By Kate McDowell

Listen up:

In this country women’s reproductive rights are being mediated by old white men (and women) in government who are restricting their access to a termination and even more importantly, to information on options.

As a woman living in Australia I am disturbed to learn that the abortion operation is not taught at medschool in regular training.

I am disturbed that many women living in regional and remote areas have are not able to access clear and accurate information about abortion options, and if they are able to get a referral, must travel long distances to access a clinic.

I am likewise disturbed by stories of friends in metro areas being refused information on their choices, and refused referrals to a doctor who can perform the procedure.

Australian women have limited access to a termination.

Where I live – the closest clinic is in Tweed Heads. Its not that far – an hour away. The cost would be for me manageable – about $500.

But Imagine if you were someone who doesn’t drive.

Imagine if you didn’t have a job, were living on a disability payment, or didn’t have the right support in someone to take a day out to get you to the clinic, wait with you, and take you home, and be with you while you recover?

To get an abortion in Australia, takes a real a fight.

Many still believe this fight should be there to ensure women make the right choice. But this is a privileged view - for those with access to resources, the fight might be manageable. For those without access, the fight is often too huge, and surrendering, accepting their circumstances, and having the baby against their own better judgment, is much more likely.

And I live in a best-possible-scenario case of being regional. We are lucky here.

Imagine if you were living somewhere remote.

Or even if you were simply – Tasmanian.

I am disturbed that the procedure is still technically illegal in NSW where I live, and that in Tasmania, there are no clinics, none, so most women who need to seek out a doctor who can perform the procedure fly to Melbourne.

This sends a message to women that their choice cannot be entrusted to them – that they are ill-equipped and morally questionable in essence, and so the choice must be made for them or at least mediated. The system is in effect scolding them for their ‘error’ - asking them again to shrink as political beings.

This sends a message that women are not intelligent, feeling, moral, citizens – they are rather a liability.

This is political. Women in Australia are being asked to accept that they must have laws made on their behalf because they cannot be trusted to decide what is best for them, their families, and humanity at large.'

While women do not represent half of government, women in Australia will continue to be fed the message that they need to be governed by men who are naturally wiser and more capable of making decisions for their well-being. This continues to infiltrate the thinking of women across the country as they try to understand their value, their capacity, their right to agency in all aspects of their personal, professional and civic life.

We need to be sending the right message to girls and women, and policy must reflect their needs and lived experience. And the only way this is possible is with equal representation in parliament.