Tuesday, October 7, 2008

History DOES repeat...

here we are, 2008, and still no free, safe, legal abortion on demand... we've got an Abortion Law Reform Bill going to the Upper House today - and already there are government members trying to water it down!!!

Far out, way back in the 60s the fight was raging - backyard abortions were rife and women were dying... it was in 1967 that Bertram Wainer took up the battle against police corruption for protecting backyard abortionists and fought for the reproductive rights of women along with his partner Jo Wainer - eventually setting up the Fertility Control Clinic.

"Before 1969 and the Menhennit ruling abortion was completely illegal. It was conducted clandestinely. There were twelve doctors who provided reasonably safe, reasonably competent abortions, but at a very high price. You found them through an underground network - taxi drivers, pubs, mates (it was the usually the responsibility of the man involved to find the abortion provider and to pay for the abortion. The woman just risked her body, her life and her dignity).

In addition to that there were non-medically trained abortion providers, the most famous of whom was a butcher by trade who operated on kitchen tables around Footscray. Of course, not being a doctor he didn't have access to anaesthetics so he used to stuff a rag in the woman's mouth to stop her screaming and disturbing the neighbours.

If the providers got into trouble, they couldn't call an ambulance and have the woman admitted to hospital because they would have gone to jail for fifteen years or longer, whether a doctor or not. Women died. We will never know how many as they all had body disposal systems - dump them in Port Phillip Bay, bury them in Sherbrooke forest, arrange with the local undertaker to bury two bodies in one coffin.

It was a very dangerous and totally humiliating experience. It didn't stop women from having abortions, but it was very, very bad and a lot of women died. There was a whole ward at the Royal Women's Hospital devoted to women who were there as a result of damage from abortion - they had a thirty bed ward dedicated to it. 

There was a special room set aside for women who were dying. Septacaemia and gangrene were the major risks in the pre-antibiotic era."

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