Today marks thirty-five years since Roe vs. Wade. A number of my favourite blogs including Feministing and (en)gender posted on it, but it was The Road to Surfdom, which you should really read all the time, that devoted the piece I’ve unscrupulously cut-and-pasted below, which reminded me why today is so important for us, no matter what country we live in.
Blog for Choice day is an initiative of NARAL, the US pro-choice organisation. The website which showcases the event is called Bush v. Choice. This Blog for Choice day also marks 35 years since the Roe vs Wade decision which protected abortion rights for women in the US.
But it’s impossible to spend any time in the US feminist or political blogs without realising that the US religious right – which has been making increasing inroads into our country as well – has been threatening Roe v. Wade for some time. Pumped-up anti-choice organisations have been encircling women and their health providers, always alert for an opening or a sign of weakness. It’s not just the violence that happens around US abortion clinics. The legal and political challenges are circling around them as well, hackles raised, teeth showing, ready to pounce.
So, Blog for Choice day, where we stop and think about the abortion wars and how they’re nowhere near won, and what we can do about it.
I’m going to leave the US now though, to talk about Australia and Melbourne where I live, and the doctor who has been put through a trial by fire by an unscrupulous politician and the rest of the circling, snarling rabble of abortion opponents.
It’s a continuation of the story about the one extreme edge case of late abortion which was made into a cause celebre by MP Julian McGauran, who didn’t hesitate to trample all over the rights of the woman in question and her doctors.
Now the doctor who performed the abortion has outed himself, with articles in the Bulletin and other news outlets. His name is Professor Lachlan de Crespigny (and, oddly enough, I remember him from prenatal exams at the RWH when I was pregnant with Boychild.) He has also been speaking publicly in support of a change of legislation to entrench womens’ right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy. The anti-abortionists have done their best to ruin his life.
“It just took over my life,” he says. “It’s better now in that I don’t think about it all day every day, but I think about it a lot every day … I still wake up at night and I still lie awake thinking about it every night. It used to be for hours every night. But now I switch off and go back to sleep far more quickly.”
Most of his anger is directed at the hospital. A few months after the woman’s abortion, the hospital called a news conference to reveal the events that had transpired.
Professor de Crespigny says the news conference was called after a number of doctors told hospital administration what had happened. He was sacked first, then suspended. Five other doctors were also suspended. The suspensions were soon lifted and the doctors were able to return to work. But, because of a feeling of being wronged at least in Professor de Crespigny’s case, none of the doctors work at the hospital now.
According to the Bulletin article, because of the personal toll this six-year witch hunt has taken on him, Professor de Crespigny will retire this year at 61 (he expected to work into his eighties, as his father had done.) I can well believe it, because he appears to have most of the signs of post traumatic stress.
The corollary, of course, is clear. De Crespigny and other health professionals have been made an example of, to send a message to others. So, although on paper Australian women may have reasonable legal access to abortion, in practice, the numbers of surgeons willing to perform the procedure will fall and de facto access will be more and more restricted.
Doctors are right to be anxious about performing a legal abortion. Because of recent police and coroner’s investigations, court cases and press coverage of abortion cases, more doctors now refuse a request for abortion. This environment unreasonably denies women abortion, and it exposes women and their doctors to unpredictable legal risk and public exposure. A system is flawed when a doctor’s first priority cannot be the welfare of her or his patient.
And, as I pointed out here, although seven years have now passed since his crusade began, Julian McGauran – the MP who started it all – hasn’t been able to find another example of a late-term abortion conducted for psychiatric reasons. The number of late-term abortions conducted for purely frivolous reasons, of course, remains at zero. People’s lives have been ruined because of a late-term abortion epidemic that exists only in his imagination.
Blog for Choice day should be an occasion for all of us, Australians as well as Americans, to stop and consider how the circling, snarling anti-choicers are ripping away at our right to our bodily autonomy bit by bit. We can only stop it by looking outward, and doing what we can to chase off the circling predators. We also need to help to drag those predators off the targets they have singled out as particularly tasty.
So I’d like to offer a huge cyber-bouquet to Professor Lachlan de Crespigny, feminist ally and courageous supporter of human rights.
I’ll update this post later with links to other Blog for Choice day posts. Comments vilifying the people mentioned in this post will be disemvowelled. If you think this denies your freedom of speech, don’t hesitate to get your own blog.