FEATURE

The Right to Choose

BY ANGELA GRIFFIN

 

BEFORE I BEGIN: I would like to acknowledge that women are not the only people who access abortion. Those who have uteruses but do not outwardly display or identify as women often receive further oppression than that which is outlined in the following article.


It seems like 40 degrees out here under beating sun and someone’s fist is in my back. The sound of yelling is in the air along with the stomping of boots and heavy breathing. It’s one of those days when your senses are working overdrive trying to explain the situation you’ve found yourself in.


Slowly the tiny section of space that I had been cultivating is receding as people press in on all sides.


“Not the church, not the state, people will decide their fate!”
“Too many coppers, not enough justice!”
“Get your rosaries off our ovaries!”


I thought I was tough enough to handle a bit of push and shove. I thought I’d been an activist long enough to push back a little. To be honest I’m a little embarrassed at my heart in my throat and the way the crowd is impacting my breathing. I can’t handle it.


I push people aside and rush towards the back of the pack of people, gulping in air as I go - trying desperately to hide from people that claustrophobia has gotten the best of me.


As I’m running, a young woman with every right to take up space is arrested for invading public property and disobeying police instructions. She is grabbed by men twice her size and thrown away from the crowd, towards a police van.


As I gulp in air I can hear her scream as they lift her effortlessly and throw her aside.

We have come here to protest the complete disregard that our society has for people with uteruses. We have come here to call for free and accessible abortions. We have come here for the Day of the Unborn Child counter protest.


This is how the powers that be respond.

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In NSW today, abortions can cost you upwards of $1,500 up front and, due to the illegality of the service, Medicare will only save you a portion of this absurd amount. This sum is massive for anyone, and will set you back a significantly, but for students, for the homeless, for those relying on welfare -- this sum is impossible to grapple with. For those students exclusively relying on Newstart to get them through the week, the average payment is around $270 per week. I live in a complete shithole and my rent would take up $200 of this, leaving me with only $70 to eat, travel and generally survive. Perhaps that money does not go on paying for contraception. Now imagine I’ve fallen unexpectedly pregnant. Obviously if I can’t even afford to purchase condoms, I definitely can’t afford a baby. But what’s that?
Oh, a $1,500 fine for committing the crime of (1) having a uterus and (2) needing significant financial help.

And if you get the opportunity to spend this absurd sum of money, you are one of the lucky ones in this state and are almost certainly based in a metropolitan area. Rural and regional areas in NSW have extremely limited abortion services. In metropolitan areas, private clinics perform the majority of terminations as public hospitals are crowded and under funded. In rural and regional areas however, there is little profit incentive to set up shop. Therefore, abortions often must occur in public hospitals. The hospitals that perform these services are few and far between and can be difficult to get an appointment at. All public hospitals have hard working staff that try their absolute best to ensure the best care for all, but when successive governments are determined to privatise and rip money from the budgets of such hospitals - how can they provide this level of care?


Additionally, people accessing abortions can often expect to be harassed and intimidated by anti-choice protesters outside of reproductive health clinics. These horrendous turd-like creatures wait outside of clinics, giving people false information
about how abortions work as well as about how personhood is defined. This is an act of harassment and hatred towards people with uteruses. We cannot and should not have to stand for it.


The illegality of abortion in NSW is also to blame for the aforementioned accessibility and affordability issues. While abortion is still technically illegal in this state (although never fear, there are many ways to get around it), how can pro-choice politicians
legislate to improve abortion services for people in the regions and for those who are economically disadvantaged?


And so, most of us were incredibly heartened to see that in 2017 upper house Greens MP, Mehreen Faruqi, was backing legislation that would decriminalise abortion in NSW.


Needless to say, this legislation failed thanks to the 75% of the NSW FUCKWIT Parliament.


To be perfectly honest with you, reader, when thinking about writing this article, all I felt was tired. There are so many reasons why current abortion laws are completely fu*ked that it’s hard to even put them on paper without feeling like I want to give up.


But, we cannot afford to give up.


Sometime in the middle of this year, Penny Sharpe, another amazing pro-choice parliamentarian, will be submitting a new piece of abortion legislation to the NSW Parliament. This one calls for the introduction of safe access zones in NSW. This will
make it illegal for anti-choice protestors to harass and intimidate people accessing reproductive health clinics within an exclusion zone of 150 metres.


While this is not even close to everything NSW needs in terms of abortion law, this is a step in the right direction. Now’s the time to pick ourselves up from that prolonged sadness sleep that abortion activists have been in since the defeat of the Faruqi bill,
and again stand up for reproductive rights for all. All of us should feel safe accessing abortions. Now is the time to make it known.


Abortion is as an incredibly safe procedure. NSW politicians need to get in line with the sentiment of the community they represent and make SURE that people with uteruses are protected.

We have needed safe, accessible, affordable abortions for far too long. Asking for it has failed us. Now we must demand it.

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The wall of men in blue glare at us, reminding us all of where we sit in the hierarchy that has remained largely unquestioned in this country since white people invaded. In this society, our demands seem as weightless as that young woman in the hands of police. And yet, I look around at the people I stand shoulder to shoulder with. I hear their cries. I feel their anger. The hands of police can keep us down in this moment, but times are changing. Our anger is being heard and I know that, in the end, the power of the people I stand with will win in the fight for the right to choose what we do with our own bodies.

 

I am not a commodity. I am not a vessel of the state. I am a woman and I will be heard.