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“We won’t go back”: Thousands in Melbourne Protest in solidarity against overturned Roe v Wade

Thousands of people took to the streets of Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday, protesting in solidarity against the overturning of the landmark Roe v Wade ruling by the US Supreme Court.

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Content warning: abortion, institutional abuse, swearing.

 

Thousands of people took to the streets of Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday, protesting in solidarity against the overturning of the landmark Roe v Wade ruling by the US Supreme Court. 

Protestors gathered outside the State Library and marched to re-assert their own abortion rights under Australia’s health system and their solidarity with pro-choice supporters in the US. 

Since 1973, Roe v Wade provided constitutional protection for a woman’s right to abortion. Its reversal means the legality of abortion in the US now depends on individual state legislation. 

Whilst abortion has been decriminalised in Victoria since 2008, protestors argue that the rescindment of Roe v Wade has shown to Australians how quickly these ‘given’ rights can be taken away. 

“I think people understand that what’s happening in the US can have ramifications here, so they know we have to fight back here as well,” said Victorian Socialists Assistant Secretary and rally organiser, Liz Walsh.

Currently, abortion services for those pregnant beyond 12 weeks are limited, and the cost of a surgical abortion in metropolitan Melbourne can cost up to $500. Those living in regional or remote areas, and those without Medicare, are even more disadvantaged by these barriers. 

“Decriminalisation is not unimportant… It does give us a certain amount of protection, but we need to go much further than that,” Walsh continued.

Walsh argues for the need of abortion services in Australia to be free, bulk-billed, and expanded to more public hospitals.

The impact of stigma surrounding abortion was another focal point of Saturday's protest.

Chants such as “fuck the church, fuck the state” expressed the indignation felt by protesters at the influence of politics and religion upon abortion rights, and lack of control over their bodies.

One protester, 27-year-old Stephanie Partridge, revealed the impact external authorities and cultural stigma had on her abortion:

“I went to catholic schools, and the abortion that I had when I was 19 was filled with so much grief, and none of that grief was mine, it was given to me by the Catholic Church...”

She went on to stress the need for abortion rights of younger generations be protected.

“Our grandma's generation were out here, fighting for our right to have bodily autonomy... And I will continue to fight for my little sister…,” Partridge added.

“To not only have the right to choose, but for [abortion] to be really accessible.”

As organisers plan to hold a second protest this coming Saturday, the overarching message is one of persistence and defiance.

“Our rights in the future could be trashed,” added Walsh.

“So we have to be vigilant... We can't be complacent about our rights.”

 
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