Feminism on the frontier: The history of abortion law reform in 1973 in the Northern Territory, Australia

Barbara Baird, Suzanne Belton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In 1973, the Northern Territory (NT) criminal law relating to abortion was reformed. The NT was one of only two Australian jurisdictions where the 1970s liberalisation of abortion was enabled by legislative reform. Unlike the 1969 South Australian reform, the NT bill was sponsored by a female, and feminist, parliamentarian, Dawn Lawrie, assisted by a small group of supporters. This article recovers the narrative of this pioneering reform achieved in a place dominated by white men. It argues that this achievement was enabled by the NT’s individualistic culture, its history of white women’s activism and the mood for progressive change in 1970s Australia. It contextualises the reform by keeping the position of Indigenous women, including the public opposition of some to abortion reform, clearly in view, thus keeping race at the centre of the analysis of liberal feminist reforms and of white feminism in the NT in the early 1970s.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-158
Number of pages20
JournalWomen's History Review
Volume28
Issue number1
Early online date24 Apr 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2019

Keywords

  • criminal law
  • Northern Territory
  • abortion
  • liberalisation
  • gender politics

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