CW: This article mentions sexual assault, abortion and ableism.
This afternoon, the University of Sydney Women’s Collective (WoCo) staged a protest outside a Catholic Society talk entitled ‘Can you be both Pro-Woman and Pro-Life?’
Originally slated to be held on Eastern Avenue, the talk was subsequently relocated last-minute to a lecture theatre in the Law Annex building in an attempt to circumvent WoCo protestors.
Outside, around half a dozen security guards lined the lecture theatre’s locked doors, barring protestors’ access to the event. Inside, guest speaker Monica Doumit — who has previously written in The Catholic Weekly in support of JK Rowling and Cardinal Pell, and called abortion and euthanasia campaigns “dishonest’ and “dodgy” — spent the first thirty minutes of her talk discussing examples of women being coerced into having abortions.
“Abortion hinders the progress of women. Those who want true advancement and not just a veneer of it should actually be pro-life,” Doumit claimed.
As the Catholic Society talk continued, the crowd of protestors outside grew in size. SRC Social Justice Officer Eddie Stephenson spoke about the mass movements of working-class women around the world rising up against the Catholic Church in Ireland, Argentina, and Poland.
“We’re not going to be the submissive baby-makers the Catholics and the ruling class see us as, we’re going to get out on the streets and we’re going to fight [against the government].”
In response to increasingly audible chants of “Let us in!”, “Our bodies, our choice!”, and “Not the church, not the state, we will decide our fate!” from outside the theatre, Doumit launched into a diatribe describing protestors as “noisy and angry.”
Doumit invited members from the audience to ask questions at the conclusion of her speech. “Is it appropriate for women to have both a career and raise a child, or can she only do one?” one male audience member asked. Doumit responded that, “There is something to be said about having a man as the protector and provider—in a natural sense.”
In response to another question from a male audience member asking, “Would you support a law forcing a man to stay with a woman he impregnated … in order to ensure a functional, traditional family for the child?” Doumit said, “It’s dangerous for the government to start dictating what happens to a family,” despite also supporting the criminalisation of abortions in New South Wales.
On the other side of the lecture theatre’s closed doors, SRC Education Officer Madeleine Clark connected the issue of anti-abortion rhetoric to Scott Morrison’s mishandling of sexual assault allegations against parliamentarians: “It’s so fucking sick and disgusting. I’m so fucking angry that we have to continue to put up with this … that we have to fight for our basic human dignity. Shame!”
“This is not a debate to be had… These are our bodies, these are our rights, and this is not up for discussion,” one protestor said.
SRC Interfaith Officer Jayfel Tulabing questioned why the Catholic Society could make venue requests at the last minute, while other societies and collectives have been made to wait weeks, as previously reported in Honi.
“While the Enviro Collective has been struggling and jumping through bureaucratic hoops to book a room for the SGM, the Catholic Society has the capacity to run week-long events, renting a full-sized tent to hold their services,” she said.
Catholic Society members, upon exiting the lecture escorted by security, were met by WoCo demonstrators who chanted “Shame!” and “Racist, sexist, anti-queer, bigots are not welcome here!” up the staircase of the Law Annex building and onto Eastern Avenue.
The talk has not been the only controversial occurrence during the Catholic Society’s ‘Life Week’ activities. On Monday morning, they placed an A-frame on Eastern Avenue, reading ‘Are disabled people a burden on society?’, a stunt which the Disabilities Collective called “disgusting” during a snap speak-out on Tuesday.