Abortion Has Become An Election Issue, Again, So How Do The Major Parties Stack Up On Reproductive Rights?

Surprise! We're actually talking about this again.

It’s 2019 and Prime Minister Scott Morrison has declared that he’s “disappointed” abortion has become an election issue because it’s not a debate that “tends to unite Australians”.

“This is a very controversial and sensitive issue and on these matters I have never sought to divide Australians on this,” he responded, when asked about abortion during a presser at the reopened Christmas Island immigration detention centre.

“I’m a bit disappointed that it is being raised in the eve of [an] election in a very politically charged context.”

That context is that Labor announced a bold new policy in early March, meaning that abortion is going to become part of the conversation whether the PM likes it or not.

What’s the Liberals’ official policy on abortion?

Neither the federal Liberal Party nor the Coalition have announced any specific reproductive health policies for the 2019 election (which is yet to be called), and the Liberal Party’s official site doesn’t mention terminations or reproductive health specifically in either their Health or Women policy pages.

Scott Morrison was asked about abortion during a media trip, where he explained how “disappointed” he was.

“These are matters that are dealt with by the states and territories,” he said. “I have no desire to overstep what the constitutional authorities are of the Commonwealth in these matters.

“I don’t find that debate one that tends to unite Australians and I certainly am not going to engage in the political elements of that discussion because frankly, I don’t think it is good for our country.”

(Weird flex considering he was giving this statement from an offshore detention centre he’s reopening, but OK.)

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told Buzzfeed News that the federal government has no jurisdiction, as abortion is a state and territory issue, but is “currently working with women’s health groups and the medical profession to develop a new women’s health policy which will be released soon”.

It’s unclear whether he’s referring to an election policy or to the government’s Women’s Health Strategy 2020-2030. The draft strategy does not contain the words “abortion” or “termination”, although one planned outcome reads:

“Improve access to sexual and reproductive health information and services that offer options to women to empower choice and control in decision-making about their bodies, including contraception and unplanned pregnancies.”

The Women’s Economic Security Statement launched in November last year says in a health-focused section that: “The Government recognises that women have specific health needs at different stages of their lives, and is committed to providing healthcare that supports women – from birth to childhood and adolescence, adulthood, pregnancy and ageing.”

The words “abortion”, “termination”, or “reproductive” do not appear in the document.

GOAT contacted the office of Federal Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer to request clarification on any official party policy, but we’re yet to receive a response.

So what’s Labor said to kick all this off?

On March 6, Labor unveiled an ambitious policy around reproductive health. The proposal would tie Commonwealth funding to the consistent provision and availability of termination services in public hospitals.

Labor’s policy also includes a discussion about the government rebates for long-acting contraceptives like IUDs and Implanon, as well as longer-lasting prescriptions for the pill so people don’t have to go back to the doctors as often just to re-approve pill scripts, and support to increase the number of GPs who can administer medical terminations using the “abortion pill”, RU-486.

“Access to legal, safe, affordable reproductive health services varies across Australia,” Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek said. “This requires national leadership. Medicare and the PBS are both the responsibility of the federal government.

“Every Australian woman should have access to the health services they need, where and when they need them.”

Labor would also support efforts to decriminalise abortion in NSW and across the country.

Any federal reproductive health policy would need to take into account each state and territory’s rules about abortion.

The procedure is still in the criminal code in NSW, although it can be accessed by pregnant women where a doctor confirms it will have a severely detrimental effect on their mental health.

In Tasmania, abortion is legal but only available in public hospitals in case of an emergency, with no low-cost options available in the state.

Just A Reminder That You Absolutely Don't Need To Compare Captain Marvel To Wonder Woman

Can we just... not?

When Captain Marvel lands in cinemas tonight in Australia and around the world, it will be the first time a woman has been front and centre in a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie.

It will mean so much to a lot of people to see a woman carry a Marvel movie on her own, after 20 films fronted by men (or mixed-gender teams where the women are consistently treated as second-tier).

It’s also the first Marvel movie directed by a woman – Anna Boden is credited equally with her co-director and creative partner Ryan Fleck. (Cate Shortland’s Black Widow will be the first one helmed by a woman, solo.)

There are twenty other films in the MCU. Eight of them are the first movie about their sole lead character. Six of those are introductory or origin stories bringing a new character into the already-established franchise.

So of course people are treating Captain Marvel like a direct challenge to the success of 2017’s Wonder Woman.

When you compare Captain Marvel to Wonder Woman, you’re diminishing both films, and both characters.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re saying “Eh, it wasn’t good as Wonder Woman” or “At least it was better than Wonder Woman!”

When you put Carol Danvers and Diana in their own little box, you’re pitting them against each other.

That attitude says “women are a category”. It’s like when people keep asking who’s “better” out of Cardi B and Nicki Minaj, when there are dozens of male rappers out there doing their own thing without being compared. It creates a culture where women are constantly framed as in competition with one another, while men are allowed to exist on their own terms.

It’s totally relevant to look at how audiences respond to female-led blockbusters – to note how they perform better, how people talk about them, even why trolls throw tantrums about them.

But it’s also important to hold Captain Marvel to the same standards as the dudes in the MCU.

Don’t ask “Is it better than Wonder Woman?” Ask “Is it as fun as Ant-Man? As powerful and groundbreaking as Black Panther? Does it make more sense than Doctor Strange?” Hell, ask yourself if it introduces a relatively unknown hero to non-comic-reading audiences with the same success and charismatic lead as Aquaman did.

If you have to think about it in the same terms as Wonder Woman, talk about the things they actually do have in common.

Talk about how their success proves people are hungry for stories led by women. How they make little girls and grown women and passionate fans of all genders feel.

How criminally overdue they both were in their own franchises, following movie after movie of grim, ripped dudes.

But don’t make it a race between two women, with all the men in a separate category where they don’t have to work as hard to prove themselves.

As we’re about to learn in Endgame, they’re all in it together.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine's MeToo Episode Is A Perfectly Imperfect Showcase For Its Brilliant Women

"I just wanted to help make it better for this one woman."

An awful lot of your favourite shows are going to be Doing A MeToo Episode this year if they haven’t already, and you’d better hope they were paying attention to the most recent episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Titled ‘He Said, She Said’ (and directed by Stephanie Beatriz, who plays Diaz) it sees Sergeant Santiago and Detective Peralta investigating a case where a woman hit a coworker in the penis with a golf club, breaking said penis. Hilarious and delightful premise – until you find out that she says it was in self defence after the coworker tried to rip her clothes off in his office.

(We’ll be talking about the whole episode, so don’t read past here if you’re not into spoilers.)

She’s offered a deal from the huge company where she works: $2 million if she signs an NDA about the incident. But when Santiago convinces her to try and press charges instead of taking the money, working the case brings out upsetting memories for Santiago and even sees her arguing with Diaz about whether it’s even realistic for victims of harassment and assault to try and get justice.

Despite the name, the way the characters respond isn’t split down the middle: men versus women, or cops versus criminals. The women, including the accuser Keri (the massively underrated Briga Heelan from Great News), get to talk about it between themselves, and have nuanced and differing opinions about how to handle this stuff.

The scene where Santiago tells Peralta why she’s taking it so personally is a case in point.

Watching it, I braced for the show to give Amy a big-T Traumatic Backstory – but her gross, entitled former boss-turned-harasser didn’t have to have been physically violent to make her doubt herself or find something triggering in this case, or to not want to raise it with her husband before now.

Six seasons in, we know that one of the worst ways you could hurt Amy Santiago is to make her feel that she hasn’t earned what she’s worked for, and that’s true of so many women who have felt undermined by the revelation that a man in their life had an ulterior motive for supporting them.

Jake’s support in this episode is unequivocal, humble, and not used as a cheap source of conflict in their still-new marriage.

It makes sense for the same character who once pointed out how transphobic the end of Ace Ventura is to sit up all night watching a documentary about feminism to better support his wife and the public he serves, and also for him to hilariously run his mouth in the middle of a serious conversation because he feels awkward.

“I feel like I shouldn’t be here… Or should I be here, because men should be part of the conversation? … I’ve landed on active listening, I will no longer be chiming in.”

The whole conversation isn’t just a way to jump on a bandwagon – it enriches all the characters.

And the way the case is resolved is perfectly imperfect as well. While justice will be served to the assaulter and his broken penis, it’s because another man came forward out of selfishness, and the woman he attacked still has to leave her job – and yet most of the women involved still feel like progress was made, and that it’s still important to keep trying.

Is it a perfect discussion of a serious topic? Good lord no. It’s a 22-minute sitcom that spends 9 of those minutes on a B-plot about a murderer called the Disco Strangler.

Is it a perfect episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine? No, because it contains neither a Halloween heist nor an appearance from Cheddar.

But it is a thoughtful, realistic and optimistic take on something that affects a massive number of people, and that TV shows are still working out how to tackle without being exploitative or overly earnest.

And it shows why a sitcom about cops is somehow one of the most progressive and emotionally intelligent shows on TV – one that deserves as many seasons as they want to make.

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