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‘BACKYARD’ ABORTION = ILLEGAL ABORTION



Women Working Together suffrage and onwards
p.33
www.womenworkingtogether.com.au

1. STOP HER SCREAMING AND DISTURBING THE NEIGHBOURS
2. WITHOUT A LOT OF MONEY
3. WITH A LOT OF MONEY
4. THE DECISION
5. AT LAST! PREGNANCY TERMINATIONS OUT OF CRIMINAL LAW IN VICTORIA
6. THE ABORTION LAW REFORM BILL 2008 was passed in the Legislative Council

1. STOP HER SCREAMING AND DISTURBING THE NEIGHBOURS

Jo Wainer -  

'Before 1969 and the Menhennit ruling abortion was completely illegal. It was conducted clandestinely.There were twelve doctors who provided reasonably safe, reasonably competent abortions, but at a very high price.

You found them through an underground network - taxi drivers, pubs, mates (it was the usually the responsibility of the man involved to find the abortion provider and to pay for the abortion. The woman just risked her body, her life and her dignity).

In addition to that there were non-medically trained abortion providers, the most famous of whom was a butcher by trade who operated on kitchen tables around Footscray. Of course, not being a doctor he didn't have access to anaesthetics so he used to stuff a rag in the woman's mouth to stop her screaming and disturbing the neighbours.

If the providers got into trouble, they couldn't call an ambulance and have the woman admitted to hospital because they would have gone to jail for fifteen years or longer, whether a doctor or not. Women died.

We will never know how many as they all had body disposal systems - dump them in Port Phillip Bay, bury them in Sherbrooke forest, arrange with the local undertaker to bury two bodies in one coffin. It was a very dangerous and totally humiliating experience.

It didn't stop women from having abortions, but it was very, very bad and a lot of women died. There was a whole ward at the Royal Women's Hospital devoted to women who were there as a result of damage from abortion - they had a thirty bed ward dedicated to it. There was a special room set aside for women who were dying. Septicaemia and gangrene were the major risks in the pre-antibiotic era.

Women Working Together suffrage and onwards p.315
www.womenworkingtogether.com.au

We must not let our foremothers down. We must not allow Far Right forces to erode all our gains. We must preserve our democratic right to individual choice. Our reproductive freedom is at stake.

Ruth Schnookal, quoted in Women Working Together suffrage and onwards  p.315 www.womenworkingtogether.com.au

When a woman cannot mother and she is pregnant, she will do what it takes to get an abortion, even if it means dying in the attempt.

Jo Wainer ed. LOST: illegal abortion stories Melbourne University Press 2006 p.1

2. WITHOUT A LOT OF MONEY

Kylie Tennant -

. . . she thought of all the women there were in the ward where they had taken Olly; they seemed to stretch in an infinite row of white beds; women who were the broken spears of a revolution against the future, who had said “Stop” to a Juggernaut. The street seemed to fade into an endless ward of dying women about whom nothing was said, no statistics offered, no voices raised.

They just died evilly and painfully. Everyone knew, even made jokes about it. But officially, there was no such thing as a woman like Olly who could not afford to go on living because the price was too high.

Kylie Tennant Ride on Stranger Angus & Robertson 1943 p.194

Amy -

When she got pregnant again with her sixth she went to some nurse somewhere and she died. The police must have been told because the nurse got six years. It was all in the papers ...

They told me that I only had to take off my underwear because they couldn’t give you an anaesthetic because the neighbours would know the smell of the chloroform and that would bring the police and then you were in terrible trouble.

Jo Wainer ed. LOST: illegal abortion stories Melbourne University Press 2006 p.24

 3. WITH A LOT OF MONEY

Dympha Cusack, Florence James -

Mary struggled back to consciousness out of a great void. The world came to her like the throb of a giant piston, formless and terrifying. Light filtered through her lids as the enveloping blackness slid away.

Someone was making sounds, disconnected, incoherent and a long way off.

Beside her, a voice said distinctly, “Not so much noise,

Mrs McDonald. You’re quite all right” ...

“What are the arrangements, Len?”
The doctor’s voice was tired.

“There’s another at 4 o’clock. Will you do it here?”

“Better make it Number 7, I think.
We’ll move for good next week.
Been making the pace a bit too hot here lately.”

Dympha Cusack, Florence James Come in Spinner Imprint Classics 1990 p.566 - First published 1951

Jenny -

The pain seemed to go on forever and I think I may have been screaming.

I was certainly crying because I remember the tears running down my cheeks and dripping into my ears, but finally the pain stopped, and I could hear the Lux play on the radio in the other room again.

He must have been sitting on a stool, I think, a very high stool on wheels because then he moved back and that was the first time I saw his eyes and I remember thinking, I’ll never forget those eyes as long as I live.

He said to the woman - he didn’t speak to me directly, once - “This one will have to have some penicillin. Tell her to go to her own doctor”.

Jo Wainer ed. LOST: illegal abortion stories Melbourne University Press 2006 p.69


Women Working Together suffrage and onwards p.313
Vashti 28 Spring 1980

 4. THE DECISION

Beverly -

I said, “I don’t want a baby. I can’t control my own life at present, how can I be responsible for a life that hasn’t asked to be born? I can’t give it anything.” ...

He didn’t even ask my name. I told him I was about eight weeks by now, that I should have had a second period already. I told him I was 16 when he asked.

Then he asked Linda how old she was. When she told him she was not pregnant he asked her what she was doing there. When Linda told him she was there because I was frightened, he said, “Well, she should have thought about the consequences before she indulged in such things.”

Jo Wainer ed. LOST: illegal abortion stories Melbourne University Press 2006 p.182

Zelda -

(My husband) and I began to have differences; although very young, motherhood forced me to face and accept my responsibilities, but I felt (he) wasn’t ...

(My daughter) was an unplanned but a wanted and loved child, however, I was adamant that I did not want another child, certainly not while we were living in other people’s houses. I was always afraid when going to bed, for I wanted (him) but was terrified of becoming pregnant. He convinced me he would look after me but, to my horror, I found myself pregnant again. I was determined not to go through with it. p.41 

(After the termination - My husband) and I now lived in other people’s houses for four years, always feeling like intruders and never knowing what just being alone together meant ...

(Pain) continued for several months and eventually I visited the Women’s Hospital. I was ushered into the consulting room where I told the doctor about the problem. He asked me my reason for not having another child ...

(Next visit) Behind him and facing me were three medical students. He asked me if I had suffered the same symptoms during the previous month for which he had prescribed phenobarbs.

When I told him I had, he turned to face the students and said, “It’s marvellous what patients can think themselves into” ...

I had taken as much as I could from this arrogant bastard and quietly said, “If you give me your beautiful home in exchange for my room, and your salary in exchange for my husband’s wage, then I will have another baby ... if you are incapable of diagnosing my problem then get me a doctor who can.”

I was very upset ... I walked out of the hospital. I never went there again. p.51-2

Zelda D’Aprano Zelda Spinifex Press 1995, first published by Zelda D’Aprano 1977

5. AT LAST!

PREGNANCY TERMINATIONS TAKEN OUT OF CRIMINAL LAW IN VICTORIA

At 10.30 pm 10th October 2008, a century after women won the vote in Victoria, women won again.

For pregnancy up to 24 weeks gestation women's consciences are finally given due respect.

Women now have the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy free from the threat of criminal prosecution.

Medical staff can perform terminations free from the threat of criminal prosecution.

 

Those in Parliament who voted 'aye', that is, for women's consciences over politicians' consciences in the Legislative Council, were:

Andrea Coote; Brian Tee; Candy Broad; Colleen Hartland; David Davis; David Kock; Evan Thornley; Gavin Jennings; Gayle Tierney; Greg Barber; Jaala Pulford; Jenny Mikakos; Johan Scheffer; Justin Madden; Kaye Darvenize; Khalil Eideh; Martin Pakula; Matthew Viney. Phillip Davis; Peter Hall; Shaun Leane; Sue Pennicuik; Wendy Lovell.

In the Legislative Assembly the 'ayes' for the third reading were:

Ann Barker; Alistair Harkness; Ben Hardmann; Bob Stensholt; Bronwyn Pike; Carlo Carli; Colin Brooks; Craig Ingram; Craig Langdon;  Daniel Andrews; Danielle Green; David Morris; Don Nardella; Fiona Richardson; Helen Shardey; Hong Lim; Ian Trezize; Jacinta Allen; Janice Munt; Jeanette Powell; Joanne Duncan; Joe Helper; John Brumby; John Eren; John Pandazopolous; Jude Perera; Judy Maddigan; Karen Overington; Lily D'Ambrosio; Lisa Neville; Liz Beattie; Lynne Kosky; Louise Asher; Marsha Thompson; Mary Wooldridge; Martin Foley; Maxine Morand; Michael Crutchfield; Peter Batchelor; Rob Hudson; Richard Wynne; Robin Scott; Steve Herbert; Ted Baillieu; Tim Holding; Tim Pallas; Tony Lupton; Tony Robinson; Wade Noonan.

Tammy Lobato said she voted 'no' because she wanted women's right to choose and decriminalisation to be complete and this Bill only covers up to 24 weeks.

Women Working Together suffrage and onwards p.333-4
www.womenworkingtogether.com.au

This is from the Women's Health in the West WHW News edition 3, 2008 -

Marsha Thomsom MP: 
'I think we are demeaning women if we believe we cannot leave it to them to make that decision'.

Colleen Hartland MP: 
'It is my view that the woman having the abortion should be the one to make the choice, because it is quite obvious she is capable of making such a decision.'

Judy Maddigan MP:
'I would find it ironic if, 100 years later, this still male-dominated house made the decision that this house has the right to tell women in this state what they should do.

Some support from men -

Martin Paluka: 
'I have always believed that the termination of pregnancy is a matter for a woman to decide.'

Don Nardella: 
'I believe it should be the woman's right to choose. Women should have control over their own bodies.'

Khalil Eidah: 
'A law which gives women a choice about their own bodies when faced with one of the hardest decisions they most probably will ever make is a good law in my view ... I support women's freedom, their choice and their decisions.'

All these parliamentarians received abuse and harassment for their position, as did our previous Premier Joan Kirner, Kay Setches, and Marilyn Beaumont, the Executive Director of Women's Health Australia, who were in the visitors' section of the House during the debate.

Joan Kirner: 
'This has been 35 years of hard work ... and it is very moving to see it finally happening.' 

The Age October 11 2008

Dr Jo Wainer: 
'Today the parliament has taken this huge decision and had this courage ... and they've done it. It's been a huge achievement.' 

The Australian October 11

Colleen Hartland: 
'The first thing I thought of was I am no longer a criminal and other women in Victoria can no longer be branded as criminals because we want to take control over our lives.' 

The Age October 11 2008

Colleen Hartland: 
'In fact if you sit in this chamber and look up you can see what the founders of Parliament thought of women. There are statues of half-naked women representing different virtues and no doubt having an incredibly important meaning. They are decorative, but are they really the way we want women to be viewed? This is a setting in which we will discuss abortion law reform, but fortunately society has moved on since this place was fitted up and decorated.

It is appropriate that our laws should reflect the place of women in modern society - our education, our intelligence, the responsibilities we shoulder each day and the fact that we are obviously equal with men.' 

6. THE ABORTION LAW REFORM BILL 2008 was passed in the Legislative Council.

Cath Mayes, Summary of the New Abortion Bill:

- Abortion will be regulated like any other medical procedure up to 24 weeks gestation.

- After 24 weeks, women must gain the approval of two medical practitioners who will take into account all relevant medical circumstances and the woman's current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances.

- Doctors are required to inform women if they have a conscientious objection to abortion and to provide contact details of a doctor or organisation unopposed to abortion.'

NO FORCED REPRODUCTION, NO FORCED STERILIZATION

CONTRACEPTIVES SO WE DON'T ABORT, FREE SAFE ABORTION SO WE DON'T DIE

NOT THE CHURCH, NOT THE STATE, WOMEN MUST DECIDE THEIR FATE

IF MEN HAD BABIES, ABORTION WOULD BE A SACRAMENT

ABORTION IS A RIGHT, CONTRACEPTION A RESPONSIBILITY

Slogans from Women’s Liberation taken from
Women Working Together suffrage and onwards
www.womenworkingtogether.com.au

 

 
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