My View: Associate Professor Dr Leslie Cannold

Associate Professor Dr Leslie Cannold
Abortion rights campaigner

AS A long-time and experienced abortion rights campaigner, I want to thank both the Labor party and the Greens for moving Australia into the 21st century by ensuing a foundational health and rights issue for women is on the mainstream agenda.

That issue is abortion. Both parties now support repeal of abortion from the New South Wales criminal law and equitable access to safe surgical and medical procedures for all women, including those in rural and regional areas. The Greens have always been great on the abortion issue. Now, for the first time, federal Labor, under the proudly pro-choice Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibesek, will use funding arrangements to ensure state-run hospitals provide abortions – though, with a regrettable opt-out for Catholic ‘public’ hospitals.

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, said he did not think a political discussion about abortion would be 'good for our country'. This claim clearly signals that, in contrast to the revolution in progressive parties on the women’s rights equal human rights front, it's business as usual when it comes to women for the Liberals. That is, that they still don’t consider us citizens worthy of even a discussion about health policies and programs that meet our needs – a values statement that is even more stark when you remember that around one in three Australian women will have an abortion in her lifetime.

Predictably, pro-life religious groups have sided with the PM, distributing leaflets that use standard deceptive images and claims to wedge people on the issue in a range of seats. Alarmed, Labor has hit back. My advice would be not to worry. In my experience, such advertising is a gift. While pro-life groups always claim victories or defeats in seats in which they campaign – they would, wouldn’t they? – the truth is that their interventions tend to backfire. At worst, their crude and misleading propaganda has no impact, while, at best, it ignites the usually silent majority to vote pro-choice.

Dr Cannold is Chair of the Ethics in Research Committee at Marie Stopes International (London). Also, she is from the Department of International Business and Asian Studies at Griffith University and is a community member of the Victorian Mental Health Tribunal and Victorian Board of the Nurses & Midwifery Board of Australia.

My View - Dr Leslie Cannold