By MIA FREEDMAN
When you write an opinion piece for a website or a newspaper, declaration is everything. If you have an established history or professional connection with your subject or well-known bias, it must be declared – either by you or by whomever is publishing the piece.
When Mark Latham writes about politics, his role as a former ALP leader is always declared.
When British public speaker Lord Monckton writes about climate change, his position as an anti-climate change campaigner is always noted.
If blogger and author Sarah Wilson wrote an opinion piece about the food industry, her business interests as an author of books about quitting sugar would be mentioned – either in the piece itself, or disclosed at the end.
So it should be the same when someone with a history of anti-abortion campaigning writes about the safety of abortion drug RU486, right?
Not if you’re The Age who neglected to inform its readers of Melinda Tankard Reist’s position on this subject when they published her opinion piece about RU486 at the weekend.
Social commentator and activist Melinda Tankard Reist describes herself as an ‘advocate for women and girls’ and while our views sometimes clash, I have no beef with her personally. In fact on certain issues such as body image and the depiction of violence against women in pop culture, we find ourselves fighting together in the trenches.
Other times, on subjects like abortion, we disagree. Fundamentally.
She is anti-abortion. I am pro-choice.
And that’s fine. Our relationship is a very cordial and respectful one. Ultimately, I believe Melinda comes from a sincere place and I believe she is authentic in fighting for what she believes.
I can respect her without always agreeing with her. In fact I’ve defended her many times, particularly on Twitter, when she has come under vicious attack from some who deride her all her work on the basis she is a devout Christian and an anti-abortion advocate.
My view is that Melinda’s religion is her own business and certainly not a reason to write off everything she stands for.
Interestingly though, her Christianity is something she has been reluctant to discuss since she founded Collective Shout, the movement that encourages the general public to put pressure on brands and businesses who they believe exploit women. She’s been equally reluctant to discuss abortion recently. Until now.