Abortion on Demand and Without Apology by: Debra Sweet
If you’re like me, the Prime Minister’s speech on Tuesday to ‘women for Gillard’ rankled quite a bit. It’s partly because I’m pro-life (with important protections for abortions in the case of danger to the mother), and therefore would prefer our PM not to be so aggressively pro-choice. It is very ’pro-choice’ indeed to pick a fight with an opposition who has declared themselves to be in favour of the status quo on abortion. And it’s not just that: The speech rankled because it presented an argument for election based on the gender of those to be in government, rather than on policy. It rankled because talk of women being ‘banished from the centre of Australia’s political life’ is overdone, when (for example) Julie Bishop is the shadow foreign minister and deputy opposition leader. I don’t think that her argument is appropriate, and I can’t recall such an argument, or one like it, ever being put by a Prime Minister in our country.
But with the Prime Minister wanting to put abortion front and centre, it reminded me about EMILY’s list, that group who supports pro-choice female Labor candidates. I read their constitution, and was interested to find that members of the list can be disciplined (and there is a process for this), if they do or say things out of line with EMILY’s list principles. What surprised me most however, were the numbers of Labor women on the list. Federally of the female Labor politicians, 11/16 upper house and 14/22 lower house MPs are on the list. That’s overall just shy of two thirds of Labor women who are not only pro-choice, but so pro-choice that they are happy to take money and support because of it, and be disciplined if they change their minds. Officially, EMILY’s list don’t play a role in preselections, but with that proportion of Labor women on the list, it strikes me as likely that for Labor, abortion is actually a central issue surrounding which women will win preselection. This is concerning.