Anti-abortionists on the march — face-off at Parliament House, 8 October 2011

Banner of CWRR

Under the banner of “March for the Babies“, anti-abortionists massed at Parliament House as part of a ramped-up campaign to force the repeal of laws in Victoria decriminalising abortion. (See for example The Age, 17 April 2010.) As in previous years they were met on the steps of Parliament House by a much smaller but equally determined number of pro-choice campaigners, including members of Radical Women, the Sex Party and representatives of Albury Choice, as well as unionists and members of the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) and Australia Asia Worker Links, the counter-rally being organised as before by the Campaign for Women’s Reproductive Rights (CWRR).

Police had divided the front steps of Parliament House into two sections separated by a chain in preparation for the opposing events, and were there in substantial numbers, including initially with horses. The pro-choice rally began at midday, with the “March for the Babies” not expected to arrive until about three, and filled the time with speeches, chants, and a mini-march around the block. MCs were Anthea Stutter and Peter Murray of FSP:
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Anthea and Peter conferring
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and the speakers included Marisa Sposaro of Radical Women, who discussed the issue of reproductive rights for women with disability (see also video from the ‘clinic defence’ on 23 July 2011):
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Marisa
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Kieran Bennett from Albury Choice (also represented on the July 23 video):
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Kieran
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Susie Reid, Women’s Health Goulburn North East, Wangaratta, who discussed issues for women in rural areas:
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Susie
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Cecilia Judge, Australian Services Union workplace delegate:
Cecilia
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Jade Eckhaus, Queer Officer, National Union of Students and Equal Love campaign:
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Jade
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Dandy Nicholson, Feminist Mothers Group:
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Dandy
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and Marinda Davis, tertiary student:
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Marinda, flanked by Sex Party placards
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Two women also spoke of their own experiences:
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Young woman describes her experiences
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One of the pro-choice marshals describing her experiences
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As expected, the anti-abortionists had mobilised far greater numbers for the occasion than the pro-choice – this being the reverse of the position in the community at large, as one speaker pointed out. The two rallies were mostly kept apart by a line of police and marshals on both sides, with only a few though persistent attempts by marchers to push into the pro-choice area:
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Man in pink floral shirt tries to push into pro-choice group
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To some extent the confrontation became a battle of PA power, and the din – which continued for the best part of two hours – was obviously painful for those police who hadn’t thought to provide themselves with ear plugs. In the event, both sides were probably able to hear their own speakers, but the “March for the Babies” were certainly forced to hear rather more of their opponents’ chants than they would have wished, and their own speakers were almost never audible on the pro-choice side of the divide.
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The above photos are a selection from the slideshow below. There is also footage of the event on EngageMedia, see link below.

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Head of "March for the Babies"

Click on image for video