Seminar: Jude Conway, “Campaigning for access to legal and affordable pregnancy terminations in the 1970s and 1980s, again and again and again: a Newcastle case study”

Sacha Davis's picture
August 19, 2022
Subject Fields: 
Australian and New Zealand History / Studies, Human Rights, Women's & Gender History / Studies, Public Health

The Historical, Cultural and Critical Inquiry Group at the University of Newcastle (Australia), is pleased to announce the next paper in our 2022 seminar series, co-sponsored with the Gender Research Network at UON. The Seminar, on 19 August 2022, 10-11am Australian Eastern Standard Time (GMT+10), will be simultaneously held on campus and broadcast live via Zoom. (Details and Zoom link below.) Our presenter is:


Jude Conway (Newcastle): “Campaigning for access to legal and affordable pregnancy terminations in the 1970s and 1980s, again and again and again: a Newcastle case study”

Prior to 1969 legislation in all Australian states compelled women to bear children. Women who did not want to have a child were forced to have ‘backyard’ abortions which, disgracefully, were the third most common cause of death in women. After the sexual revolution of the 1960s and the beginnings of the women’s liberation movement, pregnancy terminations began becoming legally obtainable state by state, through legislation or court rulings. From then on, feminists were forced into never-ending battles against conservative members of parliament and church-based opponents (known as right-to-life advocates) to preserve the newly found access to legal and affordable abortions.

This talk, based on a careful reading of my mother Josephine Conway’s papers, alternative newspapers, and feminist newsletters and analysis, explores the pivotal contributions to those battles made by Josephine from the 1970s, and the Right to Choose Abortion Coalition, convened by Josephine and her allies in Newcastle in 1982. Josephine Conway was a key grassroots leader, totally committed to the cause and brave enough to face the fury of right-to-lifers in the long and nasty war. She and the Coalition developed a suite of targeted lobbying and fundraising tactics and created pathways of information exchange and funding support, locally, regionally and interstate. Their much wealthier and institutionally backed opponents were held at bay because of the pro-choice networks that were formed.

Of current interest, the talk includes reference to the Right to Choose Abortion Coalition’s private and public support of American women in 1989 when there was an attack in the US Supreme Court on the benchmark case Roe v. Wade which had invalidated state laws and legalised abortion on a federal level in 1973.


Dr Jude Conway was born and bred on unceded Awabakal and Worimi lands. A historian, she specialises in writing and talking about the lives and activities of  groundbreaking and radical women and women who stood out from the crowd in Newcastle and the Hunter Region. Her most recent publications are:

“The Newcastle women’s movement in the 1970s and 1980s through the lens of Josephine Conway’s activism and archives”, PhD Thesis, University of Newcastle, 2022

“Obstacle Course: Women’s Entry into Skilled Positions in the Newcastle Steel Industry, 1980s and 1990s”, Labour History, May 2022, 77-105, co-authored with Associate Professor Nancy Cushing and Honorary Associate Professor Josephine May.


For in-person attendance: Room W202, Behavioural Science Building, Callaghan Campus, University of Newcastle (Australia).

For online attendance:

Zoom meeting ID: 870 4036 3272 (Open from 9:45am)
Password: 783069
To Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android:

This event will be recorded.

Contact Info: 

Dr Sacha Davis

The University of Newcastle

University Drive, Callaghan NSW 2308 Australia