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Abortion coercion: the NRL still has a long way to go in its treatment of women

By Rachael Wong - posted Monday, 20 March 2017

Within the course of a week, the NRL has been shaken by two separate, shocking allegations involving players who coerced their girlfriends into undergoing abortions.

Except that the NRL doesn't appear that shocked, which begs the question: Is this just part and parcel of NRL culture?

Or is the NRL's cavalier response to the derogatory and disposable treatment of women and children merely a microcosm of a much larger cultural crisis?


The first allegation involved Penrith Panther's Bryce Cartwright who paid his ex-girlfriend ("Miss X") $50,000 to abort their child.

Attempting to avoid contact and responsibility, Cartwright arranged ex-football star Lou Zivanovic to broker the deal, a "footy fixer" whose job it is to clean up players' "messes." Cartwright also repeatedly pressured Miss X to have the abortion, telling her that he wanted nothing to do with the baby and that she would "struggle as a single mother for the rest of [her] life" if she didn't go through with the procedure.

Miss X did go through with it and now deeply regrets the abortion and is still receiving grief counselling.

The second allegation involved Wests Tigers' Tim Simona. Simona also pressured his then girlfriend Jaya Taki to abort their baby, similarly telling her that he wouldn't be there to support them and that the child would "ruin his life" and ultimately his footy career.

Like Miss X, Ms Taki is also suffering grief and trauma after the abortion and the way she was treated by Simona and the NRL - even contemplating taking her own life.

Neither player has taken responsibility for their appalling conduct. Instead, both have sought to downplay their behaviour, with Cartwright lamenting that he thought this was settled a long time ago and Simona dismissively commenting that, "It's a bit sad to get rid of a baby, but it was like three or four weeks old or something like that."


Even more concerning, however, is the nature of response (or lack thereof) from the NRL. When the Cartwright matter became public, Zivanovic tried to protect Cartwright (and perhaps himself) by deflecting blame onto Miss X. Cartwright's managers have also repeatedly emphasised their support and concern for his "welfare" and, like Cartwright, have been intent on denying responsibility. Perhaps worst of all, they actually seem to sympathise with his behaviour.

This reaction is extraordinary and not a little hypocritical, given the lengths to which they have gone, not only to engage a professional adviser on cultural issues such as behaviour towards women, but also to launch a public "Strong Men Respect Women" campaign.

Panther's General Manager Phil Gould bizarrely stated he was satisfied that Cartwright had "acted in a respectful manner and a supportive manner" and had done "as well as any young man could in the same situation." If treating a woman like some disposable commodity and bullying her into having an abortion is considered "respectful," "supportive" and the best a young man has to offer, we're all in serious trouble.

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About the Author

Rachael Wong is a Barrister, an Adjunct Lecturer in the School of Law at the University of Notre Dame Australia, and the Director of Research, Policy and Advocacy at Women's Forum Australia.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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