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Medical council appeals abortion ruling

The Medical Council is appealing a High Court judgment that it must change its advice to doctors who conscientiously object to abortion.

Council chairman John Adams said Tawa Medical Centre GP Catherine Hallagan and the New Zealand Health Professionals Alliance had last year instigated a judicial review which challenged the council’s advice to doctors on abortion and their own personal beliefs.

Wellington High Court judge Justice Alan MacKenzie ruled in their favour, saying when a woman requests an abortion, the proper course for a doctor who has a conscientious objection is to decline to embark upon the process and to inform her she can obtain the service from another health practitioner or from a family planning clinic.

But the Medical Council wanted doctors to be required to be sure they were referring the patient to another doctor who could give information on all the options.

“The council had argued its statement recognised a doctor’s right to conscientious objection but limited in ‘a very reasonable way’ the negative impact this might have on the patient’s right to access a service,” Dr Adams said.

Dr Adams would not comment on the detail of the argument that would be put to the Court of Appeal.

No date has been set for the hearing.