The New South Wales Parliament
A question for New South Wales MPs. Does the name Jaya Taki ring a bell? No? Pity about that, because her name ought to have marquee billing in tomorrow’s abortion debate.
Jaya Taki is the jilted girlfriend of former Wests Tigers player Tim Simona. When she fell pregnant he was furious. “I want to save for a house and excel in my career and having a baby would ruin that for me,” he told her.
Jaya revealed to Nine News in 2017 that her partner put intense pressure on her to have an abortion. “He would ignore me for days on end if I said I wanted to discuss the option of keeping it, and would only ever talk to me if I gave in and gave him dates for an abortion.” In the end she gave up and had the abortion.
“Can you imagine how I felt knowing keeping the baby would 'ruin his career'?”, she said. “So what 'choice' was I left with?”
Sordid stories like these don’t often surface in the media. But they happen all the time. Women are pressured into having abortions they don’t want by boyfriends and families.
And what protection will the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 give them?
None at all. Nothing in this bill is designed to shield women from coercion and subtle forms of domestic violence. If abortion before 22 weeks is permitted for any reason, it will be easier for an abusive partner to pressure a woman into aborting a wanted child. And it will be far, far easier for them if she uses an abortion drug.
Why does the Bill ignore women like Jaya?
Perhaps because its author, Alex Greenwich, the Independent MP for Sydney, is male and gay. He can’t be expected to understand the pressures that women experience. I’m male, too, and I don’t have that sort of insight either.
A robust and thoughtful debate is needed to air the views of all women, not just pro-choice activists. Even if you agree with a woman’s right to choose, even if you believe abortion is necessary, not all abortions are going to be completely voluntary. Ask Jaya Taki.
And that’s not the only issue which requires input from women and from experts so that MPs will be properly informed.
How about aborting girls? If this bill is passed, it will be possible to abort a female foetus simply because it is female. When the Chinese do this, it’s called gendercide and it is reviled around the world. In NSW it will be perfectly legal.
How about aborting foetuses with cleft-palates? With Down syndrome? With six fingers? If this bill is passed, it will be possible to abort children simply because doctors have detected a relatively minor birth defect. The government has a duty of care to protect the vulnerable. This bill is blind to this responsibility.
How about aborting twins? There’s nothing in the bill to stop unscrupulous doctors from carrying out “foetal reductions” – aborting one or more siblings in a multiple pregnancy, simply because they are unwanted surplus.
This bill was drafted in a windowless room, far from the messy, conflicted, chaotic lives of real people. It treats abortion as a black-and-white issue in which women give their informed consent after calm and detached deliberation. But this is a male fantasy. Just ask Jaya Taki.
Even if abortion is a right, surely there are some limits. Even China, where abortion is practically unrestricted, has banned sex-selective abortions.
The Premier has set aside Tuesday for a debate on the abortion bill. This is probably the most controversial issue that the 56th Parliament of NSW will ever deal with. And a bare few hours have been set aside to decide it. There has been no properly constituted inquiry to give the women of NSW a voice. Tuesday’s debate will be a theatre of the absurd, with MPs spouting clichés and stale press releases.
Ms Berejiklian says that “What is important to me is for every colleague to have the opportunity … to express their views frankly and honestly.”
Honestly, this is a joke. NSW MPs have been given more time to mull over the Plastic Shopping Bags (Prohibition on Supply by Retailers) Bill.
Well-meaning MPs can differ on abortion. But if they differ on the need for informed debate, I question whether one side is really well-meaning. There is no urgency about this bill; women can still get abortions if they want them. MPs need more time to consult their constituents and their colleagues on the most controversial issue they will face in the next four years.
But if the Premier and Opposition Leader Jodi McKay do insist on ramrodding through the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill, I suggest that they rename it “Jaya’s Bill”. Let’s see if they can do that without blushing.
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet