tariff-free basis for assembly or manufacturing and then re-exports the assembled product, usually back to the originating country) operate in Juárez and produce tens of billions of dollars in goods for export [into the U.S.] annually. Maquiladoras often employ young women – who flock to the town with the hope of finding work and economic security. Many of these women experience long commutes to their jobs and work long shifts for low pay. They work in areas that are a long walk from transport, are badly lit and not particularly populated.

The result? Over the last 15 years Ciudad Juárez has seen over 400 women fall victim to sexual homicides.

According to the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights:

“The victims of these crimes have preponderantly been the state of young women, between 12 and 22 years of age. Many were students, and most were maquiladora workers. A number were relative newcomers to Ciudad Juárez who had migrated from other areas of Mexico. The victims were generally reported missing by their families, with their bodies found days or months later abandoned in vacant lots or outlying areas. In most of these cases there were signs of sexual violence, abuse, torture or in some cases mutilation.”

In 2005 Amnesty estimated that more than 370 women’s bodies have been found and that more than 400 women were still missing. That was three years ago. To date the number of women has risen to approximately 600.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in reproductive rights, Sex Crimes, violence against women | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

No More Gag Rule

Posted by caitlinate on January 25, 2009

This has very little to do with Australia directly but as it affects women all over the world I’m posting on it. And because I’m so excited and happy it has happened I want to share it with everyone!

Barack Obama on Friday struck down the Bush administration’s ban on giving federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide abortion information. These are usually clinics that also work on other aspects of reproductive health care and HIV/AIDS and the result of the ban is generally the closure of free and/or low-cost rural clinics. Bush’s policy made it more difficult for women around the world to gain access to information and health care services, meaning many women are deprived of contraception and other health services in poor countries, leading to back-alley abortions and deaths

“Rather than limiting women’s ability to receive reproductive health services, we should be supporting programs that help women and their partners make decisions to ensure their health and the health of their families.”

– Hillary Clinton

ALSO! Obama also said he would restore funding to the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA). UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programs that attempt to reduce poverty, protect women’s health, prevent HIV/AIDS, and ensure that “every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.” They’re big on gender equality being a human right and the importance of empowering women, supporting projects that improve women’s health and expand their choices in life. 180 other nations are already involved and the U.S. Congress has approved $40 million every year to go to the fund. Every single time the Bush administration blocked the funds.

Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, executive director of the U.N. Population Fund responded to the action with the following:

“The president’s actions send a strong message about his leadership and his desire to support causes that will promote peace and dignity, equality for women and girls and economic development in the poorest regions of the world. We are confident that under the new president’s direction, the U.S. will resume its leadership in promoting and protecting women’s reproductive health and rights worldwide.”

This signals fantastic things for women in the world, particularly those living in poorer nations. I am so excited that these actions are some of the first Obama would take and it signals to me a continuation of his wider commitment to women’s rights. With Obama, Biden and Clinton is such powerful positions I’m really excited about the progress that could be made in women’s rights internationally in the next four years

P.s. Think this isn’t that big a step? Check out the major league voices of dissent… oh Charmaine Yoest, how you make my uterus bleed. (We won’t even go into the comments from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell or the House Minority Leader John Boehner. Ick.)

Posted in Politics, reproductive rights, Women's Health | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Paddy Wagon success!

Posted by Cate on December 8, 2008

You might have noticed a pink, rather cutesy advertisement under the Events section in the right hand margin?

Over the last few months, many women of the melbourne crafty community have generously volunteered their time and materials to make cloth reusable sanitary pads and waterproof zip lock bags for women in Africa to be distributed by Goods 4 girls. Think of us as a benign factory production line with copious amounts of tea, biscuits, cheese, cupcakes, chatter and laughter. It has been great fun and we invisage sending off the pads in January.

I’d like to offer a huge thanks to everyone who has been involved in the project. We consider it something of an ongoing campaign with many opportunities for future creative work.

(In 2009 I hope to start my own not for profit business in my spare time, where social justice and social connectedness are made to happen through creative and crafty activity. Check out my website for more progress in 2009)….

Posted in Announcements, events, reproductive rights, Uncategorized, Women's Health | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Victorian Reproductive Rights Update: Assisted Reproductive Treatment Bill Passed

Posted by Clem Bastow on December 5, 2008

News from Victorian Parliament late yesterday that will no doubt have Victorian women feeling a mixture of happiness and trepidation, as the Assisted Reproductive Treatment bill was passed in the Upper, and then Lower, Houses without argument.

Primarily this means it will be a lot “easier” (I use the term, in the context of assisted reproduction, loosely and with a heavy sense of irony) for single women and lesbians to conceive via IVF and other treatments, and also for women to conceive using frozen sperm from their late partners, if prior consent was recorded. It also gives the parents of children born by surrogacy, and gay partners, legal parenting rights.

Some of the other highlights of the bill may be seen as a cause for debate in some quarters:

The legislation bans people with convictions for sexual or violent offences from accessing treatment and candidates must submit to police checks. They must also be free from child protection orders.

Greens MPs Colleen Hartland and Sue Pennicuik had tried to scupper these clauses with amendments but they were defeated.

Doctors fear that delays in obtaining police checks will disadvantage some women, including cancer sufferers who may want to have their eggs harvested before starting treatment that could make them infertile.

Ms Pennicuik succeeded in pushing through another amendment that will require each baby born to a sperm or egg donor to be recorded on a central register.

Three government amendments were also passed. They require a woman to have given birth to a live child before agreeing to become a surrogate and that her own eggs are not used in the conception.

I could be being oversensitive about the first point (the police checks), but something about it feels inherently discriminatory. After all, there are plenty of people out there who blithely have multiple children, and who could well do to have a police check before doing so. But the great thing about Australia is that we don’t live in a police state, so they don’t have to submit to that process, whether we like it or not. Why should parents seeking IVF (etc) assistance need to? Are they second class citizens because they can’t have a child the “natural” way?

Surrogacy is an area I am interested in but not well-versed, so I throw it open to members of the Chorus who might be more informed than I am in that area – what do you think of the surrogacy amendments? And what do you think of the bill, full stop?

Posted in glbt, Media Watch, Parenting & Family, Politics, reproductive rights, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »