Never Going Back! – Keep abortion legal in Victoria: Build a movement to stop the far right

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On October 10, 2008, the moment Victoria’s Parliament voted to legalise abortion, spectators from the far right leapt to their feet and yelled “Retribution!” and vowed to overturn the new law. This anti-abortion minority represents less than six percent of the population, according to the Victorian Law Reform Commission Report (2008). Yet this ultra-right fringe, well financed and connected, has escalated its activity over the past four years. Since 2008, its daily harassment of East Melbourne’s Fertility Control Clinic has intensified, and several “40 Days for Life” campaigns have targeted health clinics that perform abortions in Melbourne and other Australian cities. Throughout 2012, anti-abortionists have held “vigils” outside Parliament, holding up lengthy banners covered with thousands of crosses, which they claim represent the number of abortions in Victoria since January. The annual “March for the Babies,” headed by Liberal Party Member of Parliament Bernie Finn, busses anti- abortionists from across Victoria and interstate to demonstrate, with their hateful messages, against the 2008 reform. This year, the organisers imported Lord Nicholas Windsor, an anti-abortion zealot they tout as a member of the British royal family, as if that adds weight to his bigoted views.

A central mission of the far right is to force women back to the century before last, when life choices for most were limited to motherhood or low-paid, dead-end jobs. Ending an unwanted pregnancy generally meant persecution and a high risk of horrible injury or death.

Below is a talk by Debbie Brennan to a public meeting, Is fascism still a problem for workers?, convened by Australia Asia Worker Links on 5 September 2012. Brennan is the Melbourne Organiser for Radical Women, longtime reproductive justice activist and defender of the Fertility Control Clinic.

In May 2009, Dr George Tiller was shot dead in Wichita Kansas. Tiller was one of the few doctors in the country who performed late-term abortions. His assassin was a fascist, long involved in far-right and anti-abortion groups. Today, we watch with horror abortion rights being torn to shreds in the United States, where abortion was legalised throughout the country in 1973. Last year, 92 measures restricting access to abortion were passed in 24 states — the most ever. The Republican Party platform now bans any abortion, even in the case of rape. Closer to home, those of us who have faced off anti-abortion mobilisations over the past decades have recognised Nazis among them. Sitting on the shelf of the Western Australian Attorney General’s office is a “personhood” bill giving full rights to a foetus. This is expected to be put to parliament any time.

Today’s far right has many faces — some wear Nazi uniform, others carry rosaries and harass abortion clinics, still others are power-dressed business people and parliamentarians. Whether they wear swastikas, religious symbols or suits, this movement oils the tracks for a fascist movement, in the event that capitalism has to save itself and stop revolution.

The strategy of the ultra-right is to build a mass political movement to disenfranchise and disorganise the working class. They violently oppose women’s independence, marriage equality, immigrant and refugee rights, the sovereign rights of Indigenous nations, and workers’ rights to organise on the job and to solidarise with each other. They understand how these struggles are interconnected. Here’s a recent example: at last October’s March for the Babies — where we again saw known fascists — there was a placard that said: “100,000 dead babies every year!! 100,000 new migrants.”

So, why is abortion so important for the far right/fascists? In 1932, Leon Trotsky characterised fascism as “a mass movement growing out of the collapse of capitalism.” Its goal is to crush the working class and its organisations and ensure that workers shoulder the total burden of the economic crisis. Fascism is capitalism up against the wall — at its most desperate, with gloves off. When we consider the role that capitalism assigns to women — to breed the next generation of workers and sustain them throughout life and to reproduce a capitalist culture of submission to authority (father, husband, priest, boss or the State) — then we understand the obsession with the foetus. It’s about controlling women’s fertility, denying women autonomy over their own bodies and their life choices.

We can’t separate the banning of abortion from forced sterilisation — fascists don’t! Controlling women’s fertility means denying them choice about abortion or having a child. There’s a long history of women deemed unfit — with disability, Aboriginal and immigrant and on welfare — being sterilised or their children removed by the State. Nazi Germany was big on “racial” and “moral” “hygiene.” Eugenics lives today, whether covertly or overtly, and it is worldwide. Women with Disabilities Australia’s recently published Moving Forward and Gaining Ground: The Sterilisation of Women and Girls with Disabilities in Australia exposes the extent of paternalism — practised by courts, parents and carers — that controls the bodies and lives of females as young as 11 years old.

For the far right and fascists, there’s no place for freely available postnatal care and childcare, fully paid parental leave, equal pay, free education, healthcare and housing, free disability supports, reproductive technology for all women, including lesbian and single women. These are what women need to make real reproductive choices and live as active, independent players in society. Women are simply meant to be lifelong, dutiful housewives. This is the essence of patriarchal capitalism, which the far right and fascists intend to preserve.

Reproductive rights are workers’ rights; these struggles are indivisible. If a reproductive rights movement is to have any force, it must be multi-issue. A revolutionary workers’ movement must connect all the dots of our struggles if we’re to push back the far right and ultimately win control over our collective destiny.

Take action! Want to help build this movement? Join Campaign for Women’s Reproductive Rights! Campaign for Women’s Reproductive Rights (CWRR) is a multi-gendered united front of grassroots organisations and individual activists that fights for reproductive rights for all women. CWRR initiates Victoria’s annual October rallies to keep abortion legal and organises the defence of the Fertility Control Clinic in East Melbourne.

Get in touch with CWRR: Phone 03-9388-0062, Email or via Facebook & Twitter CWRRMelbourne

Join the clinic defence on the fourth Saturday each month at 10.00 am, 118 Wellington Parade, East Melbourne.

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