Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 9. 9 May 1972
Abortion Action Week
Abortion Action Week
Early this year, the Second Women's National Abortion Action Conference in the United States called for an international Abortion Action Week, May 1 - 6, to be a week of educational activities and demonstrations around the demand for the repeal of all anti-abortion laws, and free, easily avail available contraception and sterilisation.
In response to this call, women's liberation and Abortion Law Reform groups throughout NZ are holding educational activities and demonstrations this week. In Wellington, an ad hoc committee, the May Abortion Action Committee, has been set up to organize such activities, in particular a march through the city on Friday night (May 5th) followed by a public meeting in the Concert Chamber at about 8p.m., with speakers from the Women's Liberation Movement, the Abortion Law Reform Association, NZ Medical Association, and others.
This Action Week is just part of the ongoing struggle for women's right to control our own reproductive functions - to decide for ourselves whether or not we want to continue a pregnancy. The demand for the right to abortion is one of the central demands of the women's liberation movement, for we see the issue as a question not of morality, but of control. The anti-abortionists say it is immoral to kill a foetus; we say it is immoral to force a woman to go through with an unwanted pregnancy. The woman alone must have the right to decide, not lawyers or doctors or clergymen. As long as a woman must beg for a legal abortion, as long as she has to invent some "justification" other than the most valid one that she simply doesn't want to have a baby, there will still be a demand for illegal abortionists who don't ask questions, that women will go to, at risk of their lives; and women will still try to abort themselves with knitting needles, vacuum cleaners, soapsud douches and all the other dangerous or useless "home remedies"
The law as it stands is irrational and contradictory. If abortion were really murder, it would be illegal under all circumstances, yet it is condoned if the life of the mother is in danger. If it is merely the quality of the woman's life that is threatened, however, abortion becomes "immoral". Just as irrational is the righteous concern that is shown for the foetus in the womb, which rapidly chan changes to indifference for the child once it is born. Thus, an unsupported woman who has been forced by the law to have a baby she didn't want will find no sympathy from the state for her predicament. Either she must suffer the emotional agony of giving the child away, or she must try and find support from relatives and friends.
It is obvious that the law isn't concerned with the "sanctity of human life". What the abortion laws are about is control. Women are kept in an inferior position because their status is defined by their child-bearing function. We are held responsible for that function - inasmuch as any circumstances it may put us in, however desperate, are considered our own misfortune - yet we are denied control of this function.
Unequal pay is "justified" by the observed fact that women workers often have to leave because of pregnancy, or take time off to look after sick children. Discriminatory education is based on the assumption that woman's chief function is childbearing and rearing. Sexual exploitation of women is partly caused by, and partly causes, the concept of women as being primarily concerned with getting a man and having children. And so on. The abortion laws play a vital role in upholding this structure: that is their function. While women are denied the right to control their own bodies, they are effectively prevented from even realising the possibility of full liberation. Women are handicapped not by their childbearing function as such, but by their inability to effectively control it. We demand this control as our right.
The law will be changed when a majority of people demand that it must be changed; and women are a majority. Abortion Action Week is just the beginning. Show your support by marching this Friday night. Assemble at the Cenotaph, 7.15 p.m.