I Am Woman

The International Women’s Day march in Sydney in 1975 at the height of second-wave feminism in Australia. Photo: Anne Roberts/State Library of NSW/Search Foundation.

From ScoMo’s mishandling of the Christian Porter affair, to the Taliban re-taking Afghanistan and NSW suddenly having an anti-abortion Premier, the fight for women’s rights is far from over, opines Sunny Grace.

It is fifty years since Helen Reddy wrote her hit song, ‘I Am Woman’ – 1971, the year I was born. And yet women’s rights are taking a backward step yet again right around the globe. 

‘I am woman, hear me roar,’ sang Helen. 

Now I feel like it could be, ‘I am woman, and I am hoarse from roaring. And still, we are not heard.’

From abortion rights being taken away in Texas to the Taliban in Afghanistan to our very own Prime Minister and his handling of the Christian Porter affair. Some days it feels so overwhelming I just want to hide under my covers and make it all go away. Especially when you have been alive long enough to remember the fight for many of these rights in the first place. 

To have abortion rights taken away for women in Texas in such an overt and frightening way is almost impossible to contemplate. Driving a woman to an abortion clinic could result in the driver being fined $10,000. There has been much written about this situation in other publications, but I thought it time to share my story.   

I had an abortion at nineteen-years-old. It is the same age my mum was when she gave birth to me. She had married my dad a year beforehand and was happy to find out she was pregnant. Even though four years later she would find herself raising me on her own.  

“When I told my boyfriend I was pregnant, his first comment was, “When are you having an abortion?” And it wasn’t a question. No discussion at all.”

– Sunny Grace

My boyfriend and I had been together for a year and had just moved from Adelaide to Melbourne to go to university when I discovered I was pregnant. I went to Family Planning on my own and was talked through the options. Luckily, I had a choice, and my gut was telling me to have the abortion. Having been brought up during the seventies and second-wave feminism I knew the fight women had to win those rights. It didn’t make the decision easy, though. 

When I told my boyfriend I was pregnant, his first comment was, ‘When are you having an abortion?’ And it wasn’t a question. No discussion at all. That was enough for me to realise he wasn’t going to support me and cemented my decision to terminate my pregnancy. My choice. My body. My life. Still, I had to get approval from a doctor based on it being detrimental to me for economic and mental health reasons to have the baby. Abortion was still considered a criminal act until 2008 in Victoria. It was 2019 in NSW and 2021 in South Australia. Yep! 2021.

On the day of the procedure the boyfriend dropped me off and went to uni, leaving me to it. (Ours wasn’t a very healthy relationship but that is another story.) I had to pass the pro-lifers protesting outside the clinic telling me I was murdering my innocent child. Once inside, everyone but me had a support person. But I was strong and independent, and I put on my brave face. The rest of the experience is a blur, from the anaesthetic to waking up in the recovery room. Once I was given the all-clear, I caught a taxi home. The taxi driver seemed reluctant to pick me up when he realised where I’d been. He kept looking at me in the rear-view mirror. I felt awash with judgement and guilt. If we were in Texas, he would have driven off without me.  

Back then abortion was still seen as shameful. Even now I think it is still hush hush. I told my mum and some close girlfriends but no one else. Keeping it to myself and being strong took its toll and I found myself suffering my first bout of depression two years later. The university counsellor and I discovered I had shut the abortion out. I needed time to heal from the trauma of the experience. Whilst I don’t regret it, there needs to be more support for women going through an abortion.  

This is the first time I have written about the experience. Some of my relatives might read this article having no idea.  I hope they understand why I made the decision, even though it is my body and my right to decide what is best. I cannot imagine what the women in Texas feel now. 

“First World countries will fight against terrorism but not for the rights of women. Women are still collateral damage in war.” 

– Sunny Grace

Let alone Afghanistan, where women are losing the rights they have fought so hard to gain over the past twenty years. And yet the rest of the world has turned their backs on them. First World countries will fight against terrorism but not for the rights of women. Women are still collateral damage in war. Women will bear the cost of these decisions. With their hopes, dreams and lives. 

In our very own backyard, we have a Prime Minister who was more upset about Christian Porter’s acceptance of anonymous donations for his legal costs than allegations of rape. Don’t get me started on the recent Women’s Safety Summit. 

Followed by details of the Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa murders as London police advise women to be wary of lone police officers. Once again: women be wary, not men, don’t rape and kill women.  

And just like that Dominic Perrottet, a right-wing Catholic who voted against the decriminalisation of abortion in NSW, is now Premier. 

Therefore, I have no choice but to write. It is through sharing our stories we find the strength to fight on. I am strong but I am tired. I am not invincible. But I am woman. And I will roar again. Through the might of the pen. 

Sunny Grace is a Sydney writer, producer and director. Her website is located at sunnygrace.com.au.