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The Untold Stories of Abortion in 19th Century NZ



Book Launch: The Untold Stories of Abortion in 19th Century New Zealand

The tragic toll of unsafe illegal abortion in 19th Century New Zealand is the focus of a powerful new book by longtime women’s health advocate Dame Margaret Sparrow that is being launched today in Wellington.

The book Rough on Women: Abortion in 19th-Century New Zealand (Victoria University Press) tells the stories of 25 women who died at a time when choices were severely limited.

Author, journalist and pro-choice advocate, Alison McCulloch, who is launching the book at Unity Books in Wellington this evening, said Rough on Women was a sobering reminder of the heavy toll women have long paid for laws that are built around politics and morals, not health and well-being.

“The title refers to one of the most dreadful stories,” she said. “It is drawn from the name of a well-known household poison called ‘Rough on Rats’ that contained arsenic.” One woman, a 22-year-old named Essie who was 5 months pregnant took Rough on Rats, apparently to end her life.

The president of ALRANZ (Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand), Dr. Morgan Healey said Dame Margaret’s book is part of the association’s on-going commitment to recording the abortion history of women in New Zealand. (Dame Margaret is also the author of Abortion Then and Now: New Zealand Abortion Stories From 1940 to 1980, also VUP.)

“If we don’t record and remember our past, we’re likely to make the same mistakes again, and cost more women their lives,” Dr. Healey said. “As Margaret writes in her book, learning these lessons will be a legacy of all the women who died, and they will not have died in vain.”

WHERE: Unity Books, Willis Street, Wellington
WHEN: 6 p.m. Tuesday 1 July

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