Woman's National Abortion Action Campaign

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The Women's National Abortion Action Campaign or WONAAC was formed in 1973.[1] It is a more feminist and radical extension of ALRANZ.[2]


In April 1972, the first National Women's Liberation Conference in Wellington called for the repeal of the abortion laws and the right of individual choice for all women. Following this gathering, an ad hoc group known as the May Abortion Action Committee was formed in Wellington to organise activities for International Abortion Action Week. Members of ALRANZ, the University Students Association and the New Zealand Medical Association (founded by Dr. Eric Geiringer as a radical alternative to the Medical Association of New Zealand) joined activists from the Women's Liberation Movement in arranging marches and public educational seminars. Similar committees formed in Christchurch, Auckland, Nelson and Hamilton at the same time continued to work for the repeal of all abortion laws as `Women's Abortion Action Committees'.

The close association between women's liberationists and the professional, middle-class members of ALRANZ did not last. Whereas ALRANZ held that abortion reform had to be a matter of co-operation between women and the medical profession, for feminists the right to abortion was part of a wider movement to dismantle male professional control over all aspects of women's health. ALRANZ was aiming to win over middle-of-the road opinion on the abortion issue and had no wish to alienate potential support. It deliberately divorced itself from the blunt, provocative image that many people associated with women's liberation, which was being reinforced by the media's representation of feminists who visited from abroad, such as Germaine Greer's highly publicised tour in 1972.

The split was formalised in July 1973 with the launch of a separate national body called the Womens National Abortion Action Campaign (WONAAC) to co-ordinate the Women's Abortion Action Committees already in existence. Members of the Socialist Action League were centrally involved in setting up WONAAC which provoked criticism from other feminists who questioned whether the League was using the abortion issue as a platform for its own political ends. WONAAC's uncompromising style certainly alienated many politicians, and over the next few years public support for the repeal of all abortion laws actually declined in favour of making abortion a shared decision between a woman and her doctor, which was the stand taken by ALRANZ.[3]


Members of WONAAC at Parliament in 1973 (from left): Di Cleary, Phillida Bunkle, Irene Kennedy, Mary Sinclair, Deborah Jones, Kay Goodger[4]

The following are currently members of WONAAC:


The dates indicate known date of membership of the organisation. Members have probably been active before and after the listed date.


The following is a list of supporters (and possibly members) of WONAAC:


  1. Ministry of Women's Affairs website: Women in New Zealand, 1970s] (accessed on 29 April, 2010)
  2. ALRANZ website: History of ALRANZ (accessed on 29 April, 2010)
  3. AMAC website: An historical perspective on abortion in New Zealand (accessed on 29 April, 2010)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 National Library: Members of Women's National Abortion Action Campaign at Parliament, 18 Sept. 1973 (accessed on 29 April, 2010)
  5. The Southland Times: Your say: P documentary, thank you, eclipse, scientists, toheroa, abortion, 27 July 2009 (accessed 29 April, 2010)
  6. ALRANZ website: Ryall Must Counter Abortion Pill Scare Tactics, 1 Dec. 2009 (accessed on 29 April 2010)
  7. Salient Magazine, 1980, No. 13
  8. Wellington Star, 19 July, 1991
  9. Salient Magazine, 1978, No. 15
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Salient Magazine, 1978, No. 18
  11. Stuff.co.nz: What's next for abortion in New Zealand?, 16 June, 2008 (accessed on 30 June, 2011)
  12. SAR Feb 83 p2
  13. Salient, 1978, No. 12
  14. CANTA, 1973, No. 19