Saturday, 31 July 2010

Keep On Walking Forward

A couple of weeks ago I sat in a room that was over-flowing with people who had got together to fight for abortion rights. The meeting had been spectacularly well organised. When I came back to campus the week before, there was chalking advertising the meeting, and talking about the importance of abortion rights, all over campus. It didn’t rain that week – so awesome, strong messages were there for everyone to see (you can still see a bit of the chalking, in the door to the Kirk building, just under the overbridge).

To listen to dozens of people, mostly women, mostly younger than me, explain why they thought abortion rights were important, and why they were prepared to fight for them was not something I had ever experienced, or expected to experience.

I learned about our abortion law alone, in the Alexander Turnbull Library manuscripts reading room, with no. I couldn’t work for more than three quarters of an hour at a time looking through some of those files; I’d get so angry and upset I’d need a break. I once kicked the stone that said: This Building Was Opened By Rob Muldoon. My foot hurt, and I didn’t feel any better.

I felt alone. Most people I knew didn’t even know what the law was. I didn’t think I could do anything

I was wrong. Of course I was wrong. New Zealand’s abortion laws are outrageous, and of course there was heaps of passion about this injustice. There were always people who were prepared to fight the fight – it was just we all felt isolated, and had fifty three million other things to do, so nothing changed.

It appears that the Chris Trotter and Tammy X “abortion is kind of icky and won’t somebody think of the labour party” arguments won and Steve Chadwick’s bill will not be put in the ballot at the moment. Obviously I'm disappointed and disgusted.

But after the meeting we had – I know it doesn’t matter. We can educate, agitate and organise, until we’re strong enough to overpower MPs near pathological aversion to talking about abortion.

Whether next year or next decade, we will change abortion laws. We’re going to have honest laws that do not have unnecessary toll-gates in the way of women seeking for abortion.

And when we do I will look back on Monday the 19th of July as the night that I thought: “We’re gonna win.”


captiver said...

Agreed, Maia. In it for the long haul! It's not the struggle if you want insta-victory, but it's so important -- especially to realise that every action counts -- every letter to the ed, letter to an MP, every conversation, every pro-choice voice makes a difference. Thanks for the post.

Boganette said...

Well said Maia! Thank-you for this post. I was really down when I heard about the bill being scrapped. But Julie's post really picked me up. I've since been giving out the ALRANZ postcards to my friends to send to Parliament and I've been talking as much as I can about abortion to family, workmates - anyone really - to try and raise awareness. This post pushes me on. Thanks! We will get there in the end!

Julie said...

Great post Maia, I think you are right, the energy is here and the time is now, and even if it takes us a while we can do it.

B, glad to hear my post helped.

I've been amazed how receptive people have been to discussions about abortion (by and large - I've had one tense conversation so far that didn't go so well). Once they find out what the law actually is, and that it isn't defacto abortion on demand (as I too thought until quite recently), there is strong support for a law change I reckon.

I am still nervous about getting defriended when I write pro-choice FB status updates, but I figure that the friends I'm truly close to already know my politics and would have ditched me long ago if they objected.

I never thought I'd be passionate about this issue. But even on Thursday, when the Chris Carter stuff broke and my pol geekness was fully engaged, it was only a few hours before I was back to thinking and talking about how we could fix this stupid abortion law. All the possible permutations of what might happen after Carter's actions were fizzing through my head for a while, but ultimately that's relatively transient - if we can change to a pro-choice law we will leave a great legacy for the future, and that's way more exciting to me.

(BTW, fixed a couple of broken links in the post, hope that was ok)

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