Wednesday, 21 November 2012


The first Action by the new open-to-all women’s collective Melbourne Feminist Action is THIS Saturday, 24 November, 10 am – a mass prochoice rally at Australia’s first clinic to offer safe, legal abortions, the East Melbourne Fertility Clinic. The action is timely and essential – coinciding with the news reports of the death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland last month after being denied an abortion, and other prochoice initiatives including in Chile, where abortion is criminalized. Information below comes thanks to spokespeople for the MFA rally Jacinda Woodhead and Stephanie Convery.
The rally will DEMONSTRATE that the ongoing harassment, on a daily basis, of women patients accessing a legal health service will not be tolerated; also to point out that even in Australia, abortion is legal in only Victoria, WA and ACT. It remains criminalized in some areas of Australia. The clinic, on Wellington Street, East Melbourne, has been targeted by anti-abortionists since its creation 40 years ago but there has been an escalation by the anti-choice lobby in recent months. Women patients and partners are harassed on a daily basis – even filmed and photographed. All this in the media release prepared for the event below. Please share the invitation to join this event: OUR CLINIC. OUR BODIES. OUR CHOICE. The rally will be followed by a march to City Square. (Join / share at MFA Facebook.)

A mass abortion rights rally and march has been called for this Saturday, 24 November (10 am), to show support for the East Melbourne Fertility Control Clinic. The rally at the clinic will be followed by a march to City Square.
Established 40 years ago as the first clinic of its kind in Australia to provide safe and affordable abortion, as well as other reproductive health services, the clinic has been picketed almost daily across its history by anti-abortionists. In 2001, security guard Steve Rogers was murdered at the clinic by an anti-abortion protester.
The anti-abortionists harass and bully patients and staff through their picketing, posters (showing anatomically incorrect dismembered fetuses), pamphlets, and physically and verbally intimidating patients, as well as filming them. The anti-choice lobby has in recent months escalated its focus on the clinic. The clinic sees thousands of women every year and anti-abortionists continue to target patients on a daily basis.
The pro-choice rally organisers are hoping for a strong turn-out at the rally. Spokesperson for the rally, Jacinda Woodhead, said the action had been called “to show very clearly that we think the harassment of women trying to access a health clinic is unacceptable – and we oppose it. Abortion in Victoria is both legal and safe, and we trust women to make informed decisions about their own bodies and lives.” The rally had the consent of the clinic, she said.
The East Melbourne Fertility Control Clinic was founded by abortion law reformers Dr Bertram Wainer, Professor Jo Wainer and Dr Peter Bayliss in 1972.
Woodhead said a recent study by Alexandra Humphries, a research student at the University of Melbourne, of 158 women attending the clinic found that 77.8 per cent felt stigmatised by the picketers. In her assessment of the study, head psychologist at the clinic, Dr Susie Allanson, described the harassment as “unwanted, demeaning and harmful attention” toward patients attempting to access a health service.
The Victorian Abortion Law Reform Act of 2008 saw abortion available when requested by a qualified medical practitioner until 24 weeks. 
“While abortion in Victoria is legal and safe”, says Woodhead, “this is also a national health issue.  Even now, more than 40 years after the Clinic’s founding, abortion is only legal in Victoria, WA and ACT – and has various restrictions placed on it by these states and territories.
“Abortion sits under the Crimes Act in most states, and women can still be prosecuted and publicly shamed for procuring abortion, as we saw in Cairns in 2010. In many parts of Australia, such as Queensland and the Northern Territory, it remains difficult for women to access abortion and other reproductive health services. The reality is we still have places in this country where women can’t access abortion.
“As we saw with the heartbreaking case of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland last month, who died after being denied an abortion, these are the consequences of having laws that restrict women’s reproductive rights.” 
The rally is being organised by a new open-to-all Melbourne-based women’s rights organisation, Melbourne Feminist Action, whose first meeting in October decided on the rally. MFA plans a series of actions around a range of women’s rights issues. The slogan for this rally is Our Clinic, Our Bodies, Our Choice.
The rally Facebook event page is: 
Melbourne Feminist Action
On Facebook:
On Twitter: @MelbFemAction
By Email:
For more information or interviews, these spokespeople can be contacted directly: Jacinda Woodhead (0433 630 643)  or Stephanie Convery (0418 100 737).

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