WEL is very disturbed by Senator Cory Bernardi’s motion in the Australian Senate on Thursday 16th November which criticised White Ribbon Australia for supporting women’s right to access abortion as one of many options for preventing reproductive coercion. Senator Bernardi’s motion targeted womens' right and capacity to make their own decisions when it comes to their health and wellbeing, including whether and when to have children. That it did so in the context of women’s experiences of violence is particularly distressing.

WEL is especially disappointed that Michaelia Cash, the Minister for Women, supported Senator Bernardi’s motion. We find this hard to reconcile with her position of advocacy on behalf of the overwhelming majority of Australian women who support legal and safe abortion and with her carriage of the National Plan to Prevent Violence against Women.

The Women’s Electoral Lobby, like White Ribbon, recognises the link between woman’s reproductive rights and eliminating violence against women. Reproductive coercion from a partner is a form of violent abuse which attacks a woman’s right and capacity to make her own soundly based decisions regarding her reproductive health, contraception and pregnancy.  It can involve pressuring a women to become pregnant as proof of fidelity, sabotaging access to contraception and pressuring a woman to continue or end a pregnancy.

Combatting violence against women and decriminalising abortion are amongst WEL’s top priorities. We stand with White Ribbon in affirming expert research that shows that legal, safe, affordable and accessible contraception and abortion, together with professional support services, are essential to countering and preventing violence and strengthening women’s autonomy.

White Ribbon Statement 17 February

White Ribbon Statement 10 November