Women Who Have Had Abortions Are Using #ArrestUs To Argue For Decriminalisation
The campaign began the day before abortion decriminalisation legislation is to be debated.
Women who have had abortions in New South Wales are sharing their stories with the hashtag #ArrestUs ahead of a debate over legislation that would decriminalise the procedure in the state.
"In the early 1970s eighty women declared themselves to be criminals in a national newspaper, taking out an advertisement as a provocation in the campaign to decriminalise abortion," the campaign's manifesto, posted to Facebook on Monday afternoon, read.
"Today, like in the 1970s, and while ever abortion is criminalised, some women face hurdles to access abortions and of course, for many it is difficult to speak out.
"And so it is time again, for those of us who can stand up and speak out to do so. One last time."
A woman and her doctor can be convicted for an unlawful abortion and imprisoned for up to a decade in NSW, but case law has established that abortion is lawful in the state if the doctor has an honest opinion that continuing the pregnancy would be seriously harmful to the health of the woman.
Women's Electoral Lobby founder Wendy McCarthy was one of the original women who advertised her illegal abortion in the 1970s.
“We wanted to provoke the cops because we thought if it is illegal and they’re getting poor women for this, then why don’t they come for us?” the 78-year-old businesswoman, chairwoman and onetime adviser to former prime minister Malcolm Fraser told BuzzFeed News. “We were the first real tranche of university educated women in Australia, which was a privilege and we felt secure about [placing the advertisement].”
The proposed legislation, to be debated on Tuesday, establishes that having an abortion is not a criminal offence and allows abortions on request by a registered doctor for up to 22 weeks gestation, beyond which the patient would need the consent of two doctors.
The bill is co-sponsored by 15 politicians from across the political spectrum and was introduced into the parliament by independent MP Alex Greenwich on Thursday.
Health minister Brad Hazzard has also co-sponsored the bill and it has the backing of premier Gladys Berejiklian.
A crowd of protesters gathered outside NSW parliament house on Tuesday morning to show support for the legislation ahead of the debate.