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Category: Women (Page 2 of 10)

Alarmist Gatekeeping summary

The theory of Alarmist Gatekeeping, developed in the context of abortion discourse in Australia  for my doctoral degree is currently proving its worth in framing other ideological and controversial topics.  It describes a process within which exists a single acceptable perspective on  an issue, how this domination occurs and is perpetuated, and more importantly the very real and very negative consequences for society.

AG colour jpeg

 Alarmist Gatekeeping is a complexly interwoven process of recruitment of people to the 'cause',  silencing dissenters, and maintaining dominance through subsequent self-censorship.  The process developed over time with abortion discourse, however seems to be very effective much more quickly today on issues of gender ideology, domestic violence, climate change and others.

Recruitment entails ensuring an agreeable general cause, often accompanied by alarmist statements which are either greatly exaggerated or even fabricated.  In abortion discourse people are recruited on the basis of human rights or women's freedom and bodily autonomy.  Alarmist disinformation is used to discourage dissent.  "Do you want women to die because they can't get an abortion?"

Few people are prepared to say 'no' to the recruitment statements and many simply believe the alarmist disinformation, particularly when it is repeated so often across many different platforms.

The most significant effect of Alarmist Gatekeeping is the self-censorship it generates among the general population as well as those charged with the provision of information or education to stakeholders; in this research, practitioners interacting with women on the issue of abortion. Ideological awareness or positioning only changes the reason people self-censor, not the fact they almost invariably all do so.

Alarmist gatekeeping tightrope

A range of factors ensure easy recruitment of people:

  • ensuring public perception is that MOST people think and believe in the cause (we all want to belong)
  • discrediting of evidence that may threaten the cause (most people aren't really supportive of late term abortion for less than the most serious reasons and information that late term abortion occurs for non-serious reasons is often denied, even when evidence is provided)
  • discrediting of people who dissent
  • legislation that prevents dissent

My upcoming book describes the process of Alarmist Gatekeeping and provides examples of the process at work in Australian discourse raising important questions about how it is that we allow such domination to grow in such power and generate so much harm.   After twenty years of challenging abortion discourse, I thought I understood it. I had no idea how pervasive and powerful it is nor how much it was controlling all of us.

Perhaps once the majority are more aware of what is happening, there may be power in a collective dissent.  My hope is that this explanation of how the dominant discourse controls and manipulates not just the thinking of people but also their actions, that more might stop and think about what it is that is really true and what consequences they are prepared to sit by and watch.

NSW Abortion Legislation 2

Print and distribution copy HERE

This paper argues against the decriminalisation of abortion in New South Wales as currently being proposed.  Such moves are not only ideologically driven but are based on rampant disinformation which has no regard for the lived experiences of women impacted by abortion.   Within this paper I briefly address five specific issues based on my recently completed PhD research:

  • Disinformation regarding criminality of abortion
  • Community Attitudes
  • Conscientious Objection
  • Abortion ‘rights’
  • Adverse Impacts of Abortion

See  also my Briefing Paper on Abortion Coercion.

Disinformation regarding criminality of abortion

The proponents of this Bill, along with the dominant media would have the general public believing that every woman faces major hurdles to access abortion, and walks around under criminal threat thereafter.  This is simply not true.  The only criminal prosecutions to take place have been where a doctor has been completely incompetent which only demonstrates the need for such safeguards for women.

Most women not only have no trouble accessing abortion, but are completely unaware that it is not completely legal with the threshold for performing abortion set so low that women can access it for any reason at all without threat of legal repercussion.  Even a short perusal of commentary in social media demonstrates how easy it is to access abortion and how little impact the legal status has,

There are Marie Stopes clinics that advertise them on their website. Not illegal at all!’

‘It's technically illegal, but they are straight forward to get, no referral needed for private clinics.’

‘No they aren't. They are perfectly legal not sure where you got your information from.’

 ‘They are not illegal.’

 ‘You can walk into ANY clinic that performs this procedure with an appointment and have the procedure done.’

‘Yes, its "technically illegal" however, you do not need a referral, you will not be arrested, you will not be charged with a crime.’


While some still advocate that abortion decriminalisation helps women ‘feel’ better about abortion, or gives them greater access, neither of these assertions hold up to any scrutiny.  In fact, abortion advocates have lamented that perhaps they got it wrong in Victoria, with Leslie Cannold, former President of Reproductive Choice Australia, stating,

little has changed on the (abortion) service provision front’ she goes on to state that, ‘Indeed, it may be that criminal sanctions on abortion don’t cause abortion shaming and stigma.’[1]

Some researchers have even admitted that abortion access may have reduced since decriminalisation in Victoria, ‘Since abortion law reform, access to public services has shrunk. It’s not getting better.’[2]


Community Attitudes

This Bill proposes to allow pregnancy termination without reason up to 22 weeks, and then up until birth for what ultimately will be any reason as well, as evidenced by the Victorian post 20 week abortion figures, where for a decade more than half of all late term abortions have been undertaken for psychosocial reasons, not health reasons.

It is interesting that both the media and abortion advocacy organisations often perpetuate the myth that the majority of people support abortion on demand for women, based on research that does not ask detailed questions, or on the findings of research that misrepresent the actual data.  The Victorian Law Reform Commission[3] identified five studies as having the greatest reliability, yet not one of these studies demonstrated majority community support for abortion past the first trimester.  In fact, the most interesting aspect of at least one of these studies is the level of ambivalence and dissonance displayed when people were asked about ‘abortion rights’ and also provided context for abortion.   In response to one question, 60% of respondents claimed to support a woman’s right to abortion on demand, but 51% opposed abortion for financial or social reasons, increasing to 82% opposition abortion after 20 weeks for non-medical reasons.

When asked about professional sanctions as opposed to criminal sanctions for medical practitioners the same dissonance can also be seen.  In an article published in 2010[4], abortion providers investigated the attitudes of Australians about abortion itself and about whether doctors should suffer professional sanctions for doing abortions.   This article suggests that the general public is far more conservative about pregnancy termination when questioned about professional sanctions in specific circumstances than we are generally led to believe.

Whilst 61% believe that abortion should be legal in the first trimester, this figure reduces significantly to 12% for the second trimester and only 6% for the third trimester.   This is hardly a call from the public for abortion on demand.  In terms of professional sanctions for doctors for performing abortions, the same study reveals even less support for abortion in most social circumstances.   The percentage of people supporting a lack of sanctions against doctors is significantly higher when asked about abortion for serious health and life threatening situations.   But when asked about social circumstances, the numbers change dramatically.

42% of people believe a doctor should face professional sanctions for performing an abortion on a woman when she states that she cannot afford to raise the child, with 28% being uncertain.  45% of people believe a doctor should face professional sanctions for performing an abortion on a woman when she states that she does not wish to have a child at that time, with a further 23% being uncertain.  Given that these circumstances encompass the majority of reasons why women have abortions, even in later trimesters, it would appear that the majority of the general public actually do not support abortion on demand for any reason, at any gestation, despite the misleading claims of abortion proponents.


Conscientious Objection laws

To legally enforce a requirement for any person to act against their moral beliefs and conscience is in itself morally reprehensible.   It is also another example of abortion being place in an entirely different category to that of ‘any other medical procedure’ that a woman might request.   Doctors are not legally required to refer a woman for an elective plastic surgery she requests, nor are they required to refer to another doctor who they know would make such a referral.   A doctor may refuse such a request on conscience grounds, on understanding evidence of harm, or of recognising certain risk factors that may predispose a woman to negative outcomes.

A law that states that a doctor is unable to act in the best interests of their patients, based on what they understand the evidence to be and on what they know to be true about the health of their patient or even based on what they know or believe to be true about pregnancy termination ending the life of a human being, is an interference in medical care and personal ideology that cannot be tolerated.

What the law tells women when it forces doctors to refer, is that a doctor who may question abortion for any reason is a doctor who can’t be trusted with your interests or wellbeing.    The very strong message it sends to medical practitioners (even those who may in some or many circumstances support abortion) is that they may risk prosecution for even suggesting abortion may not be the best or most appropriate course of action for their patients.  At what point can a woman trust that anyone will properly assess her for risk factors, screen her for coercion, or care in any way for her real needs?  Such a law essentially puts her on a conveyor belt straight to an abortion clinic, where doctors who know nothing about her circumstances, her health history or her real needs, will perform their business, providing abortions.


Abortion ‘rights’

Pregnancy termination is not just a medical matter and in fact for 95% of women accessing termination, it is a social, economic or relational matter and nothing to do with their health or the health of the foetus or the exercising of freedom and autonomy.   Abortion for the 95% is the best of what seems like bad options when women are forced to choose between full participation in their communities, professional worlds, or educational institutions, and their right to be full participants in these spheres AND bear children.

The argument that women have an inherent right to total control and autonomy of their bodies is not true.   No human being has this inherent right.   We have laws to protect people from drinking too much, from taking certain drugs, from self-harming, even when there is no question about the fact that it is only that person’s body being impacted.  We legislate all sorts of activities, both personal and social (such as piercings, tattoos, sunbeds, smoking and alcohol) in order to keep individuals safe and free from harm, even when that activity will only harm themselves and even when restriction from that activity interferes with one’s bodily freedom and autonomy.  To argue that abortion is the last bastion of freedom for women is just another deception that holds the interests of an ideology above the real freedoms or interests of individuals.


Adverse impact of abortion

Today we have thousands of women living mostly in silence with adverse effects from abortion, some to such a degree that their lives are irrevocably negatively changed.  There is substantial evidence in the literature that up to 20% of women experience serious and long term psychological harm from abortion, much of which I addressed in my PhD research and excerpt below.

Much of the research related to negative outcomes for women following abortion has focussed on the measurable mental health effects, including anxiety, depression, suicide, PTSD, and increased use of alcohol and illicit drugs (Coleman, 2011; Curley & Johnston, 2013; Dingle, Alati, Clavarino, Namman & Williams, 2008; Ferguson, Horwood & Boden, 2009). There now exists a substantial body of international evidence that abortion can lead to measurable mental health or behavioural impairment for a number of women (Coleman, 2011; Curley & Johnston, 2013; Dingle, Alati, Clavarino, Namman & Williams, 2008; Ferguson, Horwood & Boden, 2009). There are some well-accepted risk factors for the development of mental health problems following abortion including the following:

  • Pressure or coercion to abortion (Broen, Moum, Bodtker & Ekeberg, 2005; Coleman, Coyle & Rue, 2010; Kero, Hogberg & Lalos, 2004; Taft & Watson, 2008)
  • Conflicted, unsupportive relationship with the father (Allanson, 2007; Broen, Moum, Bodtker & Ekeberg, 2005; Coyle, 2010; Lauzon, Roger-Achim, Achim & Boyer, 2000)
  • Ambivalence about the decision or high degree of decisional distress (Broen Moum, Bodtker & Ekeberg, 2006; Coleman & Nelson, 1998;)
  • Prior mental health problems (Steinberg & Finer, 2011; Sit, 2007; Warren, Harvey & Henderson, 2010; Yilmaz, Kanat-Pektas, Kilic & Gulerman, 2010)
  • Personal values conflict with abortion (Congleton & Calhoun, 1993; Kero, Hogberg & Lalos 2004
  • The young age of the woman (Gissler, Berg, Bouvier-Colle & Buekens, 2005; Gissler, Hemminki & Lonnqvist, 1996; Major, Cozzarelli, Sciacchitano, Cooper, Testa & Mueller, 2000; Niinimaki, Suhonen, Mentula, Hemminkin, Heikinheimo & Gissler, 2011; Pedersen, 2008)
  • Psychological investment in the pregnancy and belief in the humanity of the foetus (Fielding &Schaff, 2004; Hill, Patterson & Maloy, 1994; Mufel, Speckhard & Sivuha, 2002)
  • Low self-esteem, low self-efficacy, emotional immaturity or instability (Cozzarelli, 1993; Faure & Loxton, 2003; Major, Cozzarelli, Sciacchitano, Cooper, Testa & Mueller, 2000)

Less measurable emotions including sadness, grief, anger, shame, embarrassment and abandonment can all feel debilitating and have all been described by post-abortive women in social media and accounts from post-abortion counselling (Burke & Reardon, 2002; Prommanart & Phatharayuttawat, 2004; Kersting, Reutemann, Ohrmann, Baez, Klockenbusch, Lanczik,& Arolt, 2004).  The researcher’s experience in hearing the stories of post-abortive women is that they often feel very isolated in their experiences, as the Dominant Discourse does not reflect or normalise negative experiences. Negative emotional experiences are often censored and dismissed as being irrelevant, fabricated, purely the result of social stigma or ignored. This censorship magnifies their sense that there may be something intrinsically ‘wrong’ with how they feel.[5]

It is ethically wrong to ignore this harm and add to the abandonment and betrayal of such women, whose real needs should have been assessed and addressed.  Abortion is the ‘simple’ solution for those living outside the sphere of the woman’s body, but it is only simple in the short term.  This simple common procedure takes minutes, but the effects can last a lifetime and the cost to our economy in lost productivity, and support of women who are harmed is yet to be measured.

I address a number of pertinent issues in a range of short Youtube videos.

It is not necessary for New South Wales to rush toward an act that other states of implemented just because it is the only state not to have done so.  In fact, NSW government have a unique opportunity to fully examine the evidence, assess why it is that many countries are restricting abortion in light of evidence, and truly make the more progressive decision.


[1] Cannold, L. (2012). http://rightnow.org.au/opinion-3/abortion-shaming-what-the-law-does-and-doesn’t-do/#disqus_thread

[2] Keogh, L., Newton, D., Bayly, C., McNamee, K., Hardiman, A., Webster, A. & Bismark, M. (2017). Intended and unintended consequences of abortion law reform: perspectives of abortion experts in Victoria, Australia. Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care; 43;18, 18-24

[3] VLRC. (2008). Victorian Law Reform Commission: Surveys of Attitudes. Available at: https://www.lawreform.vic.gov.au/content/4-surveys-attitudes

[4] De Crespigny, Wilkinson, Douglas, Textor and Savulescu. (2008) Australian attitudes to early and late abortion, Medical Journal of Australia 2010 193: pp9-12 (Appendix F)

[5] Garratt, D. (2019). Manipulative Dominant Discoursing: Alarmist Recruitment and Perspective Gatekeeping.  Unpublished PhD thesis

Human trafficking dressed up as beautiful adoption

The 14yr old's perspective

Imagine being 13yrs old living on the street because you ran away from an abusive home, used for sex by men who see you as an object to do with whatever they please while money changes hands and you barely get to eat. But the man who takes that money puts a roof over your head most nights and looks out for you to make sure you are at least relatively safe... within reason of course.  A few bruises here and there are part of the fun for some of the men, but it isn't good for business if they are allowed to go too far.

At barely 14, and 6 months pregnant you are arrested for soliciting on the street.  You are given an option to go to a maternity home where, you are told, you will be cared for until you have your baby.   You arrive and are welcomed with fresh clothes, a comfortable bed, people who tell you how wonderful you are.   You experience hope for the first time in a long time.  Maybe your life can actually be different.  Maybe you can even keep your baby with the help of all these people who seem so kind and caring.  Maybe it won't be all that bad to have your baby live with that nice couple who gushed all over you.  After all they promised you could visit as often as you want.  You'll still kind of be the baby's mother and you'll have a reason to pull your life together.. to make your new little daughter proud of you, and then maybe you'll even be able to get her back one day, or maybe even move in with them.   The couple seem so kind, perhaps they would be happy to help you both.

You have a long, scary and painful labour, finally giving birth to an actual baby.   An actual baby girl.  You hold her, marvelling at everything about her.  She has the biggest eyes, you see yourself in those eyes.  She cries and you want to nurse her but the social worker who sits beside you says it isn't a good idea.  It will make it harder to let her go.   You feel panic.  Let her go?  Of course, you have to let her go.  You ask, hesitantly... do I really have to? 

Your social worker reminds you that the baby's parents are right next door waiting for her.  You agreed.  You can't let them down. Where would you live with your baby?   Doesn't she deserve better than to be back on the street?  How would  you take care of her?  She tells you how brave you are.  What a good thing you are doing.  What a wonderful life your little girl will have.    You'll be able to see her remember.  She'll only be a few hours away by bus.   You'll have photos, you'll know how loved she is.

You don't want to let her go, not for a second.  You wonder why it is that there isn't someone who wants to help take care of you so you can take care of your baby, but of course the couple only want the baby.  And you did agree.

The social worker is right.  You can't take your baby onto the street with you.  In fact she said you probably wouldn't be allowed to.  The baby would be taken anyway, but this time she would go to foster parents and you know what foster parents can be like.  That's what you ran from.

You stare at the nurses, willing them to help you.  "You are brave.  You are selfless." they tell you.   You are a loving mother.  You sign your child away forever.  

You return to before.  The only way you can ever visit your baby is if you can get enough money to cover the bus fare each way and you want to be able to stay over so you can have a proper visit.  The only way to do that is to go back.   Now you put up with the men because the men are the means to seeing your baby.

You catch the bus and arrive to visit your beautiful baby girl.  It has been 9 weeks.  She has grown so much.  The couple look at you strangely.  You realised you're a bit messed up looking.  You had a shower, but you didn't have shampoo.   Maybe they will offer you to stay there for the night so you can snuggle your little girl.  But they don't.   In fact, they tell you they only have an hour because they are on the way out to a family event.  They tell you how grateful they are.   The baby cries.  You ache to hold her, to comfort her.  But the couple take her from your arms, they say she needs a nap.  You watch her leave the room.  You ask if you can come back the next day.  They look at each other.  They tell you they are busy, that maybe next time they will have more time for a longer visit. 

You know they are lying.

The nurse's perspective:

"I'm a nurse that works in a birthplace.  I've witnessed several adoptions. I've held biological moms as they cry and I tell them how brave and selfless they are.  I've also handed an adoptive parent their newborn and said "Meet your daughter/son". This is by far the most magical moment. There is not a dry eye in the room when this happens. I am a huge proponent of adoption."


"I do believe open adoptions are the best for the child in the long run but that is not always possible of wanted. I see many situations in the birthplace, many types of families and difficult situations.  I've taken care of 14 year olds that are homeless, that have no family support and are sleeping on their pimp's couch.. when he lets her..  and yes we involved social services but I think a child put in that situation if going to have a lot more trauma in their life than being raised by parents that have longed for a child for years.

Adoption is beautiful... that is my opinion."

These last 2 quotes are real.  The story of the 13/14yr old is made up, but has come from true stories.  It may be the real story of one of the 14 year olds mentioned by the nurse.   Or maybe the real stories are even worse.

What I want to know is how this isn't simple child trafficking?   How does a 14yr old who can't even 'choose' whether she gets a couch to sleep on, or whether multiple  men rape her each day, 'choose' to sign a contract relinquishing her newborn baby?

How can any decent human being see anything beautiful in such a tragedy?   Maybe this is an extreme adoption story, but maybe not.  It is clear that most adoptions are not freely chosen, but are the desperate decision of mothers with few resources who are groomed to believe that adoption is braver, more selfless, more loving than parenting.  How can any woman hold a new baby in her arms and feel 'happy' that she has severed that baby from the only person he/she knows and longs for?  How can she ignore the grief and trauma of the woman who carried and birthed this baby? 

The nurse quoted above is from the USA where adoption occurs at a much higher rate than in Australia, is privatised, and couples and agencies advertise looking for 'birth mums' to fill the need of infertile couples.   For those advocating more adoption in Australia, is this what you want?  Because this is where you will end up if we continue to talk about the 'tragedy' of low adoption numbers, or worse still the long waiting lists that prospective adoptive parents must endure.  

There is no entitlement to children.  We can't allow this to take a foothold here.




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