Abortion and the Limits of the Personal Becoming Political

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This article offers a historical account of the changing politics of abortion in Australia in the late 1960s and early-mid 1970s. The article first focuses on women’s personal stories of seeking and having an abortion and what they make of these experiences. It considers how these were made political through the Women’s Liberation Movement, at the Royal Commission into Human Relationships and in the pages of the new women’s magazines of the early 1970s. It then considers changes in access to abortion services in the early 1970s and finds that the political weight and authority of women’s stories about their need for abortion were not so effective in this arena. The article avoids universalising claims about the effects of making the personal political and argues for attention to the particularities of the effects of this shift. It also observes that the medical profession and the public health system put significant limits on the newly public demands made by women in relation to abortion. It concludes that reshaping the relationship between the personal and political does not necessarily guarantee women’s reproductive rights when these are claimed through liberal discourse and subsumed to medical authority in the private market of healthcare.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-146
Number of pages18
JournalAustralian Feminist Studies
Issue number95
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2018


  • abortion
  • women
  • gendered issue
  • Australia
  • personal/political


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