On November 24, more than 250 pro-choicers rallied outside the Fertility Control Clinic to defend it from the “Helpers of God’s Precious Infants” (HOGPI), who stage a monthly “Rosary Parade” of up to 80 anti-choice zealots. Melbourne Feminist Action organised the mass defence. A handful of “Youth 4 Life” stood across the street holding yellow balloons, but the HOGPI decided not to show up!
Campaign for Women’s Reproductive Rights has defended the clinic for more than seven years. Debbie Brennan spoke for CWRR about why the clinic must be defended and full reproductive justice fought for:
“Congratulations to Melbourne Feminist Action — its first action!!
Savita Halappanavar’s death in Ireland is a tragic reminder of why we are here today. We’re here to say Never Again! Not in Victoria, not in Australia, not in Ireland, not anywhere!
Today is a buildup from years of fighting for abortion rights and defending this clinic. The Fertility Control Clinic has endured daily harassment since the day it opened its doors 40 years ago. These fanatics are the minions of far-right and religious forces on a mission — which is to domesticate women to be mothers and housewives.
Victoria’s legalisation of abortion four years ago was historic! It took decades of dogged organising by activists against a tiny but powerful far right. We now have to defend that victory from the same powerful forces that are hell-bent on overturning the reform. This anti-abortion minority is part of an ultra-right global movement, and with horror we’ve watched it at work in the United States. There, the movement is using everything it can to overturn 40 years of legal abortion — from referendum ballots and impossible regulations on clinics to bombings and assassinations.
Here, women’s legal right to abortion is violated over and over again — not just outside clinics, but in other ways that aren’t so visible. Religious hospitals refuse to treat or refer women who seek a termination. The far right holds annual protests against the 2008 abortion reform, bussing in people from everywhere. It keeps up the pressure on parliamentarians to recriminalise abortion. Local councils and police claim they have no power to stop harassers from stalking, taking photos, standing at the windows of clinic counseling rooms, and generally bullying people. But they don’t hesitate to threaten clinic defenders with infringement fines and assault charges. The harassment of this clinic is getting so intense that Campaign for Women’s Reproductive Rights is now defending not every month but every week. If we could, we’d defend it every day. The goal of the anti-abortion movement is to shut down women’s access to safe abortion. Its goal is to deny women any reproductive freedom.
Choice is about every woman making her own decision about having children; it’s about her control over her own body and her life. Abortion is not the only right to choose that’s under attack. Women with disability are sterilised, as young as 11 years old. Aboriginal women and women who are poor have had their children removed by the state. Mothers on welfare just had their parenting payment cut by as much as $100 a week. Working mothers can’t get childcare. Paid parental leave is nothing more than a welfare payment. Public housing is being sold off to private operators. Private rents and mortgage payments are going through the roof. Domestic violence keeps forcing women and their children from their homes. Sexual assault, homphobia and transphobia within the family forces young women, queers and trans people onto the street and into poverty and hard futures. The public health system is at breaking point. Public education and training is being gutted. Community and public sector services are being decimated. Sex education and freely available contraception are still demands we have to fight for. So are decent, secure jobs, equal pay and a livable income for all. As long as a woman is forced into dependency on a man or welfare, as long as society fails to provide for her and her children’s needs, as long as sexist, racist and anti-disability discrimination strips her of the right to be a mother, then she does not have choices. There’s a word for this: Misogyny!
In the far right’s world, living people are nothing; the foetus is everything. It’s about fertility control, like the clinic’s name says — but under whose control? Not the woman. For the far right movement and the powers that be, women must live by the rules of the state and the church, according to the profit system’s needs. Her place is in the home, breeding workers and looking after them — at no cost to profit, but at every cost to us. And when she has to work to get some money, she’s cheap labor.
This is why this clinic needs defending! Campaign for Women’s Reproductive Rights is defending every Saturday up until Christmas. We are also organising a counteraction against the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants on the last sitting day of Parliament for this year — December 13. Please take a leaflet with all the information. And join us!
If we’re going to win reproductive justice for women, we’re going to have to build a movement. We’re going to have to organise and make it very loud and very clear that women are not incubators. We are not mothers on demand. We are not unpaid nursemaids or domestic slaves. We are nobody’s property! What we are is angry and, when we organise, we’re formidable. It will take a grassroots, feminist movement to protect this clinic and win what women need to have real choices. We cannot look to state authorities and parliament to step in and do it. They won’t rock the capitalist boat. We will, because we have to. The court ruling in 1969 that gave women a limited legal way to get an abortion would not have happened without a movement. Along with Bertram and Jo Wainer, we won this clinic! We won the legalisation of abortion in 2008. We have to defend these wins and fight for more. And today gives us a glimpse of what we’re capable of!
Here’s a chant that’s a clinic defenders’ favourite: Not the Church! Not the State! Women will decide their fate!
See you next Saturday!”