: Girlie races into the new legal 
year with a hop, step and jump

Girlie races into the new legal 
year with a hop, step and jump

Fanny First

Abortion inaction

Roe v Wade, the famous United States Supreme Court decision on abortion, is now 40 years old. But what a messy 40 years it has been for women. Many US States NOW have the most repressive anti-abortion laws in their history.  Miriam Claire published The Abortion Dilemma: Personal Views on a Public Issue in 1995, and a 2013 updated version notes that in some US states ‘abortion is now not an option … because threats and legal penalties against doctors who perform abortions have made the business of providing safe, legal abortions to women unsafe for medical practitioners and their support staff.’ (See also Miriam Claire, ‘A Woman’s Right to Choose Still a Public Battlefield’, The Age, 22 January 2013.)

In response to Miriam Claire’s Opinion piece in The Age, Michelle Goldsmith (Letters to the Editor, 23 January 2013) highlights the paucity of abortion services for rural women. She writes that the closure of Bendigo Health’s Choices Women’s Reproductive Health Clinic just over a year ago, meant ‘there has been no abortion service apparently due in part to the conscientious objections of local obstetricians.’ She also writes, ‘Disturbingly the forced closure of a safe, convenient and comprehensive women’s reproductive health service is applauded by a vociferous section of our community which implacably rejects the fact that “abortion is a human rights and public health issue”, let alone a fundamental women’s rights issue’.

Unfortunately metropolitan women in Australia are also being denied abortions especially for those where the gestation is over 
16 weeks.  The Royal Women’s Hospital is not providing this service ostensibly because they have no doctors trained to perform ‘late’ abortions.  It is an irony that, two years after the passing of the Abortion Law Reform Act removing criminal sanctions, women are finding it harder than ever to get these much needed services.

There goes the judge

Some judicial officers still don’t get it. In Indonesia Judge Muhammad Daming Sanusi caused international outrage when he 
said victims enjoyed being raped.  The remarks were made during an interview to assess whether he was suitable to be promoted to Indonesia’s highest court. He later apologised and said it was a joke.  Indonesia’s Judicial Commission wasn’t laughing and recommended he be removed from his judicial position.

Too much information

The Courier-Mail and two other publications have been accused of breaching the Family Law Act by publishing photos of four young sisters whose mother had challenged orders to return them to their father in Italy. The Family Law Act prohibits publication of the identities of parties involved in Family Court proceedings. Australian Federal Police have prepared a brief of evidence for the Commonwealth Director of Prosecutions.

Judicial Media Tarts

Frances Gibb (The Times, 21 January 2013) reports that videos of United Kingdom Supreme Court judges delivering decisions will be uploaded on to YouTube.  She considers, ‘There’s no danger that they will go viral or match the billion-plus views of the Gangnam Style video by Psy, the K-Pop singer. But Britain’s 12 highest judges could still become minor celebrities, at least within legal circles, when they make their debut on YouTube…The videos, featuring the likes of Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury and Baroness Hale of Richmond, will bring the country’s most important legal rulings to a much wider audience and show the highest court in action.’

Suffer Little Children

Chronic under-funding of Children’s Courts and a lack of access to justice for children were highlighted by the media in January. In New South Wales the juvenile justice system needs to operate ‘outside the welfare system’ and many of the minors coming before the Children’s Court ‘needed better access to mental health services’ (Patricia Karvelas, The Australian, 16 January 2013). Karvelas writes, ‘The NSW study of the juvenile justice system, in the National Assessment of Australia’s Children’s Courts, also found one of the greatest challenges “is the inability of the system to navigate its vast geography to offer every young person the same access to specialist court officers, functions and programs”.’

Karvelas (The Australian, 9 January 2013) reports on the West Australian juvenile justice system which ‘is suffering “system-wide resource impoverishment” with magistrates and judges hearing an increasing number of trivial offences. Judges, magistrates and stakeholders say urgent reform of the state’s youth justice and protection regime is needed to address the over-representation of young Aborigines, their families and communities in the system.’

New Dean Joellen

The newly appointed Dean at Sydney Law School, Joellen Riley, wants her students to engage as deeply with the law as she did while studying at Oxford University in the mid 1990s. She praises the benefits of dialogue between student and teacher and wants to ensure engaged debate in classrooms. Face-to-face dialogue with teachers who are also world class researchers is, in the Dean’s opinion, crucial to a university education. Following a successful legal career specialising in labour law, Joellen succeeded Gillian Triggs as pro-dean at Sydney Law School following Triggs’ appointment as President, Human Rights Commission.

FANNY FIRST is a feminist lawyer.

(2013) 38(1) AltLJ 53
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