Salient. Newspaper of Victoria University of Wellington Students Association. Vol 41 No. 3. March 13 1978
How Much Longer Must We Wait?
How Much Longer Must We Wait?
"We won't give up, we will fight, Abortion is a woman's right".
The message came through loud and clear as 1500 women, men and children participated in the largest march for safe legal abortion New Zealand has seen.
At last, those campaigning for repeal of the abortion laws in New Zealand have shown on a mass scale their ability to challenge the hitherto unrivalled supremacy of SPUC.
After being joined by a student march, the main body left Pigeon Park and made its way to the Cenotaph, headed by the "Larf" theatre group and accompanied by sporadic chanting. By the time the march reached the Cenotaph, its numbers had doubled, indicating the widespread support which onlookers had given the demonstrators.
Speaking to the rally were representatives of women's abortion rights and student groups.
VUWSA President Lindy Cassidy briefly addressed the large rally with a stirring speech, calling for women to fight back against all the attacks which they had suffered in the past years and to demand abortions as a democratic right.
The March 8 committee, who organised the demonstration had managed to get Julia Freebury, Abortion Law Repeal Association of New South Wales Secretary, to address the rally. She expressed her shock that so many New Zealand women were forced to travel to Sydney for pregnancy termination. All the placards that her organisation had used to force humane abortion laws in New South Wales were now having to be brought out of mothballs and sent across the Tasman in order that New Zealand women might fight one of the most repressive combination of abortion laws now existing in the western world.
Glenda McCallum from Working Women's Alliance emphasised the abortion laws' part in the total offensive of the Government and their "rich friends" against New Zealand working people and women in particular. Women had no choice but to fight for an equal place in society as part of the total struggle to defend democratic rights — and as the economic crisis was worsening, the fightback would have to be stepped up, she said.
WONAAC speaker Pat Starkey warned against referring the abortion laws back to Parliament and demanded their total repeal. Reliance on lobbying MP's was dangerous to the movement and concentration should be on getting thousands of people onto the streets.
The last speaker was Leonic Morris, March 8 Committee co-ordinator and NZUSA's Womens Rights Action Co-ordinator. Her speech culminated in a resolution to the effect that the struggle against the present abortion laws would be continued until it was ultimately successful and the decision to terminate pregnancy was left to the woman invovled. This was given the unanimous approval of the crowd.
At 1.45, the rally, still large, dispersed. Mi stakes of the past had been left behind. The March 8 Committee had adopted the slogan ("Abortion — a women's democratic right") which united many people who had not been involved in the abortion struggle before. As well as this, large numbers of people helped organise the build-up to the march.
While the committee was led by women, a deliberate attempt was made to encourage men to come on the march and this, to a large extent, secceeded. An example of this was the organisers' decision not to use separatist chants which men could not join in with.
The question arises: where does the fight against the abortion legislation go to now? Quite patently Parliament has shown itself incapable of any real understanding of the problems women face, and unwilling to acknowledge its responsibility to the electorates. What else must New Zealanders do to force MP's to listen?