: Girlie Grizzles Her Way Into 2014

Girlie Grizzles Her Way Into 2014

Jen Derr and Ben Derr

A new year yet women’s reproductive rights are still under threat in many countries. Abortion remains a political football being kicked around by conservative forces determined to ensure women remain subordinate. In Texas extremely restrictive anti abortion laws were passed in 2013 and subsequent research indicates some 22 000 women would miss out on services because of the closure of clinics and reduction of services.

Closer to home a ginger group of conservative politicians in Victoria is seeking to overturn abortion law reforms. They are supporting a group of doctors, who call themselves Doctors Conscience, and want section 8 of the Abortion Law Reform Act abolished. The section says that if a doctor has a conscientious objection to abortion they must tell the patient and refer them to another doctor who has no such objection. Results of a News Poll published in The Age on 29 January 2014 indicate a clear majority of Victorians do not want the Act changed and they support a woman’s right to choose.

Zoe’s Law: A different take

Well worth a read is Daniella Miletic’s article in The Sunday Age (19 January 2014) titled, ‘Zoe’s Legacy’. She features Hannah Robert who was eight months pregnant when she was in a car accident in which her foetus died. She has a different take on Zoe’s Law fearing that, if a foetus is legally defined as a person, the mother’s consent for any resulting legal action would be irrelevant. Robert, a legal academic at La Trobe University, warns, ‘while Zoe’s Law is drafted to create exceptions for anything done to the foetus by the mother with her consent or by a medical practitioner … human rights claims will still be brought up on behalf of the foetus.’ ‘If you look at other jurisdictions where foetal personhood laws have been introduced, such as Texas, Utah or Poland, what you see is that they not only help undermine the availability of safe abortion, but they also contribute to additional criminal charges for pregnant women.’ Melanie Fernandez, Chair of Women’s Electoral Lobby is quoted as saying, ‘A woman’s right to make decisions about her body is a fundamental tenet of her human rights. Granting a foetus rights that could impinge on the mother’s is hugely problematic.’

Meanwhile ‘Deep in the Heart of Texas’

Marlise Munoz, a paramedic, was 33 years old and 14 weeks pregnant when she suffered a fatal blood clot in her lung. Despite the objections of her husband and family, and her own previously expressed wishes, doctors at John Peter Smith Hospital, Fort Worth Texas, refused to turn off the ventilator. Marlise was dead, legally and clinically and her mother has said, ‘It’s about a matter of our daughter’s wishes not being honoured by the state of Texas’. Her father has said, ‘That poor foetus had the same lack of oxygen, the same electric shocks, that got her heart going again. For all we know it is the same condition that Marlise is in. All we want is to let her rest, to let her go to sleep. What they are … serves no purpose.’ In late January 2014, a Texas District Court finally ordered the JPS Health Network to turn off the ventilator and return the body to the family. The Network said, in defence of its actions, that they had ‘a commitment to the life and health of unborn children’.

And then in Saudi Arabia

In 2013 four Saudi Arabian women were given permission to gain licences to practice some forms of legal practice. They have now opened the first Saudi all-women law firm. Bayan Mahmoud Al-Zahran, the first Saudi woman lawyer to launch a female law firm in Jeddah, has told Arab News her law firm is ready to fight for the rights of Saudi women and relate women’s cases to the court, a task which her male counterparts at times cannot understand or handle.

‘I believe women lawyers can contribute a lot to the legal system. This law firm will make a difference in the history of court cases and female disputes in the Kingdom. I am very hopeful and thank everyone who supported me in taking this historical step’,
Al-Zahran said. Let’s hope these courageous women are supported by women lawyers from all over the globe.

Stick ’Em Up Girlie

The Australian Institute of Criminology’s National Armed Robbery Monitoring Program Report for 2009–10 reveals that women armed robbers are on the rise. While there was an overall decrease in the total number of armed robberies, the number of women armed robbers has risen to 10 per cent. They choose ‘softer’ targets, like other women and public transport users, and grab far-smaller hauls than their male counterparts.

JEN DERR and BEN DERR are feminist lawyers.

(2013) 39(1) AltLJ 57
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