Moyra Shields has written an article calling for greater abortion services in Wagga, NSW. (ABC -'Women's group 'lifts lid' on abortion restrictions', Nov 4, 2011).
The president of the management committee of the Wagga Wagga Women's Health Centre, Jan Roberts, said that girls and women having to travel for abortions was "costing individuals and the wider community".
Ms Roberts also said that "Unless you've got financial backing, a support person to take a trip somewhere else away from town, have the knowledge, know where to go, know who to contact, you end up letting it go and then it becomes too late and that is the bulk of situations." Although she has not provided any evidence that this is indeed true, Ms Roberts has 'hit the nail on the head' in talking about the lack of information and support made available. If women and girls struggle to find someone to drive them to an abortion clinic, how difficult must it be for them to find ongoing practical and emotional support to continue unplanned and challenging pregnancies! How many of the women/girls who do travel for abortions would keep their babies if Wagga offered excellent support services?
Ms Roberts says "the reality is many young women are being landed with unwanted pregnancies" - but she should be saying "unsupported pregnancies", which is closer to the mark. A phrase from Feminists for Life comes to mind ..that "Abortion is a reflection that the needs of women are not being met."
The New South Wales Minister for Women, Pru Goward, said that "if the community wants more terminations offered locally, it needs to speak up because there should be a choice". She then goes on to describe the "pretty obvious answers" for the Wagga community: "Talk to them about options, about contraception, their right to say no"; "Talk to them about the wonderful opportunities that are available for young women and the fact that you can leave parenthood until you're in your 20s"; and "If there's no termination service in Wagga, that's something the community's really got to take ownership of and demand a change in". Interestingly, she does not make a single mention of offering pregnancy or parenting support to these girls, nor does she even mention the option of adoption. It is pretty clear what "choice" Ms Goward is all about. One would imagine that if offering "choice", Ms Goward would include a range of options.
In her statement that "teen pregnancies are particularly sad as the girls have many more years to choose to have children", Ms Goward reinforces the myth that girls become 'un-pregnant' and can put off having their babies until later. In fact, if they abort, they are still mothers - but of dead babies!
Ms Goward also reinforces negative stereotypes surrounding "unacceptable" pregnancies, in this case teenage pregnancies. The following statements made by her (and others) are discriminating, dis-empowering and simply untrue! She said: that "To have them (babies) as teenagers when they get robbed of their own childhood"; "they deny themselves educational opportunities"; "when they often really struggle to be good mums, although many of them are good mums" (which is it?!!); "It is a very sad indictment of a community that can't offer those girls a better choice." ("Better "choice" for whom?!). She also said that "Life is not a dress rehearsal, you only get one chance at being young." Seriously, could Ms Goward be any more miserable and negative if she tried!??
One young Mum from the Riverina, Taylor, who was pregnant at seventeen said that it is unfair to make generalisations about teen Mums. She said that if Mums are to be judged, it should be on their individual merits...not that judging mothers is helpful anyway. "It is about who you are as a person". Taylor added that "My little boy has made my life amazing - I love watching him grow and the little milestones he has. It makes me feel I have achieved so much."
Ms Roberts also discriminates against those who, for religious (or other) reasons exercise their right to practice medicine according to their conscience. She made the following statements: "A large percentage of our medical practitioners are of various Christian persuasions who will not perform these operations"; "In our public system we have the same issue. Even nursing staff are given an option on whether to participate if a termination were to happen";and "So to me it is a stranglehold of the Catholic Church on our services in Wagga."
Interestingly, according to Ms Roberts, the right to "choice" only applies if you are her side of the abortion debate.
As can be seen from yet another pro abortion article, the rhetoric has not changed. "Choice" being discussed, but with only abortion being promoted, reference to religion and the "stranglehold" of the Catholic Church, more negative stereotypes about teenagers wasting their youth and again...no mention what abortion procedures entail or of babies.
Life Network Australia maintains that "Women (babies and families) deserve better than abortion" (Feminists for Life, U.S), that "Abortion hurts women" and that girls/women are strong and courageous and are capable of great things, even under challenging circumstances.
I sent the following letter to the ABC, to Ms. Goward, to the Attorney General of NSW and to my local and federal Members of Parliament:
As the 'Women's Council' representative for the Liberal Party of the
Deniliquin Branch (Riverina), I wish to respond to the ABC's recent article
in which there is a call for abortion services in Wagga, and insist that Ms
Goward's pro abortion comments do not represent the view of the local Liberal
Party members, or of the Riverina community. In fact, there is a very strong
pro life movement within the Riverina, with active pro life groups based in
Deniliquin and Albury.
As a Liberal Party member and a mother of five, I find Ms Goward's comment
about teenagers "only having one shot at being young", to be grossly
discriminatory and inappropriate - supporting negative stereotypes around
"unacceptable pregnancies." In fact, I am extremely proud of the outstanding
job teen mothers do in our own community of Deniliquin. All of the teenage
mothers I know personally do not regret their decision to have their
babies... and are fantastic mums!
I was disappointed to not read of Ms Goward calling for more pregnancy and
parenting support services, like Zoe Foundation Australia, which is based in
Mildura. This new initiative does not engage in the life/choice debate, but
recognises a strong need within the Sunraysia district, for girls to have
access to support, which simply is not available.
Indeed it is a lack of support in many regions of Australia, with girls
having to choose between their education, careers, partners, parents etc and
their babies that leaves these teens with no "choice" but to abort.
The article supported the myth that girls can put off becoming mothers until
a more convenient time, when in fact if they choose to abort, they are still
mothers - but of dead babies!
Wagga and the Riverina do not need greater access to abortion services, they
need state and local governments to acknowledge the courageous and
outstanding job teens (and other mums) do in having and raising their babies
and to support them to continue their education and employment
opportunities, should they choose to remain at school or get a job. Zoe
Foundation Australia, amongst other things, provides teen mums with
transport, baby and maternity items, support during labour - whatever they
A study in Tasmania showed that the outcomes for teenage mums improved,
as they adopted an attitude of
responsibility and a drive to do well in life. Another recent collation of
analysis) recently published in the British Journal of Psychiatry (Dr Priscilla Coleman) of some 900,000 women showed that abortion (compared to giving birth) dramatically increased problems of suicide, drug and alcohol
abuse, relationship breakdown, depression, self harm etc.
On behalf of the girls, women, families and babies of the Riverina, I reject
the call for greater abortion services in the Riverina and insist that our
teens (I have two) deserve better than abortion. I also call on Ms Gower to
keep her negative opinions about teenage motherhood to herself - a teen
pregnancy is not the end of a life, but the beginning of a new life (albeit
with challenges) with a baby.
Sonja Couroupis (address and phone number supplied).