An abortion rights rally in Melbourne in July (Image: AAP/Diego Fedele)
An abortion rights rally in Melbourne in July (Image: AAP/Diego Fedele)

There are two major themes uniting the speakers at Melbourne's State Library on Saturday, addressing a crowd of roughly 15,000 people protesting the US Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v Wade. The first is a raging solidarity, which frequently turns the speakers' words to static through the echoing sound system, a rage that becomes almost corporeal, smacking against the buildings on either side of the crowded street. The second is a feeling of contingency, a feeling that a switch can be flicked and decades of work will be erased.

Take, for example, the US government's "global gag rule" -- a block on federal funding for non-government organisations that provide abortion services, counselling or referrals, or advocate for decriminalising abortion or expanded abortion services in their home country. It's been imposed by every Republican president since Ronald Reagan, switched on and off whenever the ruling party changes.

In Australia, things are different. Talk to anyone who has worked in women's rights organisations and they'll tell you the risk doesn't necessarily come from the ghoulish trolls celebrating the end of Roe v Wade -- that group hasn't succeeded in making abortion rights a mainstream culture war talking point in this country in quite some time. But what is always under threat is access.