Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/2440/84102
Type: Thesis
Title: Abortion, homosexuality and the slippery slope: legislating 'moral' behaviour in South Australia.
Author: Parker, Clare Margaret
Issue Date: 2013
School/Discipline: School of History and Politics
Abstract: This thesis examines the circumstances that permitted South Australia’s pioneering legalisation of abortion and male homosexual acts in 1969 and 1972. It asks how and why, at that time in South Australian history, the state’s parliament was willing and able to relax controls over behaviours that were traditionally considered immoral. It charts the shift in discussion about abortion and homosexuality that was evident in the middle decades of the twentieth century, then analyses the debates about the reforms that occurred in parliament, amongst the churches, medical professionals, activists, the media and members of the public. It compares the arguments used by those who supported and opposed the reforms and demonstrates that although legalisation was achieved, the arguments of opponents, seeking to preserve the status quo, influenced the extent of the reforms and therefore the extent to which the state continued to control private behaviour. I argue that the shift in conversation about abortion and homosexuality, characterised by the weakening of the taboo surrounding their public discussion and stimulated by a series of events between the 1930s and 1960s, was critical to the issues earning a place on the political reform agenda. I show that it was not the nature of the discussion that changed during this time, but rather the location of that discussion. Abortion and homosexuality continued to be considered ‘immoral’ and undesirable, and the politicians who passed the reforms did not suddenly accept the behaviours, but rather accepted the premise that, no matter how undesirable the activity, the law was no longer an appropriate mechanism with which to control private behaviour. Thus, discussion about the nature of abortion and homosexuality did not change substantially from the attitudes exhibited in earlier decades. What had changed was the site of the discussion: the topics were now able to be discussed openly in public and this demonstrated to parliamentarians that community support existed for the reforms. This thesis also contributes to an understanding of the progressive political climate in South Australia during the late 1960s and early 1970s, a period obscured by the popular memory of the ‘Dunstan Decade’. Parliamentary debates are a key location for analysis of public discussion about abortion and homosexuality, as the arguments used by politicians reflected and perpetuated the limitations on what was considered appropriate or acceptable to say. In addition, a demographic study of the parliamentarians who supported and opposed the measures reveals much about the effect of the lengthy Playford government on the political activity that followed, and demonstrates the role of a free (conscience) vote on legislating ‘moral’ issues. The thesis is innovative in showing that the South Australian reforms were not simply part of a global shift in discussion about abortion and homosexuality, nor merely an example of local exceptionalism. Instead, the timing of the reforms led to the passage of distinctive legislation that balanced the progressive forces’ desire for liberalisation with conservatives’ fears about the prevalence of the two activities.
Advisor: Sendziuk, Paul John
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of History and Politics, 2013
Keywords: abortion; homosexuality; law reform; South Australia; Dunstan; Playford
Provenance: This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at: http://www.adelaide.edu.au/legals
Appears in Collections:Research Theses

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