South Australian Liberal leader and state MPs to ‘mentor’ young people at anti-abortion event

A week after Roe v Wade was overturned in the US, and just days before new abortion laws begin in South Australia, parliamentarians are set to “mentor” young people at an anti-abortion event.

The Liberal leader, David Speirs – along with three others from his shadow ministry, the Labor minister Clare Scriven and other political leaders – will feature in a training day aimed at activating “a new generation to rise up and fight for the human rights of the unborn”.

The Greens MLC Tammy Franks said the move showed women could never take abortion rights for granted and was “chilling for anyone who believes in bodily autonomy”, while Speirs said he was “not an activist” for change.

The deputy premier, Labor’s Susan Close, said the “majority of the SA community and parliamentarians support safe, legal terminations of pregnancy”.

“No one could want the US experience of division and heartbreak over this issue to come to our shores.”

The Enid Lyons List event is on Saturday, and coincides with the state byelection in Bragg, which was held by the former attorney general Vickie Chapman.

Chapman, one of the most senior members of the moderate Liberal faction under the former premier Steven Marshall, ushered in the new abortion laws. From 7 July, abortion will be decriminalised in SA. Women will be able to access medical abortions through telehealth at up to nine weeks gestation, and surgical abortion up to 22 weeks and six days. After that two doctors will need to approve the procedure.

Chapman stood down on the day Speirs was elected leader, after two investigations into her conduct. Weeks later she was cleared of any wrongdoing.

The Labor candidate Alice Rolls is challenging the Liberal party’s Jack Batty for the blue-ribbon, eastern suburbs Adelaide seat on Saturday.

Speirs said his views on abortion were on the public record and he had “no intention” of trying to overturn the new laws, although his position would remain the same if the legislation came back to the parliament.

“I very clearly see a place for abortion in society, but I always think there should be appropriate restrictions on late-term abortion. I see that as a reasonably pragmatic position,” he said.

“Of course, if legislation were to be represented to parliament again, I of course would, on the late-term stuff, I wouldn’t change my position. But I have no intention to see the regulations disallowed.”

Speirs and his Liberal colleagues Nicola Centofanti (the leader in the legislative council), Heidi Girolamo (the shadow finance minister) and Dennis Hood (shadow cabinet secretary) are all listed as speaking at the event.

Scriven, Labor’s primary industries minister, is also listed, as is SA Best MLC Frank Pangallo. All those who were in parliament at the time voted against the law change.

Family First representatives Tom Kenyon and Deepa Mathew, who are not in parliament, will also speak.

“People should be rightly concerned that such high-profile Liberal members of the supposedly new, fresh leadership are pulling out all stops to reverse reproductive rights in this state,” Franks said.

“I think many Liberal supporters would be shocked … the week the termination laws come into play, [they’re] actively white-anting that work.”

SA’s laws were passed more than a year ago, after lengthy debate, a series of amendments, and a conscience vote.

Enid Lyons was married to Joseph Lyons when he became prime minister in 1932. After he died, she ran herself for the Tasmanian seat that is now Braddon and became the first female member of the House of Representatives.

The Australian Dictionary of Biography notes that “she disapproved of early sex education, deplored homosexuality and promiscuity, opposed divorce, and in 1973 came out fighting against abortion”. Her name has since become associated with a range of anti-abortion movements.

“Please join Enid Lyons List and other key pro-life leaders as we discuss and seek solutions to the critical issues and challenges that confront us as we face the most pro-abortion laws in Australia’s history,” the event invitation spruiking the parliamentarians reads.

“We need to activate a new generation to rise up and fight for the human rights of the unborn and for greater support and proper health care for their mothers.”

After the US supreme court overturned 50 years of protection for women’s reproductive freedoms, Australian experts said Australia was travelling well, but that these are hard fought rights that are easily lost.

Guardian Australia has contacted Labor and Enid Lyons List for comment.

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