Thousands gathered in front of the Melbourne State Library last Saturday to protest the overturning of Roe v Wade in the United States. The decision has caused anger amongst not only Americans but also Aussies now that abortion rights are no longer protected as a constitutional right in America. Individual states are now able to form legislation regarding abortion as they see fit as a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Marching, chanting, and wielding signs, Victorians protested to take a stand against the decision, as well as fight for continued and better abortion access in Australia. Melbourne protestor Jay Jones commented on the situation in America, saying that this overturning of Roe v Wade has “nothing to do with being pro-life”.
“It’s a joke, it’s nothing short of a war on women. It’s got nothing to do with being pro-life, it’s about controlling women. If you hate women, just say that,” they told The Fizzz.Jay Jones, protestor.
The Supreme Court’s decision has already seen serious issues arise, with a 10-year-old girl from Ohio being denied an abortion after she was raped. To receive medical care, she had to travel to Indiana, as Ohio has banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The state has provided no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
Other states have also sprung into action with trigger bans and plans in place to restrict – or totally ban – abortion access.
Eleanor, another attendee of the Melbourne protest, told The Fizzz that this change of legislation is scary for everyone with a uterus, and that there is still a chance that Australia could “go backwards”, too.
“It’s a scary world that we’re living in right now, and I think Australia has a habit of copying the American systems. It’s a scary time for anyone with a uterus, it’s a scary time for anyone who loves somebody with a uterus, and we need to protect our rights, our bodies, our choice,” they said.Eleanor, Melbourne protestor.
They weren’t the only ones concerned about the fate of Australia’s access to abortions. Many highlighted the fact that abortion was decriminalised in some states more recently than you might think.
South Australia only decriminalised abortion last year; New South Wales in 2019; and currently in Western Australia, abortions past 20 weeks are only legal if two doctors agree that either the mother or child has a “severe medical condition”.
Additionally, some Australian politicians have been open about their own pro-life views recently, including Bernie Finn and Australia’s Assistant Minister for Women, Amanda Stoker.
Jones said that American political views can “trickle” into Australian politics, and therefore we in Australia are affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“American politics is the figurehead of global politics unfortunately, and so providing a platform in America for people to spew hate and bigotry provides a platform globally, it provides a platform here in Australia for people to be able to speak hate, so it affects us here,” they said.
Bonnie Corbin, the Head of Policy from the MSI – a not-for-profit organisation that offers reproductive care, including abortions – told The Fizzz that women and pregnant people should be safe here in Australia.
She recognised that while the overturning of Roe v Wade has implications here in terms of stigma, Australia isn’t at risk of the same legislation changes as America. She says the National Women’s Health Strategy, which includes plans to improve reproductive healthcare, is an indicator of our safety here.
“It’s the first sort of bipartisan federal government commitment to abortion rights. So that document is like one solid thing that makes us confident that we are not going to have a situation like America currently has.”Bonney Corbin, MSI Head of Policy.
But it seems there’s still room for improvement. MSI released an “abortion scorecard” which shows how accessible abortions are in Australia according to each state.
Additionally, despite the decriminalisation of abortion in most cases across Australia, there are still issues that Australian women and people with uteruses suffer when attempting to undergo care. Corbin said that accessing abortion in Australia remains a “postcode lottery”.
“I think if you live in the right postcode, and you have access to finances, and you have a supportive family around you, it can be a medical procedure that seems like any other medical procedure. However, for most women and pregnant people, that’s not the case,” she said.Bonney Corbin, MSI Head of Policy.
In terms of how we can do better, Corbin said that more funding should be given to safe abortion funds, which aid pregnant people who are financially struggling in seeking abortions. She also mentioned that more doctors need to be trained, especially considering the decriminalisation of abortion happened so recently in Australia.
Finally, she stated that we should look at providing abortion care within Aboriginal community controlled health organisations, migrant refugee health services, and LGBTQIA+ health services.
She also agreed that protesting here in Australia is still important, despite our rights being relatively safe.
“As part of a global community that’s moving towards reproductive justice, it’s about knowing that we’ll always have backlash and we’ll always have setbacks and then supporting each other through those setbacks… and this is one of those moments that the US needs to hear us rise up and voice our solidarity,” she said.
Liz Walsh, Victorian Socialists Assistant Secretary and organiser of the protest also emphasised that solidarity is important.
“It matters that people in the United States know that they’re not alone, that there are many tens of thousands of people right here in Australia that are backing them up, and we’re urging them to continue to fight back and to resist,” she said.
As the situation in America continues to unfold, Melbourne will host another protest this Saturday the 9th of July.