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Victory - what victory?

By Melinda Tankard Reist - posted Friday, 24 February 2006

A great “victory” for women has apparently been won. There are cheers and celebrations, champagne and strawberries. The teary victors are “euphoric” saying it’s a great day for our daughters and granddaughters. One group stated this single event will lead to the end of all discrimination against women.

Wow, it must be something really wonderful. An end to all violence against women perhaps? The eradication of poverty which blights the lives of so many women? The easing of burdens which weigh disproportionately on them?

Well, no, actually.


This glorious great leap for womankind is not about any of these things.

It is about a drug women may soon be able to take to end their pregnancies - pills which cause you to bleed away the remnants of what would have been your child. (And if you’re one of the women for whom the chemical abortion didn’t work, you get the surgical one thrown in.)

This is the crowning achievement of our female politicians? This is “V” Day? This is the best we can offer women?

How can giving women pregnancy destroying chemicals ever be seen as a victory? A real victory would be a change in the conditions - violence, poverty, threats to education and work - that cause many women to seek abortion in the first place.

What we are seeing is yet another sign of failure - failure to provide what women themselves say they need. Where is triumph in saying, “Here’s another way to get rid of the child beginning in you”?

It’s all about death and endings and sadness, not something to be euphoric about with strawberry juice dribbling down your chin. “RU486 Drinks” read the signs in the corridors of Parliament House after last week’s vote, with an arrow pointing to where to go if you wanted to join the toast.


How can you celebrate a woman going through this lonely ordeal, spread over days or sometimes weeks, in the “privacy of her own home”? How can you toss streamers about for that?

Research by our organisation, Women’s Forum Australia, shows that many abortion decisions are motivated by a lack of emotional, social and material support. Financial concerns are a major motivator for abortion.

Women feel their school or workplace will be unsupportive if they continue their pregnancy. Abortion is strongly associated with domestic violence and abuse.

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About the Author

Melinda Tankard Reist is a Canberra author, speaker, commentator and advocate with a special interest in issues affecting women and girls. Melinda is author of Giving Sorrow Words: Women's Stories of Grief after Abortion (Duffy & Snellgrove, 2000), Defiant Birth: Women Who Resist Medical Eugenics (Spinifex Press, 2006) and editor of Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls (Spinifex Press, 2009). Melinda is a founder of Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation ( Melinda blogs at

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