9th of June Abortion Rally: Our Bodies Our Choice
Words by Austen Hunt
On Sunday the 9th of June the ‘Our Bodies Our Choice’ rally took place in Sydney’s Hyde Park. Attracting between 2000-3000 people, the march saw an array of stories, speeches, poetry, and signs fill Sydney’s streets. The displays were a concentrated signal of discontent with the states current laws on abortion.
The march was organised by a 17 year old girl, Bella Ziade, as an act of international solidarity with the people of the United States of America. The harsh law signed into existence by the conservative republican Governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey, on May 15th has deemed abortions to be unlawful. This ‘unlawful’ status extends to abortions which are sought following the extreme events of incest or rape. Under this code abortions can only be performed if either the mother's life is at risk or the fetus is deemed as being unable to survive.
The callous nature of this law is truly outlined by the punishments it endows. If a woman is found to have had an abortion in the state of Alabama they can face a 99 year jail sentence.
So what does this mean on the local homefront of NSW?
In NSW, abortions have been considered as ‘unlawful’ since 1900. To get an abortion in this state a woman must seek medical attention from a doctor who deems that continuing pregnancy poses a serious risk to the mental or physical wellbeing of the woman. The doctor is to account for a range of factors including not only the health of the patient, but also the social and economic wellbeing of the woman.
The protest displayed that a global public is fighting to preserve the fundamental liberty of bodily autonomy. The state’s role in deciding who, and under what circumstances, an abortion can be pursued is being pulled further into question. The ‘Our Bodies Our Choice’ movement is a continuation of pressure on the NSW government to change how it frames abortion services.
NSW is unique as it remains a laggard in updating its views on abortion. The framing of abortion as a crime is unique to NSW as other states and territories in Australia have legalised the services. The main difference between the other states is the terms in which they allow abortion srtvices to take place. To outline this, in Victoria abortions are legal and available for the first 24 weeks of a woman’s pregnancy, while in the ACT abortions are legal and available at any time during a pregnancy.
Prominent figures, such as Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi, have sought to change the state’s legislation, however, the NSW government remains in a state of inertia on the issue. Senator Mehreen fought to remove the act of abortion from the criminal code in 2017. The attempt fell short with the failure to pass the bill being attributed to the conservative majority held in the upper house. This attempt was a hallmark in Australian history as it was the first time the law has been challenged since its conception in 1900.
The ‘Our Bodies Our Choice’ movement marks a continuation of efforts to challenge the states view on abortions. Despite the efforts of legal rational actors, such as senators, and the consistent public outcry to the limits placed upon women's liberties, abortions are still a criminal act in the eyes of the state.
If this law is going to be changed in NSW it is going to require consist challenge from the public . It is too easy to frame our state and our city as progressive due to the relatively cordial relations enjoyed along intersectional lines, however, the legal limitations placed upon women show us that there is a lot of progress still needed before our state can claim that it affords equality between the genders.