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108 responses to “Abortion is not a plaything and it’s not a wedge”

  1. Liz

    Thanks for this Anna. Yes, it’s important for Labor to campaign on an issue where they may well be on a winner.

    I’m awfully irritated by people who say there’s nothing to worry about because Abbott wouldn’t dare decriminalise abortion. It ignores the facts that abortion is already criminalised in most States and that the Feds can make getting an abortion gradually harder and harder over time, through health funding.

    I wonder about Gillard’s clunky campaigning. Sometimes that’s true of course. But, I have trouble separating the times that it’s genuinely awful and times it’s just reported that way by the media. It wouldn’t matter what she does, she’d be in the wrong it seems. That’s partly her fault, I’m sure. But, otoh, Abbott sails along blithely along in a policy free vacuum, except for when he’s telling lies and it rarely gets questioned. A curious double standard.

  2. Russell

    When I read the speech, I didn’t think it was so sensational, I mean, it wasn’t the centrepiece of the speech, just a sort of warning.

    But I think playing it up as an issue will hurt the ALP by making them look desperate because most people won’t consider it an issue. They won’t consider it an issue because no government would survive that tried to wind back the clock.

    When the law was changed in W.A. it was during the very conservative Richard Court government. I think the person who spoke longest against reform was an ALP member, anyhow, it was an ALP Bill that was passed, and it was a big change. At that time it probably met community expectations, but since then time has marched on and community expectations would be even more liberal, so the hope of rolling back the law is about nil.

    Wouldn’t the ALP do better with positive messages about its record and agenda?

  3. tigtog

    Great post, Anna. Somewhat clunky though JG’s introduction of reproductive rights to the campaign issues might have been, it definitely is a worthwhile reminder of a meaningful difference in viewpoints that matters greatly to many people.

  4. akn

    Yeah, it’s best to keep the abortion option open otherwise you might find yourself trying to keep body and soul, and those of a couple of kids, going on a Newstart allowance.

    It’s so clear that Julia has interests of the poor, the inadequately educated and the structurally marginalised at heart.

    Politicians with a background in law are absolutely top humanists.

  5. Michael S.

    I’m awfully irritated by people who say there’s nothing to worry about because Abbott wouldn’t dare decriminalise abortion. It ignores the facts that abortion is already criminalised in most States and that the Feds can make getting an abortion gradually harder and harder over time, through health funding.

    And that can constitute many means. Despite Tony’s promises otherwise, if Madigan ends up win the balance of power (or Tone needs to placate the religious right in his own party) there’s plenty of ‘death by a thousand cuts’ stuff they can do like in the USA – red tape, quarantining funding from Women’s health services, giving various sorts of support to “counselling” services that tell women they’ll go sterile and die of breast cancer….

    This is very much a live issue

  6. Katz

    Word.

    The DLP, in the shape of Senator John Madigan, the monster long believed to be immured in the brickwork of the Right Wing mansion, is scratching at the mortar. He senses that an opportunity for a rampage may result from the forthcoming electoral landslide.

    Meanwhile the Libs are shushing everyone who draws attention to the sounds of intramural scraping. The Libs know that Monster Madigan spells trouble for them.

  7. Ambigulous

    The nearest similar circumstances I can recall are the years when Senator Harradine was highly influential.

    Did he succeed in reducing the availability of abortions in Australia?

  8. Katz

    There’s low hanging fruit this time Ambi. The Federal Parliament can annul the ACT legislation. Harradine did not have such a target.

  9. duncanm

    The only thing stopping him from banning abortions both here and internationally is the need to appeal to voters.

    I’m sorry.. but this statement as criticism troubles me.

    Isn’t that exactly how politicians are supposed to behave – represent their constituents?

    Gillard is compromising from the extreme other end of the spectrum – and using this issue as a political football.

  10. duncanm

    btw.. I’m not sure how he has the power to ban anything ‘internationally’.

  11. johng

    Well, I heard one woman on the radio today say that she thought there were far more important issues than that, so why was the Prime Minister raising it other than to wedge TA? This woman said that, whilst she had voted for Julia last time, she certainly wouldn’t be doing so this time round. Unfortunately, of course, the reporter didn’t follow up on that at all.

    Another woman said that it wasn’t a federal issue anyway because the states control abortion and that Julia, as a lawyer should be aware of that. So, again why was she bringing it up?

  12. faustusnotes

    decisions about funds for international aid projects, duncanm.

    The point of the “appeal to voters” point is that he will use sly techniques to reduce access, so that he can advance his agenda without alienating the public by being too openly anti-abortion. He tried this with RU486. I don’t think there’s much he can do but there are administrative methods. e.g. pressure on national agencies not to approve new techniques, changes to funding mechanisms, federal quality standards. It’s finnicky stuff that pushes at the edges, but it can be done.

  13. duncanm

    The ‘other extreme’ is late term abortion.

  14. duncanm

    Faustus,

    so he may limit funding internationally which supports something he/the govt doesn’t. Its a bit of an arrogant stretch to link that with control of another country’s policies.

  15. Helen

    Great post Anna!

  16. Golly Gosh

    duncanm:

    “Isn’t that exactly how politicians are supposed to behave – represent their constituents?”

    I don’t think so. I expect leaders to provide leadership. Many important reforms, like abolition of capital punishment, have preceded the liberalising of public opinion.

    Anna, I appreciate your ability to articulate a feminist viewpoint without the rudeness and in-your-face shrillness and preachiness that is typical of feminist discourse. If you ran for public office you would definitely get my vote 😉

  17. Charlie

    Fair comment. I can’t imagine Kevin Rudd, John Howard, Paul Keating, Bob Hawke, Malcolm Fraser…. mentioning it or raising it as an issue. I can image Gough mentioning it though – although he most likely never did. So good on PM Gillard. Yes, I suppose it could become an issue through Medicare funding or other Commonwealth pressures if a Governmtn was inclined that way.

  18. Linda

    Thanks for this, Anna. Yes it is a big deal. Vulnerability to reproductive control and exploitation, often violently enforced, at the hands of men is core to women’s oppression. This is not just a big deal, it’s The deal and it’s absolutely right to raise this as an issue concerning half the electorate.

    Johng, are you trying to start up a game of anti-feminist bingo?

  19. David

    I hate the term “bingo”. It only pisses people off and makes them even less likely to change their minds. For example feminists will need the support of men in power to ultimately succeed IMO so upsetting them or offending them is a pretty foolish move.

  20. paul of albury

    You wimminz hav been told! Don’t upsetz the menz in power.

    Or they won’t generously grant you any rights. ,###£€#!!! What sort of rights does one have if they’re only granted at the whim of others.

  21. Liz

    Yes, David. And it pisses me off big time when a bloke tells me I shouldn’t upset or offend men. Especially on a post about abortion. So, I suggest you should stop telling women what to do. Or just piss off. Have I offended, or upset you yet?

  22. David

    Liz: Well If you want to be like that about my very valid point that screaming “bingo” doesn’t go down well with most voters then you’re welcome to be a Green. Enjoy Labor and the LNP routinely combining against you in the Senate.

  23. Liz

    Yes, I want to be exactly like that. You don’t seem at all concerned about offending me. Is it only the tender feelings of men that matter?

  24. Brian

    Mary Delahunty has Julia Gillard as a crazy brave warrior woman and asks, if she doesn’t raise these matters, then who?

    Gabrielle Chan thinks it was a rhetorical step too far and she should have stuck with policy.

    On RN’s The World Today Stephanie Smail went out and got some vox pop comment. (Anna, johng @ 12’s second para was a précis of the first of these).

    I think there is little doubt electorally that Gabrielle Chan is right, but then if you look at Abbott and his front bench there is real cause to worry. Abbott is very determined to look prime-ministerial and has no shortage of people who will do what he would have done himself not so long ago.

  25. faustusnotes

    Is David’s gravatar a picture of Littlefinger in a suit?

  26. David

    faustusnotes: A futile gesture is not a noble one.

  27. TerjeP

    Yes let’s skip the political meta discussion and actually talk about abortion.

    Clearly a foetus is alive. So is a rat. The question is when does a foetus become entitled to legal personhood with the associated right to life, liberty and property. If a foetus has that status then abortion is murder. If a foetus does not thave that status then abortion is something else. Some would give legal rights to the rat but I’ll leave that as an aside for discussion some other day.

    I can imagine a doctor who has performed an abortion sitting in front of a jury as lawyers debate whether the doctor had committed murder. In my mind the debate hinges on “was a person killed”. And as usual the presumption for this doctor ought to be “innocence” and the threshold for the alternative conclusion should be “beyond reasonable doubt”.

    Doctors often turn off respirators for accident victims when there is no sign of brain waves. And my understanding is that in the first trimester the foetus emits no brain waves. So sitting on the hypothetical jury I couldn’t consider the doctor guilty of killing a “person” beyond reasonable doubt. Simply because I have reasonable doubt about the idea that the foetus was a person. And I can’t see much point troubling juries on a regular basis if this is a settled matter.

    As the foetus goes on it’s journey from the first trimester to birth I become increasingly troubled by the idea of abortion. Yeah it’s the mothers body and she isn’t there to carry around parasitic people but if we can kill people just because they are parasitic or dependent or a burden then a Pandora’s box unfolds before us. What of children, the disabled, the welfare recipients?

    I think abortion is a bit of an ugly thing whenever it happens. It’s not the sort of thing people would normally celebrate. I do think first trimester abortion should be “safe, legal and rare”, to borrow a cliche. For anything else I’d probably throw it to a jury to decide (unanomously of course with innocence presumed) rather than decide it in the legislature (by simple majority with nothing presumed). Both might entail a sort conscience vote but the two approaches are still substantially different.

    Still I don’t think that solution is entirely satisfactory either.

  28. Daniel

    @TerjeP

    A foetus may have a right to life, and I’m prepared to grant it based on your thinking. It doesn’t and never will have the right to the use of anyone’s body to sustain it. I’m sorry but as men we don’t get a say in this, it’s not our bodies being used.

    I am uncomfortable with abortion but in this I, and you, and all other men, have to step back and accept that it’s not our decision.

  29. CMMC

    You need to factor in the Deputy P.M., which will eventually become Barnaby Joyce.

  30. obviously obtuse

    @TerjeP
    After scanning your comment I went looking for people who want to “celebrate” abortion. In these comments, or anywhere else. (Party Hats, Streamers?) Funnily enough, I couldn’t seem to find any. Can you help me out? Or is it like me “celebrating” having a knee reconstruction? Really. Back to right wing comments at John Quiggin for you.

  31. obviously obtuse

    “I think abortion is a bit of an ugly thing whenever it happens.” Knock me over with a feather. And there I was thinking we all thought abortion was beautiful. Enlighten us with some thoughts about other ugly things, TurgidP, They’re sure to be controversial. (A tip, look up straw men on, I dunno, Wikipedia?, Children’s debating books?)

  32. Paul Norton

    I see that the old trope of “late term abortion” has reared its scrofulous head again.

    Late term abortions are (a) extremely rare and (b) virtually always hard cases, often tragically hard cases. As we know, hard cases make bad law, and are invoked in debates like this to justify bad public policy.

    Further, evidence from around the world shows that the most effective way of minimising the incidence of late term abortions is to have a liberal abortion regime that maximises awareness of and access to the options of early terminations and contraception.

  33. Paul Norton

    Leslie Cannold in today’s Age.

  34. Graham Bell

    A person’s stance on abortion is almost always a good indicator of how they will approach many issues.

    How right you are!

    “Abortion” is almost always a badge of membership, a secret handshake, a codeword and password.

    It rarely has anything at all to do with women’s health or with infant and child health or with formal theology (other than to hijack it for political and financial gain) or with morality.

    It has a hell of a lot to do with obedience, subservience, domination and the surrender of ones own will to that of The Leader or Big Brother or to some other greedy ruthless alpha-mule or alpha-muless.

    Change the word “abortion” for ‘gun ownership’, ‘civil liberties’, ‘fluoride’, ‘asylum seekers’, ‘pro-choice’, ‘creation science’, ‘drug law reform’, ‘death penalty’, ‘gay marriage’ and so forth and you’ll find the same hypocritical, manipulative scoundrels using a very similar script to grab power, money and herds of dumb, fanatical followers. ((Have I missed out on offending everyone?))

    We are not helpless. We can tell these shonks, petty-Hitlers and their gullible followers to get lost …. and instead, let’s just do the decent thing and give comfort and support to any woman who has become pregnant, regardless of the outcome of the pregnancy – without pressure, without judgement, without imposing our own prejudices (or the prejudices of others) on the pregnant lady.

  35. zoot

    Still I don’t think that solution is entirely satisfactory either.

    TergeP, the solution is really, really simple.
    If you don’t agree with abortion, don’t have one.
    I promise we won’t force you, the argument is about making it legal, not mandatory.

  36. Helen

    I think abortion is a bit of an ugly thing whenever it happens. It’s not the sort of thing people would normally celebrate.

    Jesus, Terje. We don’t celebrate gall bladder operations, nor do we consider them pretty. Your yuk factor is completely irrelevant, except as a rhetorical device to attempt to further entrench anti-abortion attitudes.

  37. Paul Norton

    Here’s a perspective on Tony Abbott and abortion by Kate Gleeson.

  38. Obviously Obtuse

    Read Graham Bell @37 nodding my head in agreement, then thought hang on, what’s wrong with civil liberties? What is wrong with civil liberties? Are they tied to libertarianism or something?

  39. BilB

    Yes, Anna. Abortion is both a fence and a wedge.

    Catholicism has used procreation as a method of expansion of influence and wealth for centuries. The Catholic club.

    The 60’s gave women the means to manage their lives and rise above being only the means to sustain the security of the species. Had the pill been available to women globally immediately from that time the human population may well have been sustained nearer the 3 billion mark and our destiny may well have been very different,

    But there were powerful vested interests acting against possibility and they continue to the day in what ever corners of the globe that they can. The Philippines have so many unmarried young mothers that they have to sleep 2 to a bed in that country’s overcrowded hospitals.

    Where ever Catholicism pervades women are forced to chose between responsible family management and their religious beliefs.

    Fortunately all they have to do is confess their daily infraction of the Popes command and the matter is resolved, even if the guilt builds until insensitivity takes hold.

    Tony Abbott has used the same Confessional method to absolve his perpetual dishonesty, only insensitivity seems to have set in for him at an early age.

  40. P. Oliver

    Anne Summers explained the Prime Minister’s comment very clearly.
    Senator Madigan is another Harradine.
    Abortion and federal policy: here are the facts
    http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4748872.html

    From the link:-
    Voters need to be mindful that there are men in Federal Parliament who, to quote Julia Gillard, would make abortion access their “political plaything”.

    On March 3 this year Senator Madigan was asked by ABC Radio National’s Jonathan Green on Sunday Extra, whether – if he found himself holding the balance of power in an Abbott government – he would use that position to further restrict abortion.

    “Yes,” he said. “Unashamedly so.”

  41. TerjeP

    A foetus may have a right to life, and I’m prepared to grant it based on your thinking. It doesn’t and never will have the right to the use of anyone’s body to sustain it.

    Do you follow that reasoning to it’s logical conclusion in other areas of life?

  42. TerjeP

    Jesus, Terje. We don’t celebrate gall bladder operations, nor do we consider them pretty.

    The yuck factor I was implying was not related to blood, pain and discomfort. It was a ethical yuck factor. I don’t know anybody that celebrates the blood pain and discomfort but some people do seem to celebrate abortion as some sort of ethically beautiful thing. Not anybody specific here but this is the vibe I get in some circles and whilst I support first trimester abortion being legal I wanted to distance myself from the view that abortion is ethically simple. I think it is ethically thorny.

  43. Paul Norton

    Terje, what morally significant difference do you think there is between a first trimester foetus and a second trimester foetus? Both are incapable, even in principle, of being persons because in both cases the brain has not developed to the point where it could support a conscious mind.

  44. TerjeP

    Both are incapable, even in principle, of being persons because in both cases the brain has not developed to the point where it could support a conscious mind.

    Brain waves being absent in the first trimester seems to me pretty compelling evidence that nobody is home. Once brain waves are present then it becomes less certain. However if what you say is verifiable then in principle I would move the boundary.

    At the end of the day a doctor who performs an abortion and is then charged with murder (literally or metaphorically) deserves the presumption of innocence and you may well be able to create sufficient reasonable doubt such that I would acquit well beyond the first trimester.

    However even if such a doctor is acquitted due to reasonable doubt it does not follow that I’m entirely comfortable (ethically) with their action.

  45. TerjeP

    Further, evidence from around the world shows that the most effective way of minimising the incidence of late term abortions is to have a liberal abortion regime that maximises awareness of and access to the options of early terminations and contraception.

    That seems like very sound reasoning to me. And it’s why I support availability of options such as RU486.

    Late term abortions are (a) extremely rare and (b) virtually always hard cases, often tragically hard cases. As we know, hard cases make bad law, and are invoked in debates like this to justify bad public policy.

    I think that you are quite unfair in assuming that late term abortions are invoked simply in order to justify bad public policy. As for data on what is and what is not rare I thought (but could be wrong) that any data on abortion was in general pretty poor.

  46. Helen

    . I don’t know anybody that celebrates the blood pain and discomfort but some people do seem to celebrate abortion as some sort of ethically beautiful thing.

    It’d be an ethically beautiful thing if some people would STFU and leave the decision to the woman and, if appropriate, her doctor. And it’d be a beautiful thing if random people on the internet would not make airy comments affecting our very lives, along the lines of “Well I’d accept… but not.. but I’d be willing to consider…” as if it was in their power to give the regal thumbs up or down at each stage. Now THAT would be beautiful.

  47. mindy

    What Helen said. Great post Anna.

  48. Graham Bell

    ObviouslyObtuse @ 41

    Civil Liberties keep good people alive so that they can contribute to making the world a better place.

    The other side of the coin, though, is where ruthless mongrels impose their own perverted version of “civil liberties” on others for the sole purpose of boosting their own wealth, power and prestige.

    My attack was on hypocrisy and fanaticism disguised as concern and justice.

    But back to the main topic: too often publicly-expressed concern about abortion is nothing of the sort.

  49. TerjeP

    The fact that abortion may be ethically complex for some people is all the more reason to leave it in the hands of the woman, no?

    Whether or not a home owner should shoot the cat burglar in their home is ethically complex but we don’t simply leave it up to home owners. Their actions are subject to legal judgement after the fact. Maybe they shouldn’t be but they are. I’m sure home owners that terminate cat burglars don’t like being subject to legal opinion and I feel sympathy for their plight but if you kill a person then I think it is reasonable that this act be subject to possible legal consequences.

    I don’t think we should abdicate on ethical decision making simply because the going gets tough.

  50. TerjeP

    It’d be an ethically beautiful thing if some people would STFU and leave the decision to the woman and, if appropriate, her doctor.

    Thanks for illustrating my point for me.

  51. conrad

    “Brain waves being absent in the first trimester seems to me pretty compelling evidence that nobody is home. Once brain waves are present then it becomes less certain”

    Do you mean brainwaves as measurable by an EEG or something like that? Monkeys have these, pigs have these, chickens have these, and so on, and we can eat all of them, so I’m not sure how they’re related to abortion. Even insects have measurable brain waves (notably gamma). You can also find the development of neurons (including those in our frontal cortext, which humans have lots of compared to other species) even earlier than that, and it’s also not clear to me why having EEG-like waves is special. Those neurons would be happily firing also. If they don’t have the same synchronization, are we to care? Does that make us less human? These patterns of course change when we’re doing things too, like sleeping, daydreaming, solving puzzles.. Is my humaness predicated on the type of EEG waves I have at any particular time? The rest of the animal kingdom might have something to say about that.

  52. zoot

    Thanks for illustrating my point for me.

    Huh??

  53. TerjeP

    It is a simple decision – leave the stuff we can’t agree on to individual consciences.

    You mean like with gun control and tax rates and drug use? I suppose I could mostly buy that idea. And on the whole I do. I think my opening salvo on this topic came reasonably close to saying as much.

  54. Brian

    TerjeP, the vision is not a society without rules and certainly not without laws to protect the weak.

    In this case, though, no-one can walk in a pregnant woman’s shoes, not judges, not legislators, not males or even other females. It really is best left to the woman concerned with access respectful help. Analogies belittle the situation and do further violence.

    Others can have their views, and they will. But the state should provide space for the woman to act and necessary unconditional support.

    Any way, that’s how I see it at 2 am on this day.

  55. TerjeP

    Judges endeavour to walk in other people’s shoes all the time. When then pass judgement on the drug dealer, the gun owner or the tax evader they do. I really don’t see why women who abort are automatically exempt. In fact on a scale of ethical issues I think aborting the unborn is much more suspect than selling drugs, owning a gun or trying to keep your money hidden from the taxman.

  56. zoot

    In fact on a scale of ethical issues I think aborting the unborn is much more suspect than selling drugs, owning a gun or trying to keep your money hidden from the taxman.

    The majority of Australians don’t agree, but you are intent on forcing your opinion on the rest of us. No?

  57. Linda

    It was said in the 60s (Gloria Steinham I think) & its still true “if men could get pregnant abortion would be a sacrament”.

  58. TerjeP

    Zoot – if you read my earlier comment I explained how the issue ought to be resolved and it did not entail my opinion being forced on anybody.

  59. TerjeP

    You know, I’m really tired of writing posts about abortion.

    Then don’t do it.

  60. Liz

    Anna, that’s why I just don’t engage with these blokes anymore. I’m sick of attempting to educate them because they’re arguments are so boring.

  61. duncanm

    Anna, Liz,

    if you don’t want to engage people in debates.. then write your post, don’t allow comments and be done with it.

    Getting exasperated because you think people don’t ‘get it’ doesn’t help your cause.

    Now, as to your final point: Why is Gillard so concerned about abortion rights, when her fellow travellers in the current government are aiming to be the supreme nanny state (alcopops taxes, cigarettes, internet regulation, media regulation, etc. etc.)? Maybe they didn’t read your thesis on the abortion stance indicator.

  62. zoot

    TerjeP @64: If you don’t agree with abortion, don’t have one. It’s a safe, simple, cheap, non-bureaucratic resolution of your issue (which seems to be the focus of a lot of your energy).
    The rest of us will decide for ourselves.
    I will never let you or your ilk decide what my daughters do with their bodies. It’s none of your business, just as it’s none of mine.

  63. Liz

    I didn’t write a post, duncanm. And I choose not to engage with you, because I value my time and each bit of energy I waste in key strokes in engaging with you, can be used so much more profitably.

  64. akn

    I think I was the third male RN to acquire the Family Planning Association certificate in ‘Family Planning Nursing’ in NSW. It was, of course, essential that any such FPA trained RN had a pro-choice position. I certainly did, and still do, and that was prior to any FPA training in family planning. It was a funny time, being so trained, and, if the thread topic weren’t so serious I wouldn’t hesitate to regale you with great tales of misadventure.

    But the topic is way too serious for that.

    Gillard’s playing this card is most certainly an attempted wedge. I’ve never seen anything more politically cynical in Australian politics. It’s so cynical it is sinister.

    All the LP-ers who are ALP members ought to identify themselves as such. I reckon that it is clear that support fir this tactic, raising the political settlement in all states of Australia is nothing more than a tactic to bolster the most tragic PM-ship in all of Australian political history – Julia Gillard’s.

    I am stating that comments here on this thread supporting or suggesting that the issue of abortion is live, that it is not a wedge and that it is or was a genuine issue of public policy concern, are apparatchiks, or members, same thing really, of the ALP.

    Images are worth a lot. More than words. Especially if you simply have the capacity to see what is there as Berger urged in ‘Ways of Seeing’ . I reckon the faces tell the story.

    FWIW, my view is that the faces of the young women surrounding Gillard are highly suggestive of people whose choice was to participate in the exercise of being young women for Gillard or risk being sent to some sort of ALP political gulag. Or hey, let’s be optimistic and argue that they all look like they’ve offended Ceau?escu because they are so sad about the position of women in Australian society.

    They’d be right to fell that way. Of course they would. But, let’s face it, fronting up to the failures of the sort of trickle down feminism that Gillard advanced is pretty tough.

  65. Liz

    Lordy, you’re an idiot akn.

  66. tigtog

    akn, I’m not a member of any political party and the last time I voted for the ALP was for PJK’s first trot around the block as PM. Since then I’ve voted for a non-major candidate at all levels of government depending on which candidate I conclude to have the most potential for affecting the Balance of Power in all houses.

    Abbott lost any chance of getting my vote forever when he blocked RU-486 when he was Howard’s Minister for Health (I’ll be honest that he didn’t have much hope of ever getting it anyway for many other reasons, but that’s the sticking point). That his party now supports him as leader means that every vote of mine will be weighted by who gives the fewest preferences to the LNP for the foreseeable future.

    I do honestly believe that Abbott and his social-conservative ideological fellow-travellers are a threat to the security of women’s reproductive freedoms. He doesn’t have all that many options available to him for changing any laws surrounding abortion presently, but I he has made it abundantly clear over the years that he would if he could, and if his hostility to all forms of birth control is best conveyed to the electorate by only using the word “abortion” then I have no problem with that framing.

  67. Linda

    akn @ 71 “I am stating that comments here on this thread supporting or suggesting that the issue of abortion is live, that it is not a wedge and that it is or was a genuine issue of public policy concern, are apparatchiks, or members, same thing really, of the ALP. ”

    You mean the people posting comments here on this thread, right? The comments are posted by actual people, people who are impregnable, or were once impregnable, or have loved ones who are impregnable, or are thinking of all the girl children and younger women who are currently impregnable but are not legally permitted to vote yet. This is a genuine issue of public policy concern to us, yes.

  68. Liz

    It’s also hilarious to suggest there’s some ALP gulag where young women are hurled for disagreeing with Gillard.

    But, I’ll play your game because I’m bored waiting in a queue. I’ve not an ALP member. Never have been. Never will be. Sometimes I vote ALP. Sometimes Green.

    Instead of this silliness, why not engage with arguments that have been put forward here, about why women’s repro choice may well be under threat under an Abbott government.

  69. Linda

    It’s also quite telling that some men think that this is an issue that has been long put to rest or resolved and is now being used as a political wedge. In actual fact, women have never stopped talking about this issue; non-impregnable persons just have the privilege of not having to notice it. Rights granted by the ruling class can easily be taken away.

  70. duncanm

    Liz,

    Anna’s post is nothing about the threat that an Abbott government may pose to abortion rights. It is directly supporting the supposition that the issue of abortion is a great tactic to use for this election campaign.

    The post breaks down into the following:
    – Gillard introduced the issue awkwardly
    – Abbott is weak on the topic, since most of the population (apparently) sits on the opposing bench
    – its not too controversial to talk about during a campaign
    – People that agree with me on this are generally good folk (if you don’t then there’s something suss about you anyway)
    – something about taboos and isn’t it great that Gillard can bring it up

  71. Jumpy

    [comment deleted – try again without the “typo” – mods]

  72. Jumpy

    opps [attempt to walk back “typo” in previous comment deleted by mods]

  73. Russell

    Anna, can you say more about the demographic or voters who will be won over by a scare campaign over abortion? Is it many people?

    I’m wondering if young women just assume the current legal position is the natural state of affairs, and making abortion illegal would be about as likely as scrapping no-fault divorce. So why talk about it?

    And wondering if older women think that things are OK and should just be left as they are, and old arguments shouldn’t be re-opened – it’s Julia who is doing the re-opening.

    And men who are happy with the current situation, and because of the complexity of the subject, just don’t want to think about it, because there is no perfect solution.

    My feeling is that many people think a disturbing subject has been dealt with the best way it can, and it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie. But as has been pointed out, as a man I’m never going to be facing the issue as a woman might. How do you think this will play out – more people won over, or more people put off?

  74. TerjeP

    I’m bored of blokes who think they have an interesting insight into the abortion debate, when all they have is tired cliches.

    Arguments don’t decrease in merit simply by virtue of being old. Nor is the merit of an argument linked to how much entertainment it happens to provide you with.

  75. Brian

    TerjeP, this is what you said @ 30:

    Yes let’s skip the political meta discussion and actually talk about abortion.

    You were changing the subject, don’t you see? I think I can understand how Anna feels. Every time I write about climate change I don’t want to have a discussion about whether human activity causes climate change. I’m over it.

  76. faustusnotes

    That’s right Terjep, your arguments lack merit because they are stupid and wrong. they just also happen to be old and lacking in entertainment value.

  77. Paul Norton

    [email protected], whatever one might think about Gillard’s motives for mentioning the issue or the adroitness or lack thereof with which she raised it, the fact is that access to abortion and other reproductive services, both for Australian women and for women in countries receiving Australian aid, was a live issue when we most recently had a Coalition/conservative-dominated parliament and a “pro-life” Health Minister. As we may be looking at such circumstances pertaining again within a matter of months, with the addition of the said erstwhile Health Minister being Prime Minister, one hardly needs to be an ALP shill to think the issue could well become live again in such circumstances, especially given the idiosyncratic preoccupations of some of the younger generation of Liberal politicians. and of religious micro-parties that have recently achieved representation in the Senate.

  78. Paul Norton

    Russell @80, I think the intuitions implied in your questions to Anna contain more than a grain of truth.

    I also know, from discussions with them and from reading their opinions, that many pro-choice feminists, of several generations, would prefer that abortion policy was not shaped by highly public debates and populist campaigns entailing “street politics”. This is for two reasons:

    1. A belief that such debates and campaigns rapidly become ugly and bring out the attic-dwelling, sociopathic elements.

    2. A belief that a lower-profile, more managerial approach to the issue under the guidance of feminist-informed social democratic and/or social liberal policymakers is likely to achieve more progress.

    The first of these beliefs is entirely correct, although it does raise the question of whether such an ugly debate can be avoided in circumstances (such as may pertain soon) in which we have a parliament and ministers that may do things to bring on such a debate.

    The second of these beliefs I have always had doubts about, as indeed do many pro-choice feminists, and these doubts were confirmed by the complete absence of progress on the abortion issue during 22 years of Labor hegemony in the Queensland parliament, culminating in the Tegan Leach case. I am now strongly of the view that the struggle for women’s right to choose will not be decisively won without a very public mobilisation of the pro-choice majority in the Australian population and a demonstration of its political strength. This is why I can be found in pro-choice protests in Brisbane alongside young people with whom I differ on other issues such as the politics of a well-known country in the eastern Mediterranean.

  79. tigtog

    You were changing the subject, don’t you see? I think I can understand how Anna feels. Every time I write about climate change I don’t want to have a discussion about whether human activity causes climate change. I’m over it.

    Bora Zivkovic of SciAmBlogs wrote a great post on commenting threads in general, and specifically how some topics can so easily become overwhelmed by people resurrecting zombie-arguments* and how he unapologetically deletes all zombie-arguments in his threads.

    I reckon any comment deploying a zombie-argument should have its content replaced by a redirection to the Overflow thread.

    * i.e. they keep on re-appearing despite being battled on many previous occasions

  80. Paul Norton

    * i.e. they keep on re-appearing despite being battled on many previous occasions

    Because some people haven’t read anything new on the subject since their opinions became settled X decades ago, and haven’t troubled to reconsider those settled opinions in the ensuing period.

  81. akn

    Rodney Cavalier’s comments are apposite:

    “The nation’s present Prime Minister has been reckless in raising an issue that will end in grief for women and men who believe in a woman’s right to choose, if ever the party political support for abortion should be put to the test.

    “There is not a house of Parliament in any of the states or the Commonwealth which will vote for legalised abortion. Only an opportunist bereft of all hope would want to provoke a test vote for outlawing what is well settled.”

    Abortion became legally available not because of a parliamentary act but because of a 1972 decision of Justice Levine in the NSW Supreme Court in the case of Regina versus Wald. The argument in the political arena was irrelevant to the law.

    The reason that access to legal abortion remains settled in Australia is what Rodney Cavalier describes as “a conspiracy of silence”.

    He explains: The NSW Liberal premier “Bob Askin stoutly resisted efforts by the Right within the Liberal Party and lunatics at large to introduce legislation to override Levine.

    “Bob refused to permit debate in the party room or the Parliament. He could defeat the lunatics only by not engaging with them.

    “Neville Wran, dead scared of a rerun of abortion when he enjoyed a one-seat majority and a heavily Catholic caucus, played the same role. So has each premier since.

    “Tony Abbott has not raised abortion ever since he entered the mainstream. Abortion remains legal because of a conspiracy of silence.”

    While a ‘conspiracy of silence’ is unsatisfactory it is, at the moment, or was at least, a workable political settlement given the organised irrationality of pro-lifers. Their subjectivism creates a culture of incommensurability such that there is no ground for rational consideration of the issues.

    Gillard has pulled the pin on the grenade but the bomb is stuck to her hand.

  82. Brian

    tigtog @ 86:

    I reckon any comment deploying a zombie-argument should have its content replaced by a redirection to the Overflow thread.

    I reckon that’s a really good idea. The problem is being around to spot them before others respond and a conversation starts.

  83. tigtog

    Brian, once upon a time it was commonplace here to delete strings of comments responding to any comment which was deemed delete-worthy due to derailment-potential. Perhaps if our readers see that happening more often they might be more diligent about pre-emptively taking it upon themselves to respond only with variations of “ooh, I’d like to discuss that but it’s off-topic for this thread, so let’s take it to Overflow”.

  84. tigtog

    In fact, it’s probably time for this side-discussion itself to be taken to Overflow.

  85. faustusnotes

    akn says (quoting):

    Tony Abbott has not raised abortion ever since he entered the mainstream.

    Did you miss the references to his efforts on RU486, up above in this thread? He has openly attempted to restrict new medical procedures related to this debate. Far from “not raising” the issue, he has actively intervened on it while he had the power to make laws.

    While I understand the conspiracy of silence approach to abortion, Abbott has form. He showed a willingness to break with that conspiracy. Gillard’s concerns are legitimate.

  86. akn

    FN: both Gillard and Abbott are on record that they agree with Clinton’s position re abortion which is that it should be safe, free and rare (or words to that effect). I assume the journo’s reference to Abbott ‘entering the mainstream’ is to his party leadership. Yes, I am aware of his attempts to restrict access to RU 486 and I also believe that where there is smoke there is fire, ie, that he is not to be trusted.

    However, the way the matter was raised by Gillard as an attempted wedge is liable to rebound on her in the absence of any sort of organised campaign for legislative reform allowing termination as a right. Who knew? Where did this come from? I suspect it came from back room planners and is anything but a response to the demands of any constituency.

  87. Liz

    Akn, do you want to apologise for your scurrilous comment at 71, that anyone who disagrees with you about this must be an ALP hack?

  88. akn

    Yes alright then Liz. I apologize in the interests of reasoned discussion; it was intemperate of me to suggest what I did.

  89. Paul Norton

    The reason that access to legal abortion remains settled in Australia is what Rodney Cavalier describes as “a conspiracy of silence”.

    What this points to is a possibility that could arise following a Coalition victory, regardless of the wishes or intentions of Abbott or Coalition politicians. That possibility is that a “pro-life” prosecutor, police officer, service provider, bureaucrat, or whoever, will feel emboldened by a political climate of conservative dominance to attempt a “try-on” aimed at destabilising the “conspiracy of silence”. This is what happened in WA in 1997-98, and to some extent is what happened in the Tegan Leach case.

  90. Liz

    Thank you, akn. Much appreciated.

  91. Brian

    Anna @ 92 re-asserted:

    I am now strongly of the view that the struggle for women’s right to choose will not be decisively won without a very public mobilisation of the pro-choice majority in the Australian population and a demonstration of its political strength.

    On the ‘tribalism’ thread Helen linked to this article about a Young Liberals’ conference in 2005. If that represented the emerging culture of the Liberal Party in 2005 we have a lot to worry about. Women’s reproductive rights are not safe.

    As it happens I’m reading Joanna Bourke’s What it means to be human. I’ve read a stack of reviews. To me Helen Brown’s was the most respectful and least misleading. None of them quite get to where she gets in the end, nor does her own appetiser and nor quite can my comment below in the space available.

    Nevertheless, it becomes clear that such issues are not susceptible to agreement through reason when value positions differ. The reproductive rights of women are not as positively secured as they ought to be where coercive ideologies appear to be resurgent. Women have engaged in a a long struggle where their full humanity has not been accepted in a legal/social context based on a hierarchy of being with privileged white European males at the apex. There is still work to be done and open contestation seems the only way.

  92. Helen

    What fresh nonsense is this?

  93. Brian

    As against that Paul Syvret in today’s Courier Mail It’s time to stop the vile vitriol about Prime Minister Julia Gillard :

    Only privileged middle-aged white men can decide what constitutes sexism or misogyny.

    If the target of the attacks calls it for what it is then she is “playing the gender card”.

    Australia you should be ashamed of yourself.

    We are attracting international interest with the suggestion that what’s happening here wouldn’t be tolerated in most other modern countries.

  94. Golly Gosh

    Surely it would be easy enough to attach a note to any thread on abortion that stipulates that the thread is not the place to debate the ethics of abortion and that any such comments will be deleted.

    I think any reasonable person should be able to understand that it is intensely boring and unproductive if threads on abortion keep getting hijacked by folk who want to make the same tired old arguments about the ethics involved. There are plenty of other internet forums where people can have that debate.

    Please don’t let a few gauche males stop you from posting, Anna 🙂

  95. Luxxe

    My recall (feel free to correct me re conversations above) is that Harradine “achieved” reproduction bummers for women in developing countries. He couldn’t touch domestic abortion, but succeeded in having family planning curtailed in Australia’s aid programs. Very, very dangerous topic to have resurrected, Madigan or no Madigan.

  96. Paul Norton

    Luxxe @104, I think that’s right.

  97. P. Oliver

    Paul Norton @ 105

    Abortion and federal policy: here are the facts
    Anne Summers
    http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4748872.html

    And it is not hypothetical to say that Madigan is very likely to try to extract from prime minister Abbott similarly anti-abortion restrictions as did Brian Harradine from prime minister Howard.

    Madigan has already introduced a private Senator’s bill, the Health Insurance Amendment (Medicare Funding for Certain Types of Abortion) Bill 2013, the purpose of which is to outlaw Medicare funding for so-called gender-selection abortions, that is, abortions used to terminate pregnancies because the parent(s) object to the sex of the foetus.

    There is no evidence that such abortions are performed at all, let alone frequently, in Australia but this issue is red hot among American right-to-lifers and is clearly being imported to try to inflame abortion politics in this country.

    (Abortion not an issue here?)

    Madigan’s bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration for further investigation; the committee’s report is due on June 25. The committee may report the bill be shelved or it could be tested with a vote.

    I understand from speaking to some senators that there is great concern that there is no longer a pro-choice majority in the Senate and that these restrictions could become law. If so, this would be the thin end of a wedge that Senator Madigan would no doubt delight in trying to widen.

  98. Paul Norton

    P. Oliver @106, thanks for that.

    You write:

    I understand from speaking to some senators that there is great concern that there is no longer a pro-choice majority in the Senate and that these restrictions could become law. If so, this would be the thin end of a wedge that Senator Madigan would no doubt delight in trying to widen.

    What is the basis of that concern? What has (and who have) changed since there was a decisive pro-choice majority in the Senate in 2006?

  99. P. Oliver

    As explained in Anne summers article, DLP Senator Madigan has a Bill in the Senate to be considered on the 25th June, regarding Medicare and abortion.
    He reminds me of Senator Harradine….. the quote at end of the article is very clear:-
    ‘ “On March 3 this year Senator Madigan was asked by ABC Radio National’s Jonathan Green on Sunday Extra, whether – if he found himself holding the balance of power in an Abbott government – he would use that position to further restrict abortion.

    “Yes,” he said. “Unashamedly so.” ‘

    I’m curious as to whether Senator Madigan is an Opus Dei member.