Margaret Sparrow

Abortion Then and Now

ISBN: 9780864736321

When women publicly acknowledge they have had an abortion it makes other women realise abortion need not be a shameful secret, associated with feelings of guilt. At the heart of this groundbreaking book are personal stories from women who have had abortions. Their experiences – which encompass suffering and resilience, isolation and community – are deeply moving, and vividly convey forty years of change. These stories are supplemented with others from the police, doctors, and some of the pro-choice activists and advocates who worked to bring about much-needed change.

In the 40s deaths from septic abortions were an ever-present fear. In the conservative 50s deaths from sepsis were less common but there was a network of clandestine abortionists in every community. The 60s brought the contraceptive pill, feminism, and towards the end of the decade, safer abortions in Australia. The 70s saw abortion catapulted into the public domain, with protest and debate culminating in significant law reform in 1977, after which the medical profession finally took responsibility for the introduction of safe abortion services. Since 1978 women seeking abortion may still have had personal difficulties, but the legal situation has been indubitably better for patients, doctors and police.

After more than 30 years it is time to review the present system and the need for legislative change. The wealth of information and insight provided by this book is an important first step.

Dame Margaret Sparrow has had a long career in general and reproductive health. She has worked as Child Health Medical Officer in New Plymouth 1965-1969, in general practice at Victoria University Student Health 1969-1981, as visiting Venereologist at Wellington Hospital 1977-1999, at the Parkview Abortion Clinic 1980-1998, and with Wellington Family Planning from 1971 until her retirement in 2005. Born in Inglewood in 1935, she was educated at Waitara District and New Plymouth Girls’ High Schools and Victoria, Otago and London Universities. She has an honorary doctorate from Victoria University of Wellington, and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG), and an Honorary Vice-President of Family Planning. She is President of the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand and a Director of Istar Ltd, a not-for-profit company that imports the abortion pill. In 1987 she was awarded an MBE, in 1993 she received the New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal and in 2002 she was awarded the DCNZM for services to medicine and the community.

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