COVID-19, Abortion and Refugee Struggles in Australia

(The following has been written for adaptation as an agitational flyer for distribution at upcoming protests in support of legal abortion in South Australia and the release of refugees imprisoned in Australia and on surrounding islands)

As internationalists, we recognise the working class as having no fatherland and denounce the efforts made to control our movement through sovereign borders and the nation-state. We stand in solidarity with our fellow workers who, upon trying to escape the life-shattering impact of climate change, poverty and imperialist war, find themselves imprisoned, without adequate medical care or breathing space, in places such as an Adelaide detention centre, the Mantra “Medevac” Hotel in Melbourne, and the Australian Government’s “offshore processing centres” on Nauru and Manus Island. Some refugees have spent 8 years on an island and now the past year in hotel isolation.

The mental health condition Resignation Syndrome has not been uncommon among young detainees, this condition means that severe trauma has caused you to withdraw from your usual life and activities, and you now require total care to avoid malnutrition and death.


The International Criminal Court has found that conditions on Nauru are cruel and degrading. However, they also claim there is not enough evidence to prosecute the Federal Government. For years, these camps have produced tragic accounts of sexual assault – especially at the hands of those who are “paid to protect” asylum seekers. A change of law several years ago meant that pregnant and traumatised women and children are no longer seen by doctors in Australia and are instead referred to the Nauruan Overseas Medical Referral committee. As abortion is illegal on Nauru, except for when saving the pregnant woman’s life, another necessity is now denied.

In every Australian state and territory, abortion is legal to protect the health of the pregnant person. In recent times, several states have removed abortion from the penal code and now the focus has shifted onto SA finally doing the same. The current laws here state that all surgical abortions must be signed off by two medical professionals and performed at a registered hospital. After 23 weeks, abortion can only be lawfully performed to save the life of the person carrying the pregnancy.

What Must Be Done

It was Howard’s Liberal Government that first opened the “off-shore processing centres” in 2001 and Gillard’s Labor government reopened them in 2012. The actions of both parties and the criminal court show that it will not be the capitalist state that will put an end to the oppression of all those in “processing centres” and “overflow facilities” (as Biden and the media are now opting to call the cages he is reopening and maintaining) around the globe.

Only a complete reordering of society can guarantee safe and accessible abortion for all. The widespread sexual and cultural violence, poverty, and lack of time and resources that fuel unwanted abortion will exist no longer. This transformation will put a permanent end to war and is our only chance of being able to attempt to heal the environment. The abolition of borders would make our movement be one borne from choice rather than necessity. This would be the emancipation of every wage-labourer and of humanity itself.

This society is what we call communism. It has nothing to do with the misnamed state-capitalism of the Soviet Union or China, but everything to do with a world where production is for use and not for profit. This can only be achieved through the self-organisation of the working class and an international communist revolution.

Internationalist Communists Oceania (ICO)

Wednesday, 10 February, 2021


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