With Coke, Nike, Hollywood films and fast food, the US has many exports.

As a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood – the oldest, largest and most trusted reproductive health provider in the US – I have one key message to Australians during my visit here: beware we don’t export the war that is currently being waged on women in my country.


I encourage you to be watchful of policies in Australia that emulate those in America. The war on women is not an import the women of your country want or deserve.

Leola Reis, “America’s war on women,” The Drum, June 8, 2012

Lord knows I love Americans and think Planned Parenthood — of which Reis is vice president of external affairs — does invaluable work, but this is a rather repellent and narcissistic rhetoric on display here. Omitted by the ellipsis is an entire column explicating the basic points of the “war on women” in America, and, certainly, this is something I think Australians should be interested in and informed about. But Reis’s argument doesn’t treat Australia as its own country with its own politics and its own public debates. We’re just a mass she can use to decry things she doesn’t like about her own country. Don’t emulate America on gender issues, she warns Australia, but doesn’t even consider that Australian society has its own gender issues. For instance, Reis talks about American politicians trying to restrict access to abortion, but is apparently entirely unaware of the tenuous legality of abortion in most Australian states, or that Roe v Wade has given the United States a rhetorical and legal basis for pro-choice activism that isn’t available in Australia.

I understand, too, that a writer feels compelled to relate an issue to a local audience. Telling that audience “Don’t do what we do” without reference to the concerns of that foreign audience is not how you do that. Leola Reis, we are a nation — one as complex and real and fully formed as your own. We are not a confession booth where you can atone for your country’s sins.