EDITORIAL

Mass action, not restrictive laws, will stop anti-abortion violence

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In March, the Victorian Labor Party government foreshadowed legislation to prevent anti-abortionist protesters from approaching within a certain distance of fertility clinics. On several occasions, abortion rights activists from university campuses and Radical Women have defended the clinic. Over the past months, clients and staff of the Fertility Control Clinic in East Melbourne have been harassed by a tiny band of the fanatical “Helpers of God’s Precious Infants.”  These people carry plastic effigies of a late-term fetus, which they pass off as an embryo, and yell diatribes about hell and damnation.

Emboldened by the renewed attacks on reproductive rights spearheaded by the Howard Government and its fundamentalist religious brethren, there is an increased risk of rightwing violence. Melburnians have already witnessed what these zealots are capable of. In 2001, an anti-abortion fanatic stormed the East Melbourne clinic. Carrying enough weaponry to slaughter 30 people and explosives capable of destroying the building, he terrorised clinic staff and clients and killed the security guard.

The proposed “bubble legislation” is similar to bans in many U.S. states and Canadian provinces in response to increased clinic bombings and murders of doctors. Many feminists have welcomed the initiative. They are mistaken.

In a system that is profoundly sexist, women cannot rely on government, state or federal, to defend us. We face systemic inequality in pay and job opportunities, a lack of affordable childcare and universal paid maternity leave, and a tax system designed to make it harder for us to take paid work in the first place. Federal minister Tony Abbott is leading the charge against abortion rights, and the Victorian government has ministers who are members of Right to Life. These are sure signs that the State is not on the side of women. A ban today on anti-abortionists protesting outside abortion clinics can be used tomorrow against pro-choice defenders. The capitalist State’s first loyalty is to the corporate world, and women’s designated role is to reproduce, raise and nurture the skilled labour needed to keep the profits flowing.

Look to the movements. The East Melbourne clinic survives today because of the feminists and socialists who have consistently defended it over 30 years. A reproductive rights movement is emerging in response to the multiple attacks by the Howard Government against women and working people in general. What is needed are coalitions, such as the Campaign for Women’s Reproductive Rights, which make the connection between abortion rights and union rights. Women’s reproductive rights belong to us all.  A powerful counter-offensive, uniting all who are bearing the brunt of the corporate clampdown on our rights can easily defeat the bosses’ governments. Only when we link arms and resist will women’s rights be guaranteed.

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