Tag Archives: Abortion

Bodies that matter. Bodies that don’t.

21 Oct

Chris Kenny


It’s profoundly concerning that Abyan, the Somali refugee currently living on Nauru and victim of a rape that left her pregnant, was forbidden to see her lawyer and denied adequate counselling for her trauma and her plight.

But now we hear that Rupert Murdoch’s minion Chris Kenny of The Australian was not only the first journalist in eighteen months to be granted a visa to enter Nauru in the last few days, he was also escorted by local police to Abyan’s accommodation, where he confronted her about her situation.

Human Rights Commissioner Professor Gillian Triggs has been denied a visa to visit Nauru, so Kenny is indeed privileged.

Kenny’s first account of his interview with Abyan, which you can access by clicking the link on Kenny’s tweet in The Guardian report above, seems to contradict Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s claims that Abyan refused an abortion and was therefore returned to the island, and instead substantiates her own claims that she did not refuse an abortion, she asked for some time, and appropriate help. Neither the time nor the appropriate help was forthcoming, and she was deported after being refused contact with her lawyer.

The likelihood of us ever knowing the truth of the situation is slim, however, no matter how you look at it, Abyan has been treated in a most despicable manner by both governments, and their agents.

Dutton has belatedly diarised appointments allegedly made for Abyan, with and without interpreters. However, there is no way at all of verifying Dutton’s claims that these appointments were in fact made, and that Abyan was offered the medical attention he claims.

I have no idea why Abyan was then subjected to further traumatisation by having to endure Chris Kenny’s pursuit of her after she was returned to Nauru.  But everywhere I look in this situation I see an extremely vulnerable young woman, stripped of all power and agency, subjected to the interrogation and control of powerful men intent on furthering their own interests. The demonstration of male power & dominance over women that the Abyan story illustrates makes my blood run cold.

In his latest report from Nauru, Kenny stresses that Abyan has not reported her rape to the Nauruan police. The implication is clear: if she didn’t report it, perhaps it didn’t happen.

There are a staggering number of sexual assaults in this developed country that go unreported. The majority of rapes that are reported don’t make it into court. Reporting sexual assault to police is a harrowing experience, even when the police concerned are highly trained and care about you, and share your language group. I had a sexual assault counsellor with me when I did it a few months ago, as well as evidence, and a great deal of loving support. With all that, it was an horrific experience from which I still haven’t recovered. Reporting sexual assault if you are a young, pregnant Somali refugee woman condemned to life on Nauru for the indefinite future, must be an almost impossibly daunting prospect.

And then there is Abyan’s history, including rape and genital mutilation in her home country.

And let’s not forget that Dutton only agreed to offer Abyan an abortion in the first place because public agitation forced him to.

There is a recent pattern of unrelenting traumatisation of Abyan by men who have descended on her, for one reason or another, like vultures on a wounded animal. Most of them are white and middle class. Their actions are validated by an entirely brutal government policy that condemned Abyan to Nauru in the first place, a policy initiated by Julia Gillard and Nicolo Roxon. I wonder what these two women now think of where their policy has led us, or if they consider it at all.

An aside: a link to an interview with Nancy Fraser, Professor of Philosophy and Politics at the New School on why the “leaning in” brand of feminism actually means leaning on other women. Quote:

For me, feminism is not simply a matter of getting a smattering of individual women into positions of power and privilege within existing social hierarchies. It is rather about overcoming those hierarchies.

Yes. Indeed.

In an uneasy corollary with Abyan’s situation Nauru is a subordinate state (read feminised) dominated by and dependent on Australia. Australia sends women and children it does not want to Nauru, where they are raped and abused. Australia, however, claims this is none of our business as Nauru is a sovereign state and we cannot intervene in its legal system, or what passes for a legal system in that lawless nation.

White, privileged, and apparently having suffered nothing more traumatic than being the butt (sorry) of a Chaser’s joke concerning sex with a dog, Chris Kenny feels he is entitled to pursue and interrogate the traumatised Somali refugee because, well, he is white, male, privileged, and works for Rupert Murdoch. He has no expertise in the matter of trauma and sexual trauma. If he had the slightest idea, and any compassion, he would not have subjected Abyan to his inquiries, and he certainly wouldn’t have arrived at her home with a police escort.

The bodies that matter are firstly, white. Then they are male. Then they are the bodies of women of calibre. They are bodies that belong to our tribe. I think, almost every day, what would the man who sexually assaulted me do if his daughter had been treated as he treated me? He observed more than once that I was “not of his tribe,” a comment I found ridiculous at the time, but with hindsight I see that his perception of me as other allowed him to behave towards me as if I was less vulnerable, less hurtable than women who were “of his tribe.”

Multiply this a million times when the victim is a Somali refugee abandoned by Australia to fend for herself in Nauru, and it isn’t hard to understand why there were difficulties reporting the rape.

The headline “Rape Refugee” says it all. Written on the body. Written on the body that does not matter, by the body that does.




Turnbull and Dutton wage war on women

16 Oct

Turnbull Dutton


When Tony Abbott was Prime Minister it was difficult to imagine myself feeling more contempt and loathing for any politician than the contempt and loathing I felt towards him.

The emotions one experiences for public figures are paradoxical: they can be fiercely visceral and at the same time entirely abstract, as the relationship is not a personal one and the individual is unknown, except superficially. Nonetheless, they can keep you awake at night if the anger provoked is strong enough.

Tonight my contempt and loathing meter has exploded with the news that Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have conspired to secretly remove a raped and pregnant refugee, brought here just a few days ago for an abortion, back to the scene of her rape and the purview of her rapist, whose child she is now almost certainly doomed to carry to term.

The woman had, on the advice of psychologists and doctors conveyed to her through her lawyers as the government did not permit her to see either professional, requested counselling for both the sexual assault and the termination of the pregnancy it caused, before she underwent the procedure.

No counselling was permitted by the government. The date set for the procedure passed as she repeatedly begged for precursory assistance. The government then disingenuously decided she had refused the abortion, and whisked her back to Nauru on a chartered plane without allowing her lawyers to speak with her.

If you have been sexually assaulted, if your body has been, against your will, violated by another, it is going to be traumatic to undergo any subsequent procedure that involves the penetration of your body, even if it is with your permission. Only people of immense stupidity or immense, unspeakable cruelty could fail to appreciate this reality.

What Turnbull and Dutton have done is truly horrific. It ought to make every woman tremble in fear and rage. This is what powerful men can do and will do to women, in the pursuit of their own interests. This is how they still despise us, devalue us, abuse us and use us. This is a war on women, expressed today and in this manner against a Somali refugee, expressed tomorrow against whichever woman who in some way they fear presents a  threat to their hold on power.

I happened to be at Question Time yesterday when Turnbull gave a splendid performance of urbanity, sophistication, confidence, superiority, authority, intelligence and charm, self-deprecatingly admitting his financial privilege which he attributes to fate, and nurtures in the Caymans. Hockey and Abbott sat side by side on the back benches, grim as the two evil fairies at the christening. The contrast between Turnbull and Abbott could not have been greater.

And yet… Abbott was the iron fist in the iron glove. Turnbull is the iron fist in the velvet glove. Turnbull denigrates woman as much as does Abbott. He’s simply a lot more sophisticated in his ability to conceal the denigration. He’s simply a great deal better at paying lip service to women he believes will further his cause than Abbott ever was. Turnbull has as much of a double standard towards women as did his predecessor. There are still women of calibre, and then there’s the Somali refugee.

I can only hope the feminists in this country will stop fighting about who is allowed to call herself a feminist and who isn’t, and the eternally fraught questions of body hair and breast implants as symbols of hard-won choice, and instead turn their energies towards fighting Turnbull. With Abbott we at least knew where we stood. Turnbull will trash us with charm and blinding eloquence, and we won’t even notice until it’s too late.


Save the babies down under. #shoutyourabortion

1 Oct

Right to choose


The Turnbull government has cancelled the visa of US anti-abortion activist Mr Troy Newman, spokesperson for the Operation Rescue group, on the grounds that he is not of good character.

There are some who’d argue Immigration Minister Peter Dutton isn’t of particularly good character either, but that’s beside the point, apparently.

There are many who’d argue that nobody associated with the current policy of permitting refugee women on Nauru and Manus Island to be raped in order to deter possible future boat arrivals has anything approaching a good character, but that is also beside the point, apparently.

In fact, one woman has reportedly been impregnated by her rapist and is seeking to come to Australia for an abortion. Will the good Mr Dutton permit her that relief, or will she be doomed by his whim, to carry and give birth to the rapist’s child?

Everywhere you look there’s a moral dilemma.

Troy Newman was visiting our country to give a speech titled “Save the babies down under” at an event organised by Right to Life Australia.

Troy’s lack of good character is apparently evidenced by his written exhortation in a book he co-authored, Their Blood Cries Out, which contains the passage: In addition to our personal guilt in abortion, the United States government has abrogated its responsibility to properly deal with the blood-guilty. This responsibility rightly involves executing convicted murderers, including abortionists, for their crimes in order to expunge bloodguilt from the land and people.

This passage has been interpreted as Newman advocating the murder of practitioners involved in abortion procedures, however, much as I loathe the sentiments he expresses, for mine, he is calling on the state, rather than individuals, to administer what he determines to be justice. There is a considerable difference, as there always is between individual acts of slaughter, and those that are sanctioned by the state.

The most powerful effect this will have is to give the Right to Life movement a martyr’s platform, and indeed, it already has as cries of denial of freedom of speech and persecution rise from their ranks. They may have a point. If what is considered negative speech is forbidden, there is no freedom of speech, alas and alack.

Also, I am not quite sure how someone calling on the state to extend capital punishment to include abortion providers is a danger to the Australian way of life. We don’t have capital punishment in the first place.

I wonder if Troy’s visa would have been cancelled under an Abbott government, given the ex-PM’s opinion that abortion is a stain on our society, and merely serves a mother’s convenience? We should, Abbott remonstrates, be haunted by the hundreds of thousands of Australians lost to abortion, which is a bit rich coming from a man whose conservative policies were neither woman nor live-child friendly.

The former PM even managed to be nationalistic about abortion. Perhaps every flag that flanked him represented thousands of Australian babies murdered at their mother’s convenience?

But fathoming the minds of the unhinged is a futile exercise: one can only hope to avoid them.

At the other end of the continuum we find the #shoutyourabortion hash tag which exhorts women to speak out about our abortions, and end the blaming and shaming that we fear will see us ostracised and maligned for choosing not to continue with a pregnancy.

As far as I can ascertain, the experience of abortion is hugely varied. For some it’s distressing and undertaken with reluctance. For some it’s an enormous relief. For some it’s not emotionally charged at all and I can’t see why any of that is the business of Troy Newman, Margaret Tighe of Right to Life, or any so-called pro-life politician of whom there are many, across the political spectrum.

I am hoping that by the time the youngest member of our family, a little girl now three weeks old, is of an age to be concerned by such matters, abortion will be no more of a social issue than any other medical procedure. That is not to say women will cease to experience personal emotions around the experience, but that they will be just that: personal emotions, un-politicised, free from the judgements of those who have absolutely nothing to do with the woman’s personal situation and will likely be the very last to help her and the foetus they’d like to forced her to carry to term.

In the meantime we must somehow survive the hypocrisy.




How The Conclave of Creepy Old Men could erode women’s reproductive rights

1 Mar

Just when you thought Opposition Leader Tony Abbott might have pulled his dessicated head in on the topic of abortion in Australia, up pops DLP Senator John Madigan to take over the megaphone.

Madigan declares himself to be “unashamedly pro-life.” Guess what, so am I except when I’m unashamedly pro euthanasia, but that’s another story. Personally, I’m not acquainted with anyone who is avowedly anti life, probably because they’d have to take their own if they were to stand by their principles.

The good Senator for Victoria also counts rabidly anti choice and former Independent Senator for Tasmania Brian Harradine, as his personal hero.

Harradine, as readers of this blog will remember, employed as his ethics advisor anti-abortion campaigner, all-round morals defender & “don’t call me a Baptist or I’ll sue you” celebrity Melinda Tankard Reist, during the period when he managed to deny women at home and abroad access to reproductive information, and the drug RU486. You can refresh your memory if you’d like to at my post, “Who would Jesus Sue?”

There is a possibility that after the next election Madigan may find himself in a situation similar to that enjoyed by Harradine – holding the balance of power in the Senate. It was this privilege that allowed the former Senator for Tasmania to impose his anti choice vision not only on Australian women, but on women in developing countries as well, in exchange for telephones for Tasmania.

Madigan’s argument, if such offensive twaddle can be dignified with the name, is that Australian women in great numbers are availing ourselves of abortions when we are unhappy with the sex of the foetus we are carrying. It happens overseas, he claims, therefore women in this country must be doing it to such a degree he has to introduce legislation to stop us.

Madigan makes these claims based on no evidence at all, but what the hell, who needs evidence, everybody knows women are lying, scheming, unhinged humans, who will do anything we like to a foetus unless a man stops us. Oh bugger, I didn’t want a boy/girl, we say, and stop off at the abortion clinic on a Friday afternoon before we go to the pub.

What women need is for our politicians to call a halt to this stupidity. I am going to make a generalisation here and say women do not, usually, take abortion lightly. It’s time creepy male politicians stopped acting as if we do. In my life I have met only one woman who regarded abortion as a form of contraception, and I didn’t find her tough radical stance convincing.

Apart from anything else, unless you’re somehow involved with the foetus a woman is carrying, what she decides to do about her pregnancy is nobody’s business but hers. There is something hideously creepy about ageing white men like Abbott, Harradine and Madigan spending so much of their time focussed on what women do with our bodies. The image of them indulging their nasty pre-occupations makes my skin crawl.

The only reason to take notice of Madigan’s “let’s have a Tea Party” anti choice views, is the concern that he might chuck a Harradine. With the anti choice Abbott in the running for PM, and the quaintly named “Pro Life Labor” conclave as well, we might find ourselves yet again fighting for our fundamental reproductive rights.

Gentlemen, there is much for you to occupy yourselves with as you progress through your political lives. Please be assured that women are very capable of making considered decisions about our reproductive health, and that we do know where to go for advice when we need it. Your obsession with our reproductive practices is impertinent, and most unhealthy.

Your obsession also insulting, however, as the man who was kicked by a donkey observed, we will, this once ,overlook the insult, upon considering its source:

Braying White Donkey

Braying Ageing White Donkey

Credlin’s IVF: it’s all about Tony

9 Jan

abbott credlinDuring the last couple of days I’ve heard a few women praising Peta Credlin’s bravery in coming out about her IVF treatments. Her unflinching account of how her boss, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, allowed her to store her fertility drugs in his fridge and not only that, sacrificed his private bathroom in support of her pursuit of motherhood will, these commentators claim, inspire so many women who are enduring the same arduous and testing journey towards reproduction.

Then, as The Australian columnist Cassandra Wilkinson explained on The Drum last evening, Credlin has courageously shown us that even powerful women with successful careers have their troubles, just in case we nastily thought their lives were perfect.

I would be more inclined to feel compassion for Credlin’s circumstances were I not so mightily offended by the manner in which she has chosen to reveal them. Usually when I read stories about the IVF process in which a partner is involved, there is somewhere in the account a mention or more of the person who is sharing the journey. Quite frequently there are photos of both parties, and the supporting partner usually has something to say.

In Credlin’s coming out, as reported in the mainstream media, the photos are of her and Tony Abbott. She makes no reference to her husband, Brian Loughnane, Federal Director of the Australian Liberal Party, but speaks glowingly of Abbott’s compassionate and patient understanding of what she is going through.

Of course, Mr Loughnane may not have wanted to participate in his wife’s gut spilling. After all, a husband in the story would detract from Tony Abbott’s role and on the face of it, Tony’s role in the couple’s pursuit of parenthood appears to have precedence over their own.  Tony Abbott has the starring role in Loughnane and Credlin IVF story. In the mainstream media Loughnane, husband and hopefully father to be, doesn’t get a mention.

I find this disturbingly dysfunctional. Isn’t there something just too weird about a husband being usurped by a boss in a woman’s IVF story?

Then, in case you find me cynical, Abbott next takes the golden opportunity created for him by Peta to beg understanding from the general public. People who know him understand his views on IVF, abortion and contraception, we’re told by both him and Credlin, but the punters haven’t got a clue. Well, whose fault is that?

It’s important, Tony continues, for people who know his real views to speak out about them. Why? Why doesn’t he speak out about them himself? Why hasn’t he been speaking out on abortion, for example, given that women find him ill-informed and offensive on matters that relate to our health and well-being. If he wants to change our perceptions, why doesn’t he just come right out and tell us his views instead of asking other women who are related to him or work for him to do it on his behalf? That tactic is certainly not going to endear him to us any time soon.

This piece on his website from 2005, for example. Titled “Rate of abortion highlights our moral failings” it is all we have to go on, and what a vile piece of woman-hating propaganda-disguised-as-concern it is. Abbott may well have made statements about his views on abortion since that time, but they are not written down, and as he himself famously stated, we can believe nothing he says unless he writes it down.

It is really quite baffling, that a man who claims his views have so radically changed does absolutely nothing to address that change on his website.

Then up pops Christopher Pyne, falling over himself in his slavering anxiety to tell us how Tony supported him and his wife through their “IVF trauma.” By god, Tony even went against the Catholic church’s teachings in order to do this!

So what next? Can we expect a woman who has been supported by Tony Abbott as she went through the process of pregnancy termination to come forward and tell us how he held her hand?  Has Tony Abbott ever spoken to women about their abortion experiences, I wonder?

IVF is no joke, I’m sure. A woman needs all the help she can get to go through it, I’m sure. I don’t think Peta Credlin and Tony Abbott have done anything much to encourage and support women and their partners who are on this journey. Indeed, I think they have, by using this story for political gain, shown once again that nowhere in a personal life is there an exploitation-free zone, whether they choose that exposure for themselves, or inflict it on others.

Brian Louhgnane

Brian Louhgnane

Flexing my mussel

15 Oct

WARNING: this post contains images of shellfish and flowers that some readers may find confronting

I’m not at all disturbed by the disgraced Peter Slipper likening my lady bits to a shellfish, in one of many private text messages sent to his then new friend James Ashby.

For a start, as I have often said, one overlooks the insult (if indeed we confer on this text message the status of insult) on considering the source, and chooses not to waste one’s time and energy getting exercised about it.

Secondly, the comment is hardly original. Women’s genitals have been likened to fish of one kind or another many times before. Does anyone recall that scene in Bliss, the Peter Carey novel turned film, in which sardines cascade from Bettina Joy’s vagina? Yes. Well. Is it a boy thing?

For myself, I’m more inclined towards the Georgia O’Keeffe visual analogies such as this one:

But hey, whatever floats your fishing boat.

On the other hand, I find Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s comments on women profoundly disturbing. For example:

It would be folly to expect that women would ever approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, their abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons. 


The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience… Even those who think that abortion is a woman’s right should be troubled by the fact that 100,000 Australian women choose to destroy their unborn babies every year… When it comes to lobbying local politicians, there seems to be far more interest in the treatment of boat people, which is not morally black and white, than in the question of abortion, which is.

Why anyone would spend five minutes of their time worrying about how immature men describe female genitalia when we have an aspiring Prime Minister who thinks like this about women, is a mystery to me.

Then there is the semantic quarrel about the difference between sexism and misogyny. You don’t have to hate women to be sexist, apparently, but you do have to hate us to be a misogynist. Why do I not feel consoled by this distinction?

And let’s not forget hatred can take many forms. It does not have to be overt. It adapts itself readily to many guises. If I am treated as inferior because of my sex, as Mr Abbott suggests, am I to feel better about this if it is described to me as sexism rather than misogyny? Surely sexism is an expression of misogyny?

Tony Abbott has three daughters. He feels their virginity is their most  precious gift. He reduces his daughters to a hymen, a reduction I would argue denies them their full  humanity, as so many of Abbott’s statements about women deny us our full humanity.

What we need to ask is do we want a Prime Minister whose default position is to deny women our full humanity?

And why would he want to do this if he doesn’t hate us, however well that hatred may be disguised?

In one sentence Abbott reveals what he thinks of women

8 Aug

The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience. Tony Abbott. 

Reduced by whom? Who has reduced abortion to a question of the mother’s convenience? Well, according to Tony Abbott it must be women who have reduced abortion to a question of the mother’s convenience, presumably because:

  • Abortion is a “grave” matter and women are incapable of perceiving it as such because they are women, stupid.
  • Women are dumb, or at least a whole lot dumber than Tony Abbott.
  • Women need men like Tony Abbott to guide them on the matter of abortion because they are too wilfully unintelligent to grasp its complexities all by themselves.
  • Women will, willy nilly if you let them, rid themselves of unwanted foetuses because they don’t know any better and what’s more, they don’t feckin care, do they?
  • Women actually have no moral compass.
  • Women are innately frivolous and untrustworthy.
  • Women don’t know half as much about abortion as do men like Tony Abbott.
  • Women must be made to understand how serious it is to abort a foetus because they clearly just don’t.
  • Women are twats.
  • Women will murder their children unless men like Tony Abbott stop them
  • Men like Tony Abbott have a moral obligation to protect women from themselves.
  • Men like Tony Abbott have a moral obligation to protect a foetus from its mother who will kill it, just because she thinks it will inconvenience her.
  • Women are pathologically selfish when it comes to a foetus.
  • Women have no grasp of the awesomeness of life.
  • Women are not men.
  • Women are not Tony Abbott



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