This week, we endured the passing of draconian abortion laws, the PM speaking first at the Women’s Safety Summit and yet more tears from those responsible.

 

 

I have lost count of the number of powerful people I have watched look earnestly down a camera to defend Australia’s off-shore detention regime because it “stops people drowning at sea”. I have yet to see anyone actually shed tears, but I would not put it past them. The real reason people support stopping the boats, particularly people that are in power, is because it is politically popular. Fear of the ’other’, the stranger, the immigrant, and those ‘not like us’ is a common human failing. However, surely those in power should leverage the better angels of our nature, not pander to our worst?

Watching so-called right-to-lifers justifying the latest draconian abortion laws in Texas, reminded me of the stop-the-boaters. Right-to-lifers display the same pious handwringing over the fate of the unborn as the stop-the-boaters do over the fate of those who may drown at sea. At best, they are motivated by the same paternalistic instinct to save others from themselves. If the right-to-lifers really cared about terminating the lives of the unborn, or the harm they claim abortion does to mothers (a safe termination, at any stage of pregnancy, is far less medically risky than pregnancy and childbirth), they would be actively promoting sex education, free contraception and, maybe, even reversible vasectomies. But they don’t. 

Moreover, many only seem to care about the sanctity of life when it comes to women terminating a pregnancy. Those who decry abortion are often the same people who support the right to bear arms, the death penalty and the right to refuse to wear a mask during the COVID pandemic. It seems they are not about the right to life at all; they are more accurately described as forced-birthers, but that doesn’t sound as nice.

 

If the PM really cared about women’s safety, he would never have dealt with serious allegations about some of his own Ministers and MPs as someone else’s problem. He would never have greeted the women’s march for justice by saying that the marchers were lucky not to have been “met by bullets”. He would never have spoken about Christine Holgate the way he did, or bullied Julia Banks in the way she claims. 

 

What forced-birthers seem to really fear is women having control over their own bodies and lives. They appear to disapprove of women being able to enjoy sex without consequences. Imagine regarding a baby as a consequence, a punishment! The fear and hatred of sex that often translates into fear and hatred of women is on full, shrieking display among those who oppose abortion. The right-to-lifers I respect are the women who say that while they would never choose abortion themselves, often for religious reasons, they would never impose their beliefs onto other women. That is a principled stand. 

The Republican legislators who wave the Bible about (remember when then-President Donald Trump brandished one upside down?) and get all misty-eyed about the unborn, have grabbed this issue because it gives a thin veil of decency – who can object to protecting babies – to their otherwise brutal, misogynistic agendas. Prior to the 1980s, Republicans rarely mentioned abortion at all. 

Which brings me, finally, to this week’s Women’s Safety Summit. Organised by our Federal government to ‘listen’ to women and come up with ways to keep them safe. Look, I am sure some of the people behind the summit are well-intentioned and I sincerely hope good comes out of it, but… give me a break. 

 

 

We know why the PM is doing this, and it’s not because he has had an epiphany about women’s rights. If he cared about women’s safety – really cared, not just as one of many ‘nice to haves’ – he would never have treated the Brittany Higgins allegations the way he did, he would never have had to ask his wife how to feel about them, or have been silly enough to admit that publicly. He would never have dealt with serious allegations about some of his own Ministers and MPs as being someone else’s problem. He would never have greeted the women’s march for justice by saying that the marchers were lucky not to have been “met by bullets”. He would never have spoken about Christine Holgate the way he did, or bullied Julia Banks in the way she claims

This is not a government with a sterling track record when it comes to caring about women and their safety. I suspect what Scott Morrison really cares about is women’s votes as he sees an election looming ahead. 

One of the reasons faith in our governments is at an all-time low is because our politicians – or too many of them, anyway – have forgotten why they are in power. They are not elected to do whatever it takes to stay there. It is not to win some sort of game where the guy that can come up with the best rationalisation, no matter how dodgy, for any and all policies wins. 

The public see through the rationalisations, whether they agree with the policy itself or not. They understand that government is increasingly about plausible deniability and that’s why we do not trust our leaders. 

We can see that there are too many crocodiles in charge, no matter how often they wipe away their tears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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