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Reiterating Women’s Reproductive Rights: White Ribbon Australia Position Statement

The Board of White Ribbon Australia authorised the publication on 23 February 2017 of White Ribbon’s position statement in relation to women’s reproductive and sexual health. This was in the context of moves being made in NSW and Queensland to decriminalise abortion which – provided legal requirements and protections are observed – is not a crime in the other six Australian jurisdictions.

In the light of recent public comments about White Ribbon’s statement, whether from misunderstandings or by misrepresentation, it is considered appropriate to state again White Ribbon’s position.

White Ribbon Australia supports the autonomy of women to make their own choices about their basic right to health care, including contraception and abortion. We support the decriminalisation of abortion and nationally consistent access to safe and legal abortion and support for women throughout the process and afterwards. This is one way to address reproductive coercion, which is an aspect of men’s violence against women which White Ribbon seeks to prevent.

In light of recent comments it is necessary to state that White Ribbon is not advocating for “unlimited abortion to birth”, “the active killing of … vulnerable babies”, “full-term abortion” or the “systematic killing of children in the womb”. The words “safe and legal” abortion are in the statement and we recognise that it is possible to create a regime that appropriately regulates access to such a procedure and provides necessary protections for all concerned: as has been done – with some differences – in the other Australian jurisdictions. Experience has shown that late-term abortions in those places are rare, often carried out for the protection of the woman’s life or in some other emergency situation.

White Ribbon Australia endorses its previous statement. It regrets that this is considered unacceptable by some of its supporters. It thanks them for their support of our core work and urges them to reconsider their position in the light of this further explication of our approach.

Nicholas Cowdery, AM QC Chair, White Ribbon Australia

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