‘Woman’s body, woman’s choice’ was the mantra of the 1970s sisterhood.
But in the case of ‘Miss X’, paid $50,000 in ‘go away’ money by Panthers star Bruce Cartwright, the choice about whether her 16-week old foetus lived or died was all his.
The National Rugby League’s clearing of Cartwright of fault sends an insidious message to all women about where men and powerful societal institutions see the fault of unplanned pregnancy lying.
Coerced into an abortion she did not want, by a man who is not new to scandal, Miss X has been denied even the dignity of an apology. Instead she is expected to take the $50,000 blood money and move on.
This sort of bad behaviour from a man towards a woman is not new, but it’s shocking that we are still not surprised by it.
NRL’s Phil ‘Gus’ Gould seems to even cast doubt on Miss X’s story, saying that he doesn’t “want to discuss the facts or the non-facts of that relationship”.
A man and a woman conceive a baby together and Gus questions the fact of a relationship. One response to this comes to mind: “Shut up Gus”.
Miss X was asking for greater support. What she got was the Panthers ‘fixer’ who brokered a deal for her to abort her child. This did not fix anything. Rubbing further salt into the wound, at the NRL ‘meeting’ to address her concerns, she received word that no rules had been broken and the NRL player and officials had been cleared of any wrongdoing. Like so many Australian women facing an unplanned pregnancy, she was on her own. They wiped their hands of her. We have a serious problem in this country when men’s bad behaviour toward women is categorised by whether or not any football rules were broken.
Which domestic violence group will stand up for Miss X? Certainly not White Ribbon Australia who promote abortion to birth and distance themselves from any politician who calls for greater protections for women against violent partners who are forcing them to abort babies they want to keep.
Where’s the NRL’s gender adviser Catherine Lumby? This is so awkward for the pro-reproductive choice sisterhood because to support Miss X is to admit that there are deep unresolved ethical issues surrounding abortion.
Despite not wanting the abortion, Miss X felt pressured to sign a written contract which specified “the parties have agreed that [she] will terminate the pregnancy... Bryce will pay [her] the sum of $50,000... Once [she] has received the settlement sum she will terminate the pregnancy forthwith”.
Miss X proceeded with the abortion but was so troubled that she could not keep the money. She has donated to World Vision, UNICEF, and to an orphan fund at Welfare Aid International. She also has started her own charity, “Stay Humble”, to help poor families in East Jakarta.
A letter to Miss X from NRL integrity offered Miss X confidential “wellbeing services”, but said they were otherwise “unable to deliver the outcomes you have asked for.”
Miss X is not the only recent casualty of misogynist NRL culture. 24-year-old Jaya Taki, ex-girlfriend of former West Tigers’ player Tim Simona also aborted her baby when Simona told her the baby would “ruin his career”. Jaya has never forgiven herself. Why do rugby fans forgive Simona?
The NRL appears to be breeding men with too much money, too high opinion of themselves and an inflated and irrational sense of entitlement. Women are not objects that come as a benefit of the game. A culture of respect is long overdue. That’s what Gus Gould should be working on – not on the next game play.
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