By Remy Marshall
Content warning for mentions of misogyny and sexual violence.
“Publius”, an anonymous third-year MLS student, published an article last night in De Minimis entitled ‘You Cannot Be Pro Choice and Pro Vaccine Mandate’. The title encapsulates its central claim; it contains simplifications of the vaccine mandate discussion and an exploitation of women’s issues to launch an unrelated, typical anti-vaxxer argument. Women are understandably angry at this article. I echo them and amplify their voices by officially responding to Publius. Here, I use “women” as shorthand for all those marginalised by the patriarchy. However, it must be noted that trans men and non-binary people also need their reproductive rights protected.
The article is based on the assumption that those advocating for abortion rights also advocate for vaccine mandates. The author never makes the crucial distinction between workplace-specific mandates and universal mandates. Though the article would have you believe that the left end of the political spectrum wants to mandate for Australia-wide vaccination, the current discourse actually focuses on mandating for workers who are public-facing, COVID-facing and have a high risk of spreading the disease. This setup is not unprecedented; healthcare workers already have to be up-to-date on their vaccinations to be employed.
This is a necessary distinction to make because it reveals that there remains a choice available to these workers. Either get the jab or lose your job. Admittedly, it is not a great choice to have to make. But anti-vaxxers that work in high-risk fields will have to make the choice nonetheless. Point being, even with mandates, nobody will come around and jab you in your sleep, and your freedom of choice remains intact.
This leads me to another key distinction that fails to be made — abortions are about personal autonomy and exist entirely in the private sphere, whereas COVID vaccinations exist inherently in the public sphere due to the public health implications and risk to the community that is posed. Abortions are an individual choice about your individual pregnancy. Apart from maybe the father of the child and the doctors, nobody else is involved or affected by the matter. On the contrary, vaccination rates are a team effort and everyone’s ‘individual’ decision regarding vaccination certainly affects the rest of us. This feels like such an obvious point to be making, yet it goes unmentioned in the article.
Over the years, I have developed a deep sense of sisterhood that is not contained to my friendship group, political allies or even my nation. This sisterhood manifests in the subtle eyebrow furrow directed at the girl held by a guy on the dance floor, and her subtle nod in response telling me she doesn’t need rescuing. It is evident in the familiar farewell of “text me when you get home”. It is seen in the eye contact between two girls that conveys solidarity when it is dark, and a man is lingering nearby. I am trying to communicate the connection that all women share; there is a common thread of hatred and violence and fear that ties us all together. It is a connection that keeps us united.
So, when women in Texas are suddenly deprived of any and all autonomy over their own bodies, we feel it here, too. You write that “the sky remains safely above our heads in Melbourne”. Unfortunately, there is only one sky and it is above all of our heads. I’m sure you will consider this “cringe” but it is true when people quote MLK: ‘a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’. Though I do not equate the experiences of women in Melbourne with the experiences of women in Texas or in Afghanistan, I am begging you to understand that this is all part of the global plight of women. They are not detached and distinct entities. We will not apologise for empathising with those abroad and advocating for their liberties. Their freedom is inextricably linked to our own freedom.
The sentiment in the article seems to suggest that abortion rights or womens rights are only topical in the United States and not within our own borders. Need I remind you that just this week the federal government refused to implement 49 of the 55 recommendations in the Respect@Work report? Does your attention need to be drawn to the rape allegations against our former attorney-general (note: our current Minister for Industry, Science and Technology)? Have you ever tried to access an abortion in Tasmania (spoiler alert: nearly impossible)? Did you know abortion was only entirely decriminalised in South Australia this year? To reiterate, America or Australia, these concerns are shared by all women everywhere.
To De Minimis: I am afraid that journalism is progressing and you are falling behind. Publishing edgy takes with misogynistic and racist undercurrents will not keep you relevant. It is a tired trope. I hope, for the sake of future cohorts at MLS, that you install integrity and constructiveness as pillars of your ethos in place of polemic and melodrama. You have an obligation to your readers to do better than this. Try your hand at publishing work you believe in and are proud of. Go on, I dare you.
To access abortions in Victoria:
- Contact your GP or local community health service
- Call the 1800 My Options phone line (Tel. 1800 696 784) for sexual and reproductive health information that aims to meet individual health needs
- Contact a women’s health organisation
- For trans men and non-binary folks in particular, visit Victorian Trans and Gender Diverse Community Health Services
To access COVID-19 vaccinations in Victoria: