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May 30, 2011 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

I am Offended Because… Dame Margaret Sparrow

My time management skills have been shot to shit.

Remember how at the beginning of the year I was waxing lyrical about the possibility of a Sweet Bitch of the Month segment, with all the hope and potential of eleven- year-old Lindsay Lohan’s freckled appearance in The Parent Trap? Now, in the words of many a waist-coated Cuba Street busker, the times they are a-changing, because Lindsay is cleaning toilets in a morgue and I can’t seem to commit to writing about ladies I love on a monthly basis. What was I thinking, anyway? How many columns-within-a-column does this thing actually need? I mean, am I trying to write Adaptation?

Adaptation this is not, but sometimes there are women who are just so great they beg to be written about. Often these women, this inspirational gaggle, come from overseas: The Betty Dodsons, the Beth Dittos, the Nan Goldins. Sometimes they’re dead: The Isabella Blows, The Audre Lords, the Artemisia Gentileschis. Sometimes though, these lady inspiration beacons walk among us.

Dame Margaret Sparrow is one of them. Sparrow has dedicated her life to improving the sexual and reproductive health of New Zealanders, and in turn, improved the New Zealand quality of life. Sparrow obtained her Bachelor of Medicine from Otago in 1963 and after working at Stratford and Hawera Hospitals she began practise at Victoria University’s Student Health Clinic. While working at the University she became aware of the desperate need for abortion and contraceptive services among students. Neither were available at the time, and the clinic director believed that contraception should only be given to married couples. After Sparrow attended a Family Planning Association conference she came back and put up a contraceptive display in the clinic. Sparrow then refused to take it down, much to the annoyance of the clinic director. From then on Student Health have provided contraceptives, so next time you grab a handful of salami slings say a little “Thank you Margaret”.

The Reasons to Love Margaret list goes on: She worked as an abortionist at Wellington Hospital for 17 years. After training overseas, Sparrow started a vasectomy clinic in Wellington. She was one of the first medical practitioners in New Zealand to offer emergency contraceptive pills. She worked at the New Zealand Family Planning Association from 1971 until 2005. In 1999, along with four other doctors, she founded the Directors of Istar, who import mifepristone to New Zealand, giving women (and uterus- having-people) the choice between medical and surgical abortions. She has written a book called Abortion: Then and Now. She collects contraceptives. She led the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand for 32 years. Sparrow spearheaded the abortion reform movement in New Zealand AND she continues to campaign for antiquated New Zealand laws to be changed. Amazing.

Thank you Margaret. Thank you for giving me choice. Thank you for your hard work, your tenacity, your passion. Your commitment to reproductive health care has allowed my generation to breathe a little easier. My uterus and I are eternally grateful.


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  1. Clement McBigglewaddle says:

    As much as I take issue with commenting on female leader’s fashion choices, I just need to add that she always looks fierce.

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