For as long as it's existed, abortion has divided people around the world, and in Australia we're no different. While laws vary from state-to-state, abortion is legal under federal law, which is part of the reason a small minority of young Australians are staunchly against it.
These people are into music, video games, and parties like the rest of us — they just spend their weekends protesting what they see as an immoral and sad course of action. But while we generally only notice them when they're huddled outside abortion clinics holding signs and images of dead foetuses, what are they like the rest of the time? I visited the homes of three young pro-life members to find out.
Stephanie is 23. She lives in Eastern Gippsland with her parents and two younger siblings.
VICE: Hey Stephanie, that photo of you with the sculptures, are they yours?
Stephanie: No they belong to my parents but I have similar ones in my room as well, and that's a personal choice. As far as the religious side of decoration, we have pretty similar taste. But on the décor side, I'm probably more old-fashioned. I like cottages and British architecture and things like that.
Tell me about your religion. Has it always been part of your life?
I'm a Cradle Catholic—I was baptised Catholic when I was born, so it's always been a part of my life. I did leave when I was about 16 to 18 but it was my choice to come back after a while, or as I say, a bit of wildness.
Some secular Australians might view Catholic life as pretty dull. Do you think this is true?
Catholic life is far from boring. I don't find it restricts me in anyway. We organise balls, dinners, dances, we go out together and have a lot of fun. I have found being Catholic has made me a better person and it's through my faith that I've learned how love, not judge, and to be open and help others. I've also found it as a source of courage to stand up for what I believe in.
What do you believe in, outside of a religious framework?
Equality and women's rights. Emma Watson is a hero and especially after her speech to the UN launching the #heforshe campaign. She's standing up for some important issues that I feel deeply about and she's addressed the fact that her industry focuses on "sexing" girls up too much. She's also constantly achieving—becoming a yoga instructor, completing a degree even though she's at the top of her career as an actress. She's a doer.
Are you a doer?
Well, I was president of Youth 4 Life until about a week ago, [I'm] probably one of the ring leaders for the movement.I'd organise demonstrations and put information together. Over the last three years, I've been studying the cultures— what's going to work, what's not going to work. We don't want to be seen as small-minded people trying to take away women's rights.
But a lot of people agree that it is. Do you think a rape victim should have their baby?
Well she'll never forget the abortion, which means she will never forget the rape. Whereas, so many women who are raped, they find love through their child, and they can grow or they can adopt and know they've given it a life. And they can heal from the rape, in a way. The underlying thing is, there are so many tragic circumstances that surround the issue. I still think that because it is a human being, for me, personally there is no situation in which a child should be killed.
Joshua, 23, lives in a shared house in Oakleigh with four others, three of whom are Catholic.
Hey Joshua, tell me about your place.
Joshua: Most people here are Catholic but we just get a long, we don't talk about it mainly. We've got a garage that we turned into a bar and everyone contributes to the alcohol collection. Sometimes we set up a projector and play video games or watch Family Guy. Other times after a protest we go across the road to a bar and have a few drinks.
What inspired you to become involved with the pro-life movement?
It was actually the woman you interviewed earlier, Stephanie. I got dragged along to a Youth 4 Life meeting probably about two years ago. I'd been brought up pro-life, but we didn't go too deep into it unfortunately. I grew up in Tasmania, where we don't get a lot of outside ideas coming in. So when I moved up here, I became involved.
If abortion become illegal do you think it would stop completely?
I don't believe it would stop full stop. Certainly some of the pro-aborts keep threatening it would go back to the backyard and everything like that. But abortions like that were never a big thing to begin with. It was a bit isolated.
What do you consider a fair punishment for a doctor who performs an abortion?
Same as infanticide. Whatever that penalty is.
Why do you think abortion is seen as a difficult issue to talk about?
A big thing I've come across is people who say, it's legal, therefore it must be right. Well slavery was legal for a very long time. Politicians in general are very pro-abort. Because they think it is a popular issue. It's actually become a multi-billion dollar industry. And the radical-feminists have taken over it now.
Are there any politicians that you can think of that are in line with your views?
Bernie Finn. He's a [Melbourne] Western suburbs Liberal. He's certainly the most outspoken.
Do you think that has hindered his career?
I don't know. He certainly has a very controversial stance on a lot of things.
Erin is 26. She lives in Mulgrave with her brothers and sisters and studies nursing.
Hi Erin. You must be close with your siblings to all live together?
Yes, but we all have our own separate rooms. We usually get along so we don't really mind what each other does in terms of decorating the house. I've got a picture of Ponyo on the wall and the boys put their game posters on the wall. We also have the same circles of friends, so on weekends we hang out with each other, and with our friends. We're pretty tight and close.
In a nutshell, tell me about your stance on abortion.
To bring it all together in a nutshell, I believe abortion is murder against another person.
And describe yourself in a nutshell.
I'm a practising catholic and religion is very important to me. In my spare time I like to write. I'm currently writing novels.
What sort of novels do you write?
They are usually children's books or young-adults. I like to write books where I can bend the rules of reality to demonstrate a strong storyline, add excitement or exaggerate a point.
What is your favourite book of all time and why?
I'm not sure what my favourite book is. Strangely, don't like to read as much as I write.
What books do you avoid? Would you ever read 50 Shades of Grey?
I definitely would never touch a book like Fifty Shades of Grey. I like to write and read books that inspire the reader to moralistic, higher ideals, and thinking or books that are just innocent and fun. I believe books like Fifty Shades of Grey are simply literature pornography and I don't think immoral content makes for good entertainment. It's cheap and appeals to the lower levels of intellect and leads to objectification and a lack of respect. I don't like any books that promote selfish, immoral, and corrupt notions.
Let's talk about abortion. Should it be punishable?
Well... if it was to become illegal, then it depends on a woman's situation. I think if it was a simple case of I don't want this child, I'm going to kill it, then yes, I believe she could be prosecuted. Nothing takes away from the fact that a child's life is as valuable as the mother's. Killing should still have the same kind of consequence. But there needs to be sufficient investigation as to see whether she really was at fault.
All images via Damian Davitt
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