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These Young Women Are Fighting For Your Reproductive Rights

"The dinosaurs will eventually die out in the glow of women's wisdom, but until then we actually have to listen to their ill-informed views and suffer the consequences."

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Lawyers, doctors, front-line service providers and activists are fighting across Australia for women to have greater choices about their own reproductive health.

Access to terminations, and the cost involved, varies considerably around Australia.

In some jurisdictions abortion is free and accessible in hospitals; in others, women need to stump up hundreds of dollars at short notice to pay for a termination at a private clinic.

Activists in Queensland and New South Wales are pushing to remove the procedure from 100-year-old criminal law, while women in other states are fighting for greater access, as decriminalisation hasn't always meant more choice for women in remote locations.

BuzzFeed News spoke to some of the young women waging the battle in their states.

Law students Olivia Young and Kate Marchesi formed Young Queenslanders For The Right To Choose with their friends, in support of the campaign to decriminalise abortion in their state.

"We created an event for a rally for [Cairns MP Rob Pyne's bill to decriminalise abortion] and it just exploded on Facebook, so we formed the group," King, 22, told BuzzFeed News.

"I think that it is ridiculous that our needs are overlooked because we are women, and men don't get that we actually need health services.

"We were there saying to men that: 'We need this, and you can't tell us what to do, and we know how to make the best decisions for ourselves, so we would appreciate it if you'd change the law for us'."

King has known that abortion was in her state's criminal code since her 17-year-old friend fell pregnant unexpectedly.

"She needed to have an abortion and she was told by her doctor that it was illegal, and that she would be breaking the law, and that she'd go to jail," King said.

In Queensland, abortion remains a crime and is only lawful to "prevent serious danger to the woman's physical or mental health".

King is well aware of the abuse that comes with being an activist for reproductive rights

"People might recognise my face from a flyer and are like, 'You’re that murdering baby bitch'."

In excruciating pain, she wound up in the emergency bay of a Sydney hospital.

Groth told BuzzFeed News it took four days for medical staff at the public hospital she was at to perform a D&C (dilation and curettage) to surgically remove the failed pregnancy, which she said was causing the infection.

Doctors told her they weren't allowed to perform an abortion, or remove the failed pregnancy, until they were sure they wouldn't be breaking the law.

"The doctors told me if it was their choice they would've performed the surgery much earlier, but they required permission from the head of the hospital and had to wait until I began to expel [the pregnancy] myself.

Abortion is a crime in NSW and is only lawful if a doctor believes it is necessary to prevent serious risk to the life or health of a woman.

Groth waited in a hospital bed with pancytopenia — a condition in which a person's body doesn't have enough red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

"I was told it was due to politics and they apologised to me many times."

Groth was told that, ideally, she would be discharged and could take the second pill, which expels the pregnancy, at home, however she was too unwell to leave the hospital.

Four days later the procedure was finally approved.

"Experiencing sepsis due to this law aggravated my endometriosis, causing illness requiring [surgeries] for months onwards," the 28-year-old said.

"Access to medical termination of pregnancy is shaped by case law, precedent and abortion services can be brought before the courts, but public hospitals are not meant to provide abortions, so getting a termination in this public hospital was hard to organise."

Groth is now a passionate advocate for decriminalisation and was partly "hopeful" and partly "disgusted" when she sat in NSW parliament in May and watched MPs vote down a law that would have removed abortion from the NSW Crimes Act.

"To sit in that parliament and see en masse how disconnected the conservative politicians are from the women and girls the bill seeks to support was confronting," she said.

"The dinosaurs will eventually die out in the glow of women's wisdom, but until then we actually have to listen to their ill-informed views and suffer the consequences.

"I am fervently for abortion to be seen as it is, a medical termination of pregnancy...not an item to purchase in the private system."

Queensland Greens candidate for the seat of Clayfield in Brisbane's inner-north, Daile Kelleher, is campaigning on a platform of women's rights and is already feeling the backlash.

The 33-year-old charity retail manager has received abusive comments on her Facebook and Twitter pages because of her pro-choice stance.

"I had men threatening to send me pictures of aborted foetuses," Kelleher told BuzzFeed News.

She grew up in regional Queensland but said it wasn't until later in life that she realised the "inaccessibility of termination of pregnancy services" in those areas.

"I was one of those people who thought, 'Oh no, it is super easy because my friend went to a clinic and just paid the money', but getting more involved really opened my eyes to the fact that [abortion] was still in the criminal code in Queensland.

"Inner city middle-class white women have this view that is available to everyone, but it isn't."

In February, Cairns MP Rob Pyne withdrew bills to decriminalise abortion in Queensland a day before they were due to be debated in parliament after Liberal National Party opposition leader Tim Nicholls said, “every single member” of his party would vote down the legislation.

Kelleher was disappointed in the LNP's decision: "If we have 80% of Queenslanders who support safe, inexpensive, accessible terminations of pregnancy, then how can 40 members of the LNP not represent the people?"

Kelleher hopes to be elected so she can help champion reproductive rights in parliament.

"There are 25 women out of 89 members in Queensland parliament and most of them are towards the older end of the spectrum," she said.

Northern Territory lawyer Aditi Srinivas (below, right) is one of the few young activists who has seen legislative change after her campaigning efforts.

Srinivas was a co-founder of pro-choice lobby group WHAT RU4 NT? which formed to agitate for an update to the NT's Medical Services Act which regulates abortion.

Her initial interest was sparked by a submission made to the government by a local women's legal service and family planning association about how the territory lagged behind the rest of Australia when it came to reproductive health law.

"After reading the submission and hearing from women about the hurdles they had experienced in the NT, my heart was set on doing whatever I could to make change happen," the 28-year-old told BuzzFeed News.

After years of campaigning, a law that decriminalises abortion and legalises the medical termination of pregnancy was passed through the Northern Territory parliament earlier this year.

"The worst part was watching politicians play politics to frustrate the process and disrespect women's rights because of their personal beliefs on this issue," she said.

"The best parts of the campaign have definitely been working with, and seeing, hundreds across the Northern Territory come forward to share their experiences and unite together."

"I make no apologies for being pro-choice and have been fairly vocal on the issue because it is something that I feel very passionate about," the 24-year-old told BuzzFeed News.

Scanlon is a member of the newly formed "Labor for Choice" organisation — an action network within the Australian Labor Party campaigning for safe and affordable abortion to be accessible for all Australians with reproductive abilities.

"I think that women deserve agency over their own healthcare and if I was elected I would fight for this within the caucus," she said.

"I think this would be a non-issue if we had more progressive women in parliament, and parliament as a whole would work better if we had a more diverse range of politicians."

Gina Rushton is a breaking news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Gina Rushton at gina.rushton@buzzfeed.com.

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