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Two female NSW Ministers for Women oppose women’s health, safety and well-being

It says a great deal about our society and nothing much good, that women attending clinics and hospitals providing abortions are subject to harassment and intimidation by so-called “pro-lifers,” to the degree that it has become necessary for the NSW parliament to pass legislation that criminalises such behaviour and threatens jail time for anyone apprehended engaging in it.

The NSW parliament yesterday passed laws to impose 150-metre “safe access zones” around these clinics and hospitals. Pro-lifers may no longer position themselves at the entrances to medical facilities, forcing women to run the gauntlet of abuse, threats, disturbing images, and the risk of being photographed by protestors.

It is with dismay and disbelief that we learned that the current NSW Minister for Women, Tanya Davies, and the former Minister for Women and sex discrimination commissioner, now NSW Minister for Family and Community Services, Prue Goward, both opposed the bill.

Davies, a devout Christian, justified her extraordinary stand by claiming that the pro-lifers are “sidewalk counsellors” who offer women options they may not be aware of and that may cause them to change their minds about a termination. Women are, after this “counselling,” able to make a “truly informed decision” as Davies believes they were not prior to the unsolicited sidewalk interventions.

“Sidewalk counsellors” is an oxymoron if ever I heard one. Counselling is a profession practised in private, in safe spaces, by trained and accredited women and men whose goal ought not to be persuading the client to the counsellor’s point of view. I don’t know why representatives of that profession haven’t yet confronted Davies about her slur on their expertise.

I can’t imagine any circumstance in which I would take kindly to a self-proclaimed “counsellor” bailing me up in the street and imposing his or her opinions on me. Were I on my way to a surgical procedure that might be fraught for me, or simply attending the clinic for some other kind of treatment and advice, I’d be even less inclined to respond well to such a vile intrusion on my privacy.

Davies has lost whatever credibility she had as Minister for Women. She is pushing her own religious agenda. She is not acting in the interests of women. She needs to get out of that portfolio.

Prue Goward came at the issue from the free speech angle. Pro life protesters are being denied their right to free speech by the new legislation, Goward claims, despite the fact that we have no right to free speech in this country outside of an implied freedom of political communication enshrined in our Constitution. Goward puts the fairytale of free speech before the well-being of women. It doesn’t matter how abusive, harassing and intimidating pro lifers might be, “free speech” is at greater risk, she claims.

Behaviour that would be unacceptable in just about any other situation must be protected, over and above the wellbeing of women making their way into a medical facility.

Goward’s justification make no sense and has no legs, and one wonders how she keeps a straight face when, dripping with faux sincerity, she avows in parliament her commitment not to women’s health and safety, but to freedom of speech.

Pro lifers have not lost the assumed privilege of free speech. They may protest all they like outside the safe access zone. They have not been silenced. Speech is restricted in all kinds of spaces. There’s nothing unusual about areas where speech may not be indulged without incurring penalties or expulsion, yet the only one that apparently disturbs Goward is the space outside hospitals and clinics that offer terminations.

Goward and Davies are an absolute disgrace, and should not be allowed anywhere near decisions affecting women. Readers familiar with the HBO series The Handmaids Tale will understand immediately why I call them Aunt Lydias, in reference to the brutal cohort of women who ensure that the wishes of the murderous patriarchy are fulfilled by subjugated handmaids. Both Goward and Davies are hopelessly out of touch with the concerns and needs of women. That they both hold portfolios that so specifically affect women is deeply worrying. They must go.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.


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  1. John O'Callaghan

    This is disgusting behaviour by these two conservative “christian”women, and their male colleagues are just as bad,they use this bullshit “freedom and “free speech” crap direct out of the Republican playbook from America,which is the spritual home of every far right brain dead evangelical RWNJ.
    These women who go to these clinics have enough on their plate already, and to have to run the gauntlet past these pious hypocritical Jesus freaks is the last straw i reckon,and to pick out certain groups for abuse or worse because what they do does’nt agree with your particular ideology is going down a very dangerous path,and one that the world has travelled down before with devastating consequences!

  2. Sean Mullins

    How can a medical practitioner seriously propose that a child in utero is part of the mother’s body? It responds separately to stimuli and medically and manifestly is a separate being. You are only fooling yourself! If it was part of the mother’s body why does it have a separate nervous system ?

  3. Kaye Lee

    Perhaps Barnaby gave them a ring.

  4. Kaye Lee


    I hope you never spill your seed on the ground because that would be wicked in the sight of the LORD.

    And since the Church tells us it is always intrinsically wrong to use contraception, I am wondering what your suggestions are to cope with exponential population growth.

    Bringing a child into the world is an enormous responsibility. Women are not brood mares. No one has any right to dictate to anyone else on this matter.

  5. Rhonda

    They should indeed be shamed out of office. Thanks Jennifer, but please refrain from using their own identifier of pro-life, because they are not. They are the shameless brigade of anti-choice. And having spent seven years as a pregnancy counsellor here in Qld, I can only shake my head in horror and disgust at Davies’ commentary re “sidewalk counselling”. She clearly doesn’t know what the f*ck she’s talking about. Absolutely pitiful action and response from so-called women-centred politicians. I agree, they must go.

  6. Kaye Lee

    The ‘sidewalk advocates’ are having a great time – just the sort of strangers I would want to talk to about important decisions in my life…..


    Dear Friend of Life:

    It is with great excitement that we announce the opening of our BRAND NEW ONLINE STORE, featuring Sidewalk Advocate for Life and Make Unborn Babies Great Again (#MUBGA) pro-life apparel, signage, and more!

    We couldn’t be more excited!


    It all started at the March for Life 2017 in Washington D.C….

    We at Sidewalk Advocates for Life were joking around, and suddenly, the slogan, “Make Unborn Babies Great Again!” hit us! While our ministry is strictly non-partisan, of course, we knew it was a keen play off of a presidential campaign slogan that would generate a lot of attention for the pro-life cause.”

    I wish I was making that up.

  7. John

    The pro-life trend as it currently exists is only recent, having a start in the early 1970s The history before that point is essential. Edward Shorter, Ph.D., author of ”Women’s Bodies” is a social historian of medicine at the University of Toronto who has published histories of obstetrics and gynecology. He noted that originally Babies were seen as disposable especially if the mother was at risk. If mother was put in jeopardy the woman’s life was preserved as a priority. Look at the early gynaecological / obstetrics tools that existed then such as the hooks, clamps and saws. The mother was always the one saved as far as both the church and medical profession was concerned. The possibility of babies having consideration didn’t begin to emerge until well after the 1930s when Antibiotics became available to treat the likes of Septicaemia. Maternity and infant mortality began to drop.

    It was around this time both contraception as it emerged in the 1960s and the law began to change. Around this time we started to talk about woman’s rights and the recognition of rape in law as a crime. Rape within marriage was never recognised as a woman’s body belonged to her husband. Once women started to emerge as having independent rights recognised by law, the patriarchal reaction was swift. Misogyny asserted itself quickly once power over a woman diminished. Men promptly sought to rebalance the scales in their favour. No stronger establishment for male patriarchy exists then in the male-dominated Church. The fact that pro-life issues were never a part of the historical Christian teaching was no obstacle for a redefining of this newly emerging “faith issue”. The self-serving interests of the church and male domination were aroused to find a point of distinction from which to garnet public adherence to the “faith” of male dominance over a woman’s body. No longer was independent life considered begun at birth. No longer was a structural and biological part of a woman’s body over which she should be allowed complete dominance and priority seen as permissible in the emerging struggle for maintenance of misogynistic culture. Hence their allegiance to the patriarchy of the pro-life movement. That two female politicians indulge in this patriarchy is sadly pathetic.

  8. paul walter

    I watched those two idiots earlier on The Drum…genuinely abject stuff but a useful discussion on why it is necessary to keep the zealots away from the clinics.

  9. paul walter

    I can’t see that an embryo at least is in any sense a living person.

  10. townsvilleblog

    Whether or not an embryo is a person or not is not an issue for me, the point from my perspective is whether or not a woman can make decisions that affect her own body. These religious zealots who believe in the god delusion have no proof of God’s existence yet they seek to impose their will on their fellow man in so many ways including this shameful upsetting of women who find themselves in this difficult position. I very much doubt that any woman actually chooses to be in this position and we all know that individual circumstances dictate life decisions.

    Men sometimes fail to meet their responsibilities and with in excess of three million Australians now living in poverty thanks to the Turnbull L’NP federal govt, an unwanted pregnancy could be the last straw for many women. There are a record number of middle-aged women finding themselves homeless, the last thing they would need is an unwanted pregnancy or an extra mouth to feed.

    I was flabbergasted to see a L’NP govt actually legislate something for “people” given that they are normally only interested in dodgy deals to benefit their donors, however, we must give credit where credit is due. I sincerely hope this exclusion zone is policed and these zealots kept away from the vulnerable women.

    In summary, it has obviously taken a huge advocacy effort to make this situation happen and should give us hope that if we stick together we can change things for the better at a local, state and federal level.

  11. johno

    Well said Jennifer.
    Counsellors, what a joke, and the loss of free speech bullshit, these arguments are on such thin ice. (or no ice)
    Well done Ireland.

  12. Roscoe

    interesting, protesters should be allowed outside abortion clinics according to some in the LNP but not allowed outside logging, mining or coal seam gas areas

  13. Terence Mills

    Footpath counselling is obnoxious, it is harassment and is the very reason that we need this legislation to rein in these religious nutters.

    During the passionat debate on abortion in the USA, the consensus settled [perhaps briefly with the advent of the Rump era] on abortion being legal,safe and rare. Makes sense to me.

  14. king1394

    In the same week as the Wollar 3 endured a court case based on the illegality of protesting outside a mining site, these people suddenly want to stand up for freedom of speech! I wonder if animal justice campaigners should picket butcher shops with living lambs and pictures of abattoirs.

  15. Kaye Lee

    I wonder how these women would feel if I stood outside their offices and counselled anyone attempting to go in about the dangers of conservative politicians who want to impose their personal religious beliefs on everyone despite the supposed separation of church and state.

  16. Terence Mills

    Now, if we could have a law that forbade door to door proselytising without prior consent by various religious (mainly American) sects that would be a progressive move but would probably be considered as impacting on these peoples’ concept of freedom of speech and communication (which is not guaranteed in Australia anyhow).

    Which, may be why these religious women voted against the footpath counselling perhaps seeing this as the thin-edge of the wedge.

  17. helvityni

    …and why are these religious women so totally without compassion, I always thought Christianity was about love, kindness and empathy…

    What on earth is “the footpath counselling”, sweeping the streets or what…?

  18. Keith

    To me there is quite a problem with pro-life protestors, if they were completely sincere they would have been protesting about children held in detention, the lives lost in Yemen through medical and other supplies denied to them, they would be arguing about the slaughter of innocent people in Syria. Babies and young children around the world are dying; but, they make no fuss. Did they protest about Australia becoming involved in Iraq with Bush? Arguably one of the biggest mistakes so far of the 21st Century.
    Wars kill people of all ages including babies about to be born.

  19. diannaart

    Excellent reportage and writing, Jennifer.

    Insult to intelligence of women – this who offer women options they may not be aware of and that may cause them to change their minds about a termination. Women are, after this “counselling,” able to make a “truly informed decision” as Davies believes they were not prior to the unsolicited sidewalk interventions. bullshit!

    Most women. and I would posit 99% of women seeking a termination of pregnancy, have given a great deal of thought before the big step of actually going to a Family Planning Clinic- I did.

    Use of the term “abortion clinic” which is deliberately diminishing the work done by Family Planning clinics – which include counselling by actual, real, qualified counsellors.
    …and why are these religious women so totally without compassion, I always thought Christianity was about love, kindness and empathy…Helvityni some women don’t really like other women and their behaviour towards other women has nothing to do with religion.
    Whether or not an embryo is a person or not is not an issue for me, the point from my perspective is whether or not a woman can make decisions that affect her own body. – damn straight townesvilleblog. Women are not “baby-life-support-systems – we are thinking breathing feeling human beings. Imagine if men also could fall pregnant – abortions would be free, brief and timed so as not to interfere with golf, footy and other necessary activities.

  20. diannaart

    Apologies for layout in my above comment – internet decided to take a walk and too late to repair layout.

    My opinions still stand


  21. Ria young

    When are the men and women who are against abortion be willing to bring up these unwanted babies? A baby is a lifetime committment. The women who want or need a termination of pregnancy have valid reasons for doing so. Do we need to kegislate that all rapists be castrated? How many men are there not supporting their children when a marriage breaks up? All I can say is “Butt out, this has nothing to do with you” to these demonstrators. Bringing up a child is hard work, a nightmare as a single mum on welfare and not much better if you a lucky enough to have a job, as childcare is as costly, or more costly, than rent.

  22. Phil

    Agreed – these two women have to go, preferably out of parliament. In the case of Davies, she needs to be reminded that our parliament is secular. Her religious beliefs have no part to play in government policy or process. She is like so many politicians, in particular conservatives who aspire to the Christian faith – who are fixated on seeing life through the lens of their particular religious dogma and theology – fine for the private life but this has no place in any Australian parliament.

    The school chaplaincy program is another example of the missionary zeal and insatiable urge of christian conservatives to proselytise ie shove their religious fantasies down everyones throat.

    Goward plays the free speech card and loses the argument because, as Jennifer says, there is no right to free speech. But then we all know, as Goward knows, that what she really claims is a right to force her religious beliefs and opinions onto others.

  23. paul walter

    It is as far removed from real Xtianity as Hitler was from humanitarianism.

  24. Rhonda

    Helvityni, it is anti-choice spin for harrassment

  25. paul walter

    The problem lies in the past when clinics were bombed and people visiting or working there were shot at or shot .

    The “counselling” has some times seemed much more like hectoring and harassment than something more reasoned.

    It has been about fanaticism rather than the sort of conversation the likes of you and I would have considering the rights and wrongs of sensitive, sometimes 3even complex issues.

  26. Kaye Lee

    Tanya Davies’ elevation to cabinet was payback for the NSW Liberal right faction whose votes helped support Gladys Berejiklian into the Premier’s job.

    When Davies was first appointed, she threw the cat amongst the pigeons by saying she was pro-life and intimating she was reviewing abortion laws.

    When asked about it, she said “Personally I am pro-life. Personally. But in my role I am there to support all women and I will support all women. And I will listen to all women.”

    That didn’t last long….

  27. helvityni

    Thank you, you two sensible people ,Paul et Rhonda, I should not let these bastards upset me so much, but there has not been any light at the end of the long Abbott tunnel, just more of the same…

  28. Kyran

    “Sidewalk counsellors”, “Pro Choice”, and “Bro Joyce”.
    Now, there’s a headline for you. Bro Joyce had a bunch of ‘sidewalk counsellors’ outside his place, who were allegedly accredited professionals, offering him counsel on the merit of an argument which demanded privacy on the one hand, whilst concurrently arguing that privacy could be commodified, valued and sold to the highest bidder. In his case, it was Channel 7, a company where the boss has affairs with women and then silences them through the courts. A company that has numerous cases before relevant tribunals where females are routinely sexually harassed and assaulted. It follows that, in his world, this entitles him to counsel for sidewalk counsellors.
    The most insidious thing about these women and their paltry argument is that, one more time, the bigger issue has been missed. Part of that legislation was to have included the decriminalization of abortion in NSW. That has not yet happened.

    The insane bit is that, in a country of a mere 25mill, we have eight legal systems that adjudge women differently for no other reason than their geography. The two states that have already passed these laws are already off to the High Court.

    “Exclusion zone bills in Victoria and Tasmania are the subject of challenges in the high court, and Perrottet predicted the NSW legislation would also be challenged. The bill, he argued, could be “unconstitutional”.”

    So here we have the progression of the insanity. Bro Joyce and the sanctity of the sidewalk counsellors become the ‘sujet du jour’, whilst the issue of bible bashing bastards dictating the terms and conditions of our existence goes largely unchallenged. Van Badham had a good go at it.

    Coincidentally, Mark Dreyfus has foreseen a ‘pushback’ regarding marriage equality, based largely on the same premise.

    We have religious zealots pushing the same argument on every front, and hiding behind free speech when their nonsense is challenged. There is nothing in any of the legislation that compels anyone to marry someone of the same sex, any more than any of the legislation proposes that every women should be compelled to have an abortion. The legislation grants the freedom to choose, a basic human right, not restricted to gender or sexuality. Yet these fools want to legislate to enshrine their compulsions on the majority.
    It is ironic that the posterboy for Catholic values has cherry picked which value is a ‘core’ value and which is a ‘non-core’ value. His regard for the sanctity of human life apparently doesn’t extend to that of his wife and daughters, whose lives have been torn apart by his self aggrandizing callous disregard for their worth.
    Thank you Dr Wilson and commenters. We gotta long ways to go. Take care

  29. Patricia

    Politicians lose the right to impose their views on the people when they take on the mantle of the “peoples representatives. They must, in their role as representative, take the view of their constituents over and above their own personal view if the majority of the people’s view is different to theirs. That is their role, nothing more, nothing less. To stand up and cast a vote based on the belief of the politician without having consulted their constituents means that the people have no representation and therefore democracy does not exist. The politicians keep telling us that we live in a representative democracy but when politicians push their own agenda based on their own beliefs and views there can be no representation. These two women, who purport to represent women need to be voted out, by the women in their electorates, at the next election. Neither of them are carrying out the mandate that they have been given. Having said that, I do not know of any politician that does this, they are there to push their own agenda based on their on beliefs and views. When will voters wake up to the fact that these “representatives” do not in fact represent them.

  30. diannaart

    Well said, Patricia.

    Any person who is given the responsibility of governing for a diverse electorate such as we have in Australia, needs to be free from personal agendas as much as is humanly possible.

    An honest declaration prior to running for office would be preferable – which does not happen – too fraught with the possibility of losing votes.

    Also simply declaring oneself to be Christian does not mean a person will necessarily hold high ideals of humanity and compassion such as Davies and Goward. Many politicians (male & female) believe declaring themselves to be Christian gives them credibility – whether they have read a bible in its entirety, or not.

    Also, while we are hopefully moving towards 50/50 male/female representation, just having more women in office does not guarantee that women’s needs will be considered objectively. In particular many of the women of the LNP appear to actively dislike other women, disparage feminism and pursue an agenda which favours the patriarchy.

  31. Jennifer Wilson

    Yes, Rhonda, you are quite right, the better term is anti abortion, not pro life. They are not pro life. Thanks for reminding me.

    Astonishingly, Barnaby Joyce, who in that train wreck of an interview stated that after his recent experiences he wouldn’t be telling anyone what to do re abortion, lobbied NSW Nats to vote against the safe zone legislation.

    Thanks everyone for your comments and reading.
    Cheers, Jennifer.

  32. Jaquix

    Gladys B. should get rid of these 2 Ministers with responsibilities for Women, who failed so spectacularly this week to uphold those responsibilities. Their personal religious or ideological beliefs are misguided and have no place in our parliament. Seeing theyve been elected, all she can do is banish them to the back benches and install replacements who will do their job properly. If she doesnt, she is seen to be complicit, or weak, either way not a good look. Women wont forget this.

  33. J Sheryl Adam

    Kathy Clubb was fined $5000 for criminal activity which she attempted to give a pamphlet to a couple entering an abortion clinic in East Melbourne. The Victorian government believes this is criminal activity because it deters and or prevents an abortion or the intentional killing of an unwanted/unplanned baby with the mother’s legal consent/choice. However, the Victorian government and all Australian governments would expect Australians to deter and or prevent any parent from killing their child/children. The Victorian government understands the meaning of murder as this would include a partner/spouse/boyfriend whom intentionally killed an unwanted/unplanned baby without the mother’s consent/choice. The schizophrenic laws now confuses the thinking of murder with people’s choice or legal consent. There is no logical nor rational reason for a legal abortion and or euthanasia, so the Victorian government decided to give mothers their choice to end their unwanted/unplanned baby’s life with their legal consent. Also, the Victorian government decided to give the terminally ill their choice to end their life. Therefore, all Victorians are now only one step away from their choice to end their own life or that of their family members.

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