opinion

MP Jenny Leong: The very real toll of abortion being illegal in NSW.

Listening to the anti-choice zealots over the past few weeks, you would think that every person having an abortion is in a state of trauma and crisis.

But many abortions do not come from a place of crisis at all. In fact, most women who have an abortion are mothers. Women carrying the mental load of the family, juggling career and maternity leave, bearing the physical toll of multiple pregnancies and knowing full well the sleepless nights and 24/7 responsibility that a baby means.

There are also many, many women – myself included – who have had an abortion at a young age because the time was wrong, and then gone on to have children at a later stage in life.

No-one makes the decision to have an abortion lightly. But to imply that this procedure is always the result of a crisis or dilemma doesn’t reflect the reality of the situation.

The reality is you are weighing up whether having another child means that you might lose your job, not be able to afford the rent or mortgage, whether you can finish your education, or simply knowing you are at the end of your capacity with the load you already have. For many of us, choosing an abortion is not a trauma but a huge relief.

What you need to know about abortion in Australia. Post continues after video.

And you know what? These decisions are complex, they are personal, and they should not be decided by a bunch of politicians – most of whom are men.

Many people are shocked that abortion is still a crime in NSW – because in practice, lots of people can access a termination if they find themselves in the right location, with the right medical and personal support and adequate finances.

But it is still a crime. And this creates significant barriers for many people.

Paramedic Tess Oxley has spoken publicly about the trauma of attending a woman who harmed herself in an attempt to self administer an abortion – while her children watched TV in the other room.

Dr Amanda Cohn, a GP and the Greens Deputy Mayor of Albury has described some of the circumstances that drive women to her clinic: “We have seen an Aboriginal mother of six travel to Wodonga by train, for over five hours each way, with her young children in tow, to access our service.”

Sometimes, the trauma comes from the fact that abortion is a crime and therefore difficult to access for some communities. That is why this reform is needed.

There are people – overwhelmingly men – who don’t believe that people – overwhelmingly women – should make choices about their own bodies. They believe it should remain a crime for a woman to procure an abortion.

 

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These people are a small minority – but they have loud voices and they have been using dirty tactics to try to sabotage the passage of this reform.

The one that stands out as the lowest of the low was the suggestion that certain migrant communities would use abortion as a form of sex selection.

This flimsy argument is based more on racism than on evidence.

As Dr Vijay Roach, President of Royal Australian and New Zealand College Of Gynecologists said while giving evidence in Parliament last week: “Frankly, that is offensive… racial profiling is absolutely offensive and is not something that this country or Parliament should accept.”

Dr Danielle McMullen, vice-president of the Australian Medical Association (NSW) agreed, saying that “the fact that gender selection is such an emotive issue is precisely why this bill’s opponents continue to make this bad-faith argument. The people who are doing this do not care about women, pregnancies or health.”

There are people who don’t like abortions, there always will be, and to those people I say, that’s fine, don’t have one – but also don’t use your racist dog whistling attempts to prevent those of us who have a uterus and want to be able to make decisions about our own body, and our own life, to do so.

If politicians were genuinely concerned about the stress and trauma of women they would address a few of the things that can actually materially impact a woman’s experience of pregnancy and motherhood – things like childcare, maternity leave and parenting payments.

So from this woman, who chose to become a mother and also chose to have an abortion, and on behalf of so many others who have made the choice to have or not have a child, spare us your judgement. All we want is to make these decisions for ourselves without having to negotiate your patronising crap.

Jenny Leong is Greens Spokesperson for Women’s Rights and one of the 15 NSW MPs co-sponsoring the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill.

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