The Guardian August 22, 2001


Editorial:

Government's IVF outrage

Already disadvantaged by low wages and now the extra costs imposed by 
the GST, women have suffered severely under the Howard Government's 
austerity program with cuts to family support payments, legal aid funding, 
housing funding, child care funding and general reductions in welfare 
payments across the board.

The Government's Christian fundamentalist values are also ammunition aimed 
specifically at women and their right to have control over their own 
bodies.

Banning access to the abortion drug RU486 was an early signal. There 
followed the attempt to amend the Sex Discrimination Act to prevent single 
women accessing IVF (invitro fertilisation) fertility programs.

The proposed amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act have been blocked by 
the Senate, but the Government intends getting around this parliamentary 
hiccup. Last week the Attorney-General Daryl Williams issued a fiat which 
decreed that the Catholic Church can appeal against Federal Court rulings 
on access to IVF.

In July last year the Federal Court ruled that Leesa Meldrum had been 
unfairly denied access to IVF as a clinic had denied treatment because she 
was not married or living in a de facto relationship. The government then 
introduced its legislation to prevent single and lesbian women from having 
access to IVF programs. 

The Women's Electoral Lobby announced it intended to oppose the right of 
the church to be involved in the case, and thus prevent an appeal in the 
High Court against the Federal Court's Meldrum decision. The Attorney-
General's decree has now allowed the Catholic Bishop's Conference and the 
Australian Episcopal Conference of the Roman Catholic Church to be parties 
to this case or any other on IVF, regardless of whether or not the High 
Court believes they have enough direct interest in the case to appear 
before it.

The Women's Electoral Lobby rightly noted that this development has raised 
questions over the separation of church and state and that the Government 
has made a political decision that effectively usurps the power of the High 
Court.

This blatant piece of manipulation and opportunism is an outrageous act 
against women in particular and democratic rights in general. It should set 
alarm bells ringing as a demonstration of how far this government is 
willing to go in pursuit of its reactionary goals.

As Julie Messenger warned in this newspaper one year ago (August 30, 2000), 
"There is no law against single and lesbian women having children, so why 
should these women be denied access to public resources in pursuit of their 
desire to become parents? To allow social planners to implement policies 
which punish women for not entering into monogamous, heterosexual 
relationships, is to allow capitalism and patriarchy to control and set the 
social agenda."

* * *
Territorians dump CLP In a historic poll the people of the Northern Territory have dumped the Country Liberal Party (CLP). A reactionary machine rotten with corruption and nepotism, the CLP remained entrenched in government for 26 years. As The Guardian went to press there had been a nine per cent swing in the primary vote away from the CLP. Labor had won 12 seats out of the 25, with the seat of Milner in Darwin also likely to go to Labor, although that result will not be known until later this week. The number of independents has doubled, from one to two Gerry Wood , an egg farmer who says he will not support the CLP, and Loraine Braham, a disaffected former CLP member. Territorians were angered that the CLP refused to put One Nation last on their preference list, and many people were alarmed at proposed CLP legislation which would have severely cut workers' compensation rights. The vote was also a rejection of the NT's mandatory sentencing laws. Good riddance to the CLP, but Labor is no less committed to big business, to the demands of the transnational mining companies and big pastoralists. They remained silent on Indigenous rights throughout the election campaign. Furthermore, its promise to repeal mandatory sentencing laws is a double edged sword as Labor intends to replace them with its own watered down version which will have the intent of putting offenders in jail unless there are "exceptional extenuating circumstances".
Back to index page