Howard: anti-women, anti-family
by Magda Hansson Another right won 16 years ago, the right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of marital status or sexual preference, is under attack by the Howard Government at the behest of the forces of reaction. The Government is attempting to amend sections of the Federal Sex Discrimination Act to allow States to allow only married or de facto heterosexual couples to have access to fertility treatments. Last week a single Melbourne woman and her doctor successfully challenged the Victorian 1995 Infertility Treatment Act in the Federal Court. The Act was found to be in breach of the Federal Anti-Discrimination Act. The Victorian law, which had restricted access to fertility procedures to married and de facto heterosexual couples, has been changed as a result of the case. According to guidelines put out by the Victorian Government, infertility treatment in Victoria will now be available to women deemed clinically infertile, regardless of their marital or de facto status, but single women who are fertile will be banned. Howard wants to leave the entire issue in the hands of the States and to do so intends to change federal laws. This is in stark contrast to his approach to mandatory sentencing in the NT and WA and failure to legislate for the protection of pregnant women in the workplace. In the case of mandatory sentencing, Howard claimed he did not want to interfere with the rights of States to implement their own laws, and refused to override them with federal legislation. And while it took the Government just two days to formulate a plan to water down the Anti-Discrimination Act, a report from the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner that urges the government to legislate stronger protection for pregnant workers has languished in the Government's holding pattern for a year. The report documents many cases of discrimination against pregnant women and urges the Government to drop its resistance to paid maternity leave. Howard states that he believes a child has a right to a mother and a father and that this underlies his decision to amend the federal legislation. These are his words but what are his actions? He wants to intervene in States' rights on the issue of euthanasia and access to fertility treatment for single women, both personal decisions not made lightly, but he refuses to intervene in the mandatory sentencing laws which mostly effect Aboriginal people, particularly youths, involved in petty crimes against property. Single women have accessed fertility treatment programmes mostly for donor insemination. Only a small percentage of single women also exhibit infertility. What they lack is a male partner or suitable sperm donor. Single women choose to access donor insemination programmes because they can be sure of the viability of the sperm and with the knowledge that, as with blood products, it has undergone clinical testing for transmittable diseases. Women who access these services have thought seriously about having a child and what that means to their life. They want to maintain their health and that of their child. Part of the Government's plan is to restrict Medicare access to IVF. This would make it prohibitive to many women. Private clinics may cost them a considerable amount of money before they conceive. Women using the services either do not have a male partner or do not choose to have a male partner. UN commitments Howard wants to renege on Australia's responsibilities that have been undertaken through the signing of various United Nations declarations when it comes to mandatory sentencing and protection from discrimination, but he is cynically trying to use the UN declaration on the Rights of the Child to support his anti-IVF stance. In the meantime he is reviewing Australia's future in general as a signatory to UN declarations. Howard's politics are driven by reactionary religious fundamentalist ideologues whose ideas underpin the thinking of the Liberal and National Parties. His Government is profoundly anti-women and has no regard for fathers or children or mothers. Economically, corporate profits are his number one priority.