November 16th, 2005
To the editor,
I am stunned and appalled at the audacity of Tony Abbott’s refusal to remove the ban on RU-486. (Abortion bill ban stays: Abbott 15/11/05). This drug is available in many countries and has been shown to be a very safe and effective alternative to surgical abortion.
In Australia however, the pill remains banned. Initially, it was so the government could score political points from Senator Harradine. Now it appears that Abbott’s religious beliefs are dictating women’s access to abortion.
This government is great at spouting the rhetoric of choice - as seen in the ironically named WorkChoices bills - but they seem very eager to limit women’s choices. Why should a woman who wants an abortion be denied access to an effective, affordable and non-invasive option? It is clear that Abbott values his own unrepresentative morals more than the welfare of women.
Stop patronising us, Mr Abbott. Australian women do not need you or your religious beliefs when it comes to decisions about our bodies.
Great letter. It's good to see a fellow letter writer and PhD student. I've just fired one off to Carmel Tebbutt - actually my second to her (she's probably added me to her "to avoid" list). This letter attempted to get her support for legal reform to obtain equal rights for same sex parents. Your letter made me think about the government's frequent deployment of the word "choice" in their rhetorics. You have cleverly used it above to question the government's act of limiting women's choice while espousing "choice" as integral to their own policies - the word itself forming the title of their new industrial relations policy. The word "choice" is co-opted by many ideological positions and is such a powerful term that I think it deserves further analysis. When the government refers to "choice" they seem to draw on a history of the word with its associations of consumer power within a market economy. The kind of "choice" you referred to draws on a feminist interpretation of "choice" - that women should be able to make their own decisions about their bodies. In both cases, but with the emphasis skewed towards one axis or the other, choice is both an act of decision making and a capacity to choose from a number of available options.
When the government refers to "choice", it comes loaded with all these meanings and perhaps because of this, it obfiscates the master move which extinguishes one or other parts of the term - either the right to decide or the availability of options leaving the choices that workers and women find themselves with very limited indeed.