Response to Australia's position & proposed consultation on the reproductive rights of women

24th October 2018

Women’s Activities & Self Help House

The WASH House is deeply saddened by the recent positions that White Ribbon Australia has taken regarding the reproductive rights of women. White Ribbon Australia with its long history of engaging men in ending violence against women is best placed to educate men on the drivers of violence including gender inequality, toxic masculinity and disrespect that can lead to reproductive coercion.

We call on White Ribbon Australia to differentiate between women’s rights to bodily autonomy and choice, and reproductive coercion which is a form of violence against women. To advocate against reproductive coercion and for decriminalising abortion is within the scope of White Ribbon Australia’s charter and strategic vision. To remove these would be to perpetuate patriarchal control over women’s choices.

This is not a matter for taking an agnostic position, nor is it one for consultation; rather it is proven fact that reproductive coercion and rape are used to force women into unwanted pregnancies by perpetrators of violence to exercise power and control over women’s lives (Children by Choice, 2017). We know that:

  • Women are at even greater risk of violence during pregnancy

  • Women experiencing domestic or family violence are 2-3 times more likely to present for abortion

  • Women who have children have a harder time leaving violence because the perpetrator is often their only source of financial security

  • Women are most at risk of being killed at the time they plan to leave violence in the home

  • On average, one woman a week is killed by a current or former partner.

The WASH House is a community based resource centre for women in the Blacktown LGA. We aim to reduce the impact of violence, disadvantage, isolation and discrimination on the lives of women and children.

We believe that all women have rights to bodily autonomy and choice when it comes to reproduction and we will continue to focus our energy and resources on services, projects and activism that promotes the elimination of ALL forms of violence against women, gender equality and freedom from sex discrimination in accordance with the International Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women.

Bianca Freedman