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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. [Volume 39, Issue 8. April 1976]

Abortion Rally Committee

Abortion Rally Committee

On Thursday, April 8th, 50 women attended a meeting which had been called to plan a mass rally at the opening of Parliament calling for an immediate halt to the continuous assaults being made on a woman's right to control her own body and for repeal of the abortion laws.

The meeting coordinator, Pat Bartle, pointed out the urgent need to impress upon the government the strong feelings many, if not most, women have regarding their rights - the most important being control over their reproductive life.

She then read a statement by Air Commadore Gill, Minister of Health, which makes it quite clear that he wants the Hospitals Amendment Bill 1975, amended to reflect the wishes of Parliament. This means the closure of Aotea Private Hospital and the prevention of any similar types of institutions being set up in other centres.

Not only this, but it is a well known fact that MP's are still going to be allowed a "conscience vote" (while denying women theirs) on the issues of contraception, sterilisation and abortion regardless of the Royal Commissions recommendations. (At a 1975 pre-election candidates meeting I attended. Kenneth Comber, MP for Wgtn Centre, was asked whether he would change his vote to favour liberalisation of the abortion laws if this was a recommendation of the Royal Commission. His answer was a swift 'no', and it seems fairly obvious that other MP's will see no need to change their minds either).

Once again women's consciences do not count on an issue that, one would have thought, concerned them more than anyone else.

The situation looked even worse when Australian Socialist and Feminist, Elizabeth Wheelahan, addressed the meeting and informed us that so called "right to lifers" in Australia are again attempting to get the laws restricted, especially in New South Wales and Victoria.

At present in NSW the Levine ruling states that one doctor can refer a woman for an abortion if her mental or physical health is in danger. Unfortunately two women (a doctor and nurse), who worked in an abortion clinic are presently awaiting trial on charges of performing an abortion on a woman under 16 years without first getting the consent of her parents. If these women are convicted the new ruling will make it much more difficult for women to obtain abortions. Attempts are also being made to put forward a bill (the Harold Bill) which states that a woman can have an abortion only if her physical and mental health are in obvious danger. The sentences will be up to 20 years for either having or performing an 'illegal' abortion, and a couple of years for referring someone to a doctor who will perform the operation. It seems that they are determined that women will have to again resort to back-street butcherers.

Women in New Zealand have, as a last resort, relied on being able to obtain an abortion in Australia. If these restrictive measures are passed, even those women who can afford to go to Australia - and most can't -will either have to try to self-abort (and risk their lives) or go through with a very much unwanted pregnancy.

There was some discussion before the 50 women separated into sub-committees, and it was decided that we should make the opening of Parliament a day of national action - enabling women who cannot get to Wellington to demonstrate solidarity with us and their anger and opposition at the restrictive New Zealand abortion laws.

The four sub-committees formed are:
  • Publicity
  • Fundraising and sponsorship
  • Leafletting (shopping centres, high schools etc)

Liason, Plus a feminist drama group who are working on theatre to be performed on and before the opening of Parliament.

By the end of the meeting the groups had tentative plans of action drawn up.

With enough enthusiasm and dedicated hard work we can build this campaign and tell the government in no uncertain terms that we are not going to stand by as they attempt to take giant steps backward as far as OUR rights are concerned.

Women interested in helping to make this a Mass Rally can contact Pat Bartle in the 'Salient' office Wed-Friday, or phone her at 842-821 (other days and evenings.

Notices of meetings will be also be printed in Newsheet, and Women's Choice Club is going to become involved in organisation.

Susan Jarvis

Drawing of a woman holding scales