Jaya Taki shed tears as she described to Members of the NSW Parliament what it was like to be pressured into aborting her unborn child.
At the centre of one of the recent NRL scandals to hit the media, Ms Taki was allegedly pressured into abortion by her former boyfriend – a high profile NRL footballer.
She addressed MPs and members of the public on 3 May at Parliament House, as part of an expert panel discussing proposed changes to state abortion laws, put forward by Greens MLC Mehreen Faruqi in The Abortion Law Reform (Miscellaneous Acts Amendment) Bill 2016.
Many in the room were moved to tears as they listened to the young woman’s powerful and emotional testimony.
“I was coerced into an abortion. I’d like to say forced,” Ms Taki said. “My partner didn’t want to take responsibility and I was told things like, ‘I’ll hate you and I’ll hate this baby’.”
She described the “counselling” session at the abortion clinic as brief and business-like. “I remember thinking, please ask me more questions. Please ask me if this is my choice.”
“I was hoping she’d say ‘this woman cannot have an abortion’. Instead she gave me an envelope and said, ‘Make sure you put your money in there and keep that because that’s your code for the Medicare Rebate. You’ll want that, it’s about $31’.”
Following the abortion Ms Taki suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which she said was not mentioned to her as a possible side-effect, and she has attempted suicide twice.
“No one told me about the jail term I now face for the rest of my life called regret. When do I stop beating myself up for a decision that was so final?”
As well as an abortion, Ms Taki has suffered a miscarriage. She is also the mother of a six year-old daughter. “I can tell you that there is only one thing that has liberated me as a woman, and that is being a mother,” she said.
Ms Taki said the Faruqi Bill, which was due to be debated in the Upper House on 11 May, would “further validate men … who do not value women and their children”.
Grass roots campaign Abortion Rethink organised the expert panel at Parliament House to address community concerns about the Faruqi Bill which seeks to remove all legal restrictions on abortion.
The changes proposed by the bill would see abortion allowed right up until birth—even for perfectly healthy babies—for any reason whatsoever, and would permit abortions to be performed by anyone, whether qualified or not. There are no provisions within the bill to safeguard women’s health and ensure there is informed consent.
The bill also calls for doctors with conscientious objections to abortion to be required by law to refer women to medical practitioners who are willing to perform abortions.
If enacted, the proposed legislation would also mean exclusion zones of 150 metres would be enforced around abortion clinics, prohibiting any form of protest, including prayer vigils or offering support to pregnant women.
Emma Morris also addressed MPs about her experience of abortion. She said that under current law in NSW, “It’s so easy to get an abortion. It’s easier to get an abortion than to get a credit card.”
“It’s just a phone call. They get you in, you get a quick sales pitch.” Ms Morris who has had multiple abortions said, “I’ve also been coerced with phone calls every night. I’ve been told ‘If you don’t get rid of this baby I will take you there, drag you down and tie you down while they get rid of it’.”
“I so desperately don’t want this bill to be passed,” she said. “I’d love to see abortion completely abolished and instead all the money put into the community to help all the women desperately in need of help.”
Ms Morris urged MPs to resist the push for open-slather abortion and to put an end to it, just as William Wilberforce ended slavery in his time. “I’d also like to think I can be a voice for the voiceless,” she said. “All those millions of babies who have been killed and if this billed is passed, the millions more to come.”
As well as post-abortive women, the expert panel consisted of an impressive line-up of predominantly female legal, medical, counselling and support experts.
Rachael Wong from Women’s Forum Australia said the Faruqi Bill contains “a radical departure from current law with profound implications for women and the community.”
Barrister and Family Law Specialist, Claire Cantrall, said the Bill is “out of step with the current best practice guidelines from the Medical Board of Australia and the Australian Medical Association” and if past, “the Crimes Act would effectively be entirely silent on abortion”.
General Practitioners, Dr Anne Gilroy, said for many medical practitioners, the idea that they perform abortions or refer for abortions is “anathema to them”. She said there is already a bias in the medical profession against doctors who have a conscientious objection to abortion and that “this bill would make it so much worse.”
Silma Ihram, President of the Australian Muslim Women’s Association said that in migrant communities young women are often pressured to abort due to notions of family honour and shame.
She said women in Australia suffer from a lot of pressures and stressed the “need to protect the welfare of women and their unborn children”.
CEO and founder of Diamond Pregnancy Support, Jennifer Gurry said she often sees pregnant women at her centre who are “petrified of being coerced into another abortion”.
While Linda Smyth, Executive Director of pregnancy support centre, Sara’s Place, questioned the impact that the proposed exclusion zones would have on her centre which is just over the road from an abortion clinic. “Will the location be a problem?” she asked. “How will it be policed? Why should abortion clinics be the only facilities that have such special provisions?”
Catherine Toomey who is a specialist consultant to crisis pregnancy support agencies, encouraged all those present at the forum to pursue together “how we can truly support women and our community better, providing true choice, real care and real support.”
To date Abortion Rethink—which is an apolitical and non-religious forum founded by young professional women—has counted 56,559 signatures on their petition opposing the proposed changes to abortion law in NSW.
Rebecca Gosper from Youth for Life said the campaign has been led by young people and that “This speaks about what young women truly do want for women.”
The group is planning a national forum to explore real reform of abortion and the case for care.