On October 14 in Cairns, Queensland a jury acquitted a young couple of abortion charges brought against them under Queensland's 19th century criminal code. The jury's decision was unanimous. A conviction could have sent them to prison. For women in Queensland and other states, it also would have set a catastrophic precedent.

From Melbourne, Victoria Radical Women worked with grassroots abortion rights organisations and activists around Australia to publicise the case, rally support for the couple, and demand that the Queensland government decriminalise abortion. Once the acquittal was announced, RW issued the following media release:


Victorian feminists tell the Queensland government to decriminalise abortion now

Radical Women joins Australia's pro-choice majority in celebrating the acquittal in Cairns of Tegan Leach, the first woman tried in Queensland for "procuring" her abortion, and her partner, Sergie Brennan, who was tried for allegedly assisting her.

But Debbie Brennan, Radical Women's Melbourne Organiser, says: "We also join people across Australia, and indeed the world, in condemning the Queensland government for allowing the charges against the couple to proceed. To subject anyone to such an ordeal over what should be every woman's right is an outrage. The Bligh government does not have the principles or courage to legislate the decriminalisation of abortion. Instead it continues to serve anti-abortion interests in its efforts to shore up its support base. This is a disgrace."

Brennan adds: "The now infamous prosecution was a rightwing reaction against Victoria's decriminalisation of abortion two years ago – a backlash that is part of a global anti-abortion movement. A tiny minority of woman haters is determined to force women back home, off the streets and out of the workplace, where we are effective organisers for much-needed change. They consciously serve the interests of big corporations, desperate to use the Global Financial Crisis as an excuse to claw back decades of social gains.

"The Cairns case also ignited an international call to the Queensland government to follow Victoria and decriminalise abortion immediately. No one should face such a trial again. Every woman should have control over her own body."

Brennan vows, "Radical Women will continue to campaign actively with the growing numbers of activists and advocates in Queensland — and in other states and territories — to achieve full reproductive freedom for all women in Australia."

On October 14 in Cairns, Queensland a jury acquitted a young couple of abortion charges brought against them under Queensland's 19th century criminal code. The jury's decision was unanimous. A conviction could have sent them to prison. For women in Queensland and other states, it also would have set a catastrophic precedent.

From Melbourne, Victoria Radical Women worked with grassroots abortion rights organisations and activists around Australia to publicise the case, rally support for the couple, and demand that the Queensland government decriminalise abortion. Once the acquittal was announced, RW issued the following media release:

October 9 National Day of Action for Abortion Rights a Success!

Rallies were held in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Darwin and Adelaide — in all, hundreds rallied nationally. In Perth, a speakout on Friday night also got the word out about the Queensland prosecution to hundreds of people who were shocked and outraged. In Cairns, a vigil will cover the days of the young couple's trial, which begins October 12.

In Melbourne, 200 pro-choicers rallied at Parliament House steps, marched through the city centre and then rallied back at Parliament's steps to counter the Right to Life's "March for the Babies." With raised fists holding coat hangers, we shouted "Back to the backyard. No Way!" and other clear messages at the misogynist zealots who were bussed in from around the state to protest Victoria's legalisation of abortion in 2008. The RTL's rally was part of a campaign to put abortion back into Victoria's Crimes Act. A cop disconnected our PA system, but this didn't stop us from belting out our pro-choice slogans with our megaphones until we reconnected our sound. (Victoria Police haven't heard the end of this.)

Melbourne's rally connected abortion rights to all the rights that women need for genuine reproductive choice. Activist speakers addressed the forced sterilisation of women with disabilities, the lack of reproductive rights for women who are imprisoned and of women in Latin America, the connection between the struggles of queers and women to control their bodies and lives, and why women's right to choose is an issue for the union movement. The rally acknowledged that we were assembled on the stolen land of the Kulin Nation. We also recognised that this day marked the ninth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan and that women's reproductive rights are a chief casualty of these imperialist, genocidal atrocities. We read messages of solidarity from the Pro-Choice Action Collective in Brisbane, the Freedom Socialist Party, delegates of the Service Employees International Union at New York's Metropolitan Hospital, the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand, and the Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights in the Philippines.

Melbourne's rally concluded with a sense of victory and the determination to build up for the fight ahead.