POLITICS: by Terri M. KelleherNews Weekly
Dr Leslie Cannold's radical agenda
, April 14, 2012
Prominent among Australian activists pushing for same-sex marriage, abortion and euthanasia is Melbourne-based medical ethicist and social commentator Dr Leslie Cannold.
A radical feminist originally from New York, where she was born in 1965, she migrated to Australia in her early twenties, and acquired a masters degree in medical ethics from Monash University and a PhD from the University of Melbourne. Since then, she has been heavily involved in left-wing political activism in Victoria and has campaigned to promote ever-greater adult sexual “freedom” and the marginalisation of religion in public life.
On June 23, 2010, Dr Cannold launched the left-wing National Union of Students (NUS)’s anti-Coalition campaign, “Abbott’s Heaven, Your Hell”, at Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Women’s Centre. A few days previously, she had warned: “Leopards don’t change their spots. Tony Abbott is still the Mad
Monk or, as his daughter put it, ‘a lame … churchy loser’.
Dr Leslie Cannold
“If he comes to power, the Christian right will still have his ear and just as it was in the past, women, gays, single mothers, young people, Aborigines, religious minorities, migrants and those with the audacity to be disabled or unemployed will need to watch out” (ABC’s The Drum, June 10, 2010).
Dr Cannold has vehemently attacked anti-pornography women activists, such as Australia’s Melinda Tankard Reist and America’s Dr Gail Dines.
A self-declared atheist, Dr Cannold last year was awarded the title of Australian Humanist of the Year. That same year she published her first novel, The Book of Rachael (Text Publishing/Penguin Books), which tells the tale of Rachael (a supposed sister of Jesus Christ) falling in love with Judas Iscariot.
She is a regular columnist and, since the 1990s, has been published frequently on left-wing issues in the Sydney Morning Herald, Melbourne’s Herald Sun, Brisbane’s Courier-Mail and The Australian, and has appeared on radio and television. She has been listed as one of Australia’s top 20 public intellectuals.
She is currently an adjunct senior lecturer at the Monash Institute of Health Services Research. She is president of Reproductive Choice Australia and of Pro-Choice Victoria and is a Dying with Dignity ambassador for law reform.
The first two of those organisations, Reproductive Choice Australia and Pro-Choice Victoria, were instrumental in persuading the Victorian parliament five years ago to pass the Abortion Law Reform Bill 2008. The new laws (the most radical in the world after communist China’s) made abortion legal up to nine months.
So successful was the radical feminist push for these laws that pro-abortion feminists in New Zealand have been inspired to emulate Victoria.
Christy Parker, a policy analyst with the Auckland-based Women’s Health Action Trust, produced a strategy paper for New Zealand, titled A Road Map to Abortion Law Reform (May 2010). It was subtitled: “Conversations with some of the key organisations and individuals involved in the campaign for abortion law reform in Victoria”.
Ms Parker particularly singled out Dr Cannold’s “activist group ‘Pro-Choice Victoria’” for having “played a really important part” in bringing about these radical changes. Ms Parker explained: “It worked to bridge women’s health experts and politicians. They formed something like a buddy system so that politicians had a contact person who they could go to, to help them with responses and difficult questions” (page 7).
One important lesson Ms Parker drew from Australia’s experience was “to accept no amendments to legislation” (page 6).
Dr Cannold has also been keen to replicate Victorian-type abortion laws in Queensland. Commenting on the trial in Cairns of Sergei Brennan and his partner Tegan Leach — who, for some reason that is unclear, imported the abortifacient drug RU486 from Ukraine instead of obtaining it legally in Australia — Dr Cannold argued that this situation warranted the complete repeal of restrictions on abortion in Queensland (PodBlack Cat, October 14, 2010).
In October 2010, she rebuked Emily’s List feminist Labor MPs in Queensland’s parliament, including the then Premier Anna Bligh, for supposedly holding back, for reasons of political expediency, from pushing for more radical abortion laws.
She said: “They won’t even be straight about why they won’t put forward a bill.… Bligh has a different story every minute and there is no way of counting numbers when there is no bill” (Larvatus Prodeo, October 12, 2010).
Dr Cannold has also consistently attacked Catholic hospitals for not providing abortion and contraceptive services to women, despite the Catholic Church’s well-known position on these matters. She argues that, as Catholic hospitals are in receipt of government money, they must provide every service that a public hospital provides or lose their funding.
Dr Cannold spoke at the 2011 Global Atheist Convention, held in Melbourne, and was awarded the Australian Humanist of the Year in 2011. On accepting the award, she took the opportunity to savage Victoria’s special religious education and chaplaincy programs in schools.
She is billed as a speaker at this year’s Global Atheist Convention to be held in Melbourne this April. She will share a platform with other ethical luminaries such as Professor Peter Singer, an advocate of infanticide, and Fiona Patten, leader of the Australian Sex Party. Patten is a former sex worker and CEO of the national adult industry association body, the Eros Association, which is seeking to overthrow the last vestiges of censorship.
On her visit to Australia in 2011, Dr Gail Dines, professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts, who has researched the effects of pornography for 20 years, was unprepared for Dr Cannold’s attack on her (Dr Dines’s) book, Pornland: How Porn has Hijacked our Sexuality.
Said Dr Dines: “Probably the most bizarre comment made during my trip [to Australia] was Leslie Cannold’s claim that my work was flawed because she had, along the lines of what I had done in the introduction to my book, typed ‘porn’ into Google, and rather than seeing the sexual brutality I document, she had found porn that was ‘sweet’ and ‘gentle’, between pregnant lesbians no less.” (ABC Radio, Religion and Ethics program, September 15, 2011).
Dr Cannold has argued that the evidence of the harm pornography does is only “anecdotal”.
Terri M. Kelleher is Victorian president of the Australian Family Association.
1. Christy Parker, A Road Map to Abortion Law Reform (Auckland, New Zealand: Women’s Health Action Trust), May 2010.
2. Leslie Cannold’s comment on abortion situation in Queensland, in response to Tanja Kovac and Hutch Hussein’s post, “Blaming women not the answer to abortion law reform”, Larvatus Prodeo (Australia), October 12, 2010.
3. “The abortion trial in Cairns — not guilty”, PodBlack Cat, October 14, 2010.
4. 9th Conference of the International Federation of Abortion and Contraception Specialists (FIAPAC), Seville, Spain, 2010.
5. Global Atheist Convention, Melbourne, 2011.
6. Australian Humanist of the Year 2011.
7. Global Atheist Convention, Melbourne, 2012.
URL: www.atheistconvention.org.au and click on “Speakers”.
8. Leslie Cannold, “Women are being failed by our hospitals”, National Times (Fairfax Press, Sydney), November 3, 2009.
URL: www.nationaltimes.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture-/women-are-being-failed-by-our-hospitals-20091102-htcd.html and
URL: www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AeFdCG4gEg and
9. Gail Dines, “Time to tell the truth about the porn industry”, Religion and Ethics program, ABC Radio (Australia), September 14, 2011.
10. “Euthanasia in a hung parliament”, Q&A Adventures in Democracy, ABC Television (Australia), September 20, 2010.
URL: www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s3010595.htm and
Leslie Cannold, “Legal bind means there is no decent end to suffering”, Sydney Morning Herald, January 8, 2012.