'A Woman's Right to Choose': Second Wave Feminist Advocacy of Abortion Law Reform in New Zealand and New South Wales from the 1970s
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis interrogates the abortion debate in New Zealand and New South Wales over the period 1970 to the present from a feminist perspective. The arguments of this thesis are five fold. First, it argues that abortion was the central issue for second wave feminists in the 1970s because they believed that until women had complete control over their bodies any other gains made by the movement would be of little significance. Second, feminists who did not support abortion law reform left the mainstream movement and set up their own groups because that movement was not prepared to tolerate a diversity of opinions on the abortion issue. Third, not only was abortion a central issue for feminists; it became a central issue for parliament, illustrated by the establishment of royal commissions in both New Zealand and Australia to investigate abortion among a number of other issues. Fourth, from the 1970s New Zealand women travelled to Australia for abortions. After the 1977 restrictive law change this travel was made possible by women's groups in both New Zealand and New South Wales working together to help New Zealand women. Until now this trans-Tasman relationship has been invisible in the literature. Fifth, in the 1980s and 1990s, when there was a backlash against the women's movement, abortion was targeted by many groups because they too saw it as central to women's liberation. Despite the funding and active support of anti-abortionists in New Zealand and New South Wales, they were not able to restrict access to abortion. In short, this thesis addresses how feminists supported, or in some cases opposed, women's access to abortion during the 1970s and the challenges they faced in the 1980s and 1990s.