- The Guardian
- Issue #2048
In 2020, a bipartisan effort in New South Wales finally achieved success in the long-standing struggle for the legalisation of abortion. The change is an undeniably huge milestone in reproductive rights and equal access to healthcare, where the largest positive impacts will be felt by the most vulnerable members of the community, including working class women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, members of the LGBTQI+ community, and survivors of sexual violence.
Under capitalism, those who bear children continue to carry the overwhelming burden for the care of those children. Legalisation of abortion gives back some agency to those who can’t or don’t want to raise children at the time of their pregnancy. This agency threatens the power and control of misogynists and capitalists alike (notwithstanding the significant overlap between these two groups). For the misogynist, they are threatened by the ability of women to control when they do and don’t leave the workforce, as well as by the greater financial independence it brings. For the capitalist, they are threatened by the potential loss to the division of labour and the reserve labour forces created by pregnancy and raising children.
Unsurprisingly then, there is already a growing conservative and reactionary movement that seeks to challenge the legalisation of abortion in New South Wales. On 26th March 2023, a protest was held in the Sydney CBD for the so-called “Day of the Unborn Child.” Hundreds gathered for a “pro-life” message and demanded repealing the legalisation of abortion. A counter-protester was even arrested by NSW Police for breaching the peace at the event.
The reactionary trend is not just a grassroots minority. It exists in state and federal parliaments across Australia and is often backed by the mainstream media. Shortly after the legalisation of abortion, a push began for the introduction of religious discrimination legislation, coming from One Nation in NSW and the Liberal Party at a federal level. These laws would limit access to abortion by allowing medical professionals to deny an abortion on religious grounds. While fortunately the push has not been successful, the threat posed by these types of laws is not over. Many politicians continue to support them. As the overturning of Roe v Wade in America demonstrates, our rights under capitalism are never safe.
The anti-abortion trend fits neatly within larger patterns of growing conservatism and austerity in Australia. Make no mistake, these issues will disproportionately impact working class women and LGBTQI+ people, beyond just reproductive rights. As the reactionary forces become stronger, louder, and more violent, it becomes harder for oppressed groups to fight back without genuine fear of violence. Now more than ever, the whole communist movement needs to come together to fight back the growing tide of misogyny and conservatism.
Half the Sky is a fortnightly column, written by communist women. The column will cover women’s issues and experiences. We invite communist women to contribute to the column by emailing email@example.com.