The life of the law of abortion in South Australian public hospitals — Australian Historical Association annual conference hosted by The Australian National University

The life of the law of abortion in South Australian public hospitals (359)

Barbara Baird 1
  1. Women's Studies , Flinders University , Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

This paper comes from a project that is investigating the provision of abortion services in Australia since 1990. This history is explored through an account of institutional forces – law, medicine, public health, feminism, the anti-abortion movement – and their embodiment by individual players. This paper focuses on one instance of the micro-politics of this history, a conversation that took place in the mid 2000s in South Australia, remembered by several people interviewed for the project. A midwife said to a doctor in an Adelaide  public hospital ‘I know that you don’t get 2 doctors to see these women before they go to theatre and I'm going to tell the police.’ Hospital procedures changed subsequently. The story of the conversation and what followed tells of the criminalisation of abortion and anti-abortion staff in hospitals. But I argue that first and foremost the story conjures the workings of the invocation of law in the context of the risk management culture that prevails in public institutions under the conditions of advanced liberalism. The paper gives this remembered fragment of conversation a history and shows that examination of the small scale can reveal much of the embodied operationalisation of the large.