Justice Miller's decision on our existing abortion law may not mean an immediate practical change. But it has highlighted, to the public at large, the actual reality of our law - it is not currently abortion on demand. Some of those writing on this seem to think it is relatively easy to access an abortion under the nudge-nudge wink-wink arrangements Right to Life went to court to challenge (eg Ben Thomas* in his recent NBR column [hat tip: Idiot/Savant]). However the ex-expat's post chronicling the voices of women seeking a termination shows otherwise.
So we are at something of a cross-roads. We can hope that the current legal arrangements still allow women to access an abortion when they choose to, most (?) of the time. We know that this is unlikely to be the last attempt Right to Life and their allies make to restrict access to abortion. And we may want to seek a change to the law that makes it abortion on demand in truth, not just in rhetoric.
It seems to me there are two fronts here, in terms of strategy; short term (this year) and medium term (next three years or so). Neither of the major parties will want to go there in the coming months, certainly not prior to the election. Even if a rogue MP (or someone from a Minor) didn't get the party line ("no comment", "conscience vote", "no proposed legislation to consider", etc) and did put up a Member's Bill then logistically it's unlikely to make it even to Select Committee before E Day. So a law change goes into the medium term basket, which I'll come back to soon.
Turning to the short term, the law is possibly going to be enforced though, and that will (further) limit access to abortion. It will mean there may be women who struggle to get access to an abortion when they choose one. Those who know of medical consultants who are able to help may need to quietly share that information.
We will need to continue to provide pro-choice commentary online, in the media, on the letters to the editor pages, and in our communities. As Anjum has pointed out, those who oppose abortion** are mobilised and organised, and champing at the bit for a bit of dirty ol' woman-bashing. Those of us not of that bent will need to be available to provide some balance, and a counter-point for those women out there who have had abortions, are considering one right now, or choose one in the future. If we work together, and avoid the deliberate rat-holes, we hopefully won't get too absorbed by it.
And we could help by focusing on counter-protests outside abortion clinics. L emailed me with information about a protest that happens every Wednesday outside the clinic at Greenlane, complete with Abortion Kills Children placards and pictures of fetuses. A little bit of balance there might not go astray too, and I'm certainly up to heading along with a pro-choice sign of my own on Wednesdays when I can.*** This might be something that people prefer to organise off blog, and to that end it may be worth getting some kind of email group going to share information?**** I note a Facebook group has been established in the last few days.
Discussing the political strategy of all this with others recently, there seem to be two areas of risk in terms of the forthcoming election:
1. Peter Dunne and United Future. If he is in the position of holding the balance of power then this might be an issue he chooses to force into a coalition agreement. He is Catholic, but his voting record on abortion is actually pretty good (hat tip: Idiot/Savant, who has more on Dunne's views on abortion). The fact that there will be at least two other Christian parties out there thumping the drum on these issues, and thus hoovering up the anti-abortion voters, may make Dunne less likely to seek to appease them in any post-election negotiations.
2. New MPs from National.***** We need to know where any possible new Members from National are coming from, be they list or electorate. Will they change the balance in the caucus enough to make it a difficult environment for pro-choice MPs to operate in? Will they change the balance in Parliament as a whole in such a way that a pro-life Bill (of any kind) might pass? Questions will need to be asked to ascertain which way people swing before they are voted in, because it's likely they will face a vote on abortion in the next Parliament. Idiot/Savant has more on this too.
In the medium term we need to consider organising for a change to the law. I read a comment somewhere in the morass where someone claimed that Right to Life took this legal action just because they wanted the law as it stands to be enforced. This struck me as disingenuous. They are called Right to Life, and their website states:
To work purposefully towards, the achievement of the realisable ideal of no abortions within our society.Hmmm, "realisable"? Ok, I've already ranted about that. Right to Life, and their allies, will be seeking a law change to restrict access, possibly even abolish it. If we want abortion on demand then we will need to go through the Parliamentary processes too.
In that situation we will need to find a pro-choice MP who is prepared to lobby their party leadership to make it a part of their coalition negotiations, or their Government agenda. Neither Labour nor National are going to want to do that, pro-choice leadership or not. And we haven't exactly had any other parties clamouring to go on the record as pro-choice in the last week now have we?****** So that may be a hard ask. But the work we do in the short term will help, if that's where we decide to go.
And finally a question:
Will opening this debate up, in the interests of seeking an improvement to theI tend towards no, but I'd be interested in your thoughts. Particulary if you are, unlike me, coming from the perspective of having had an abortion. (Note, anonymous comments are an option). Thanks to Anna McM for raising this issue. It is definitely worth considering whether any campaign may be so toxic that it does more harm than good.
law, make things worse for women who have had abortions, or are trying to have
one in the coming months, by stirring up the pro-lifers? Is it possible that the MSM will be happy to just ignore abortion as an issue, unless their is a fight to cover?
* I want to give Ben some credit here, because that can't have been an easy column to get through the NBR's editorial processes. Ultimately he comes down in favour of a woman's right to choose, and canvasses some of the same issues around Labour and National's unwillingness to put up any reform that Maia looked at.
** I saw an anti-abortion blogger who referred to we pro-choicers as "pro-aborts" and it made me giggle. Perhaps I should respond in kind by labelling them "pro-forced motherhood" but that wouldn't really progress the debate very much now would it.
*** I thought I might rip off the picture I've used to illustrate this post, but if others have good ideas for my placard then please feel free to share. **** There may well be something already out there for this. If so I'd love to know about it as I'd like to join and other women have already emailed me asking about this too.
*****Actually we can't assume new MPs from Labour will be pro-choice either, although they are more likely to be, but realistically there will be less newbies on the red team than the blue, and we know clearly where the red team leadership stands on abortion already.
****** All the releases I could find on Scoop, about the High Court decision, are in favour of it, and also in favour of restricting or abolishing access to abortion.