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Moves to Restore the Right to Conscientious Objection in Victoria, Australia

Below is an interesting article published with permission from its author, Dr Dave Andrusko. It was first published in the National Right to Life News Today on Nov 7th 2013.  The headline reads: Pro-lifers and others in Victoria push to protect right of conscience for physicians who want no part in any abortion

Dr. Mark Hobart

Dr. Mark Hobart

Last month NRL News Today carried a story about a nightmarish scenario for Australian physician Dr. Mark Hobart. Hobart, 55, stands to lose his license for refusing to perform a sex-selection abortion on a woman 19 weeks along and then for not referring the couple on to another physician. But even as the complaint against Dr. Hobart goes forward, a story today in the Melbourne, Australia newspaper, “The Age,” suggests the unwarranted attack against Dr. Hobart for exercising his right of conscience may have boomeranged.

Henrietta Cook, a state political reporter for the newspaper, begins her story with this encouraging lead:

“The [Victorian Premier Denis] Napthine government is not ruling out changes to Victoria’s abortion laws ahead of an investigation into a doctor who refused to give a couple an abortion referral because they wanted a boy.”

When Cook queried a “government spokesman,” they would not be definitive. But pro-abortionists are plenty worried.

Cook notes that last week Labor MP Jaala Pulford urged Health Minister David Davis to make a statement on whether the government had any intention of changing Victoria’s abortion laws. (The “Abortion Law Reform Act” was passed in 2008.)

“She said the current laws struck the right balance between the rights of the doctor and a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion and access medical services,” Cook reported. “’Any changes to the law will harm women already making a difficult choice without providing any benefit to doctors,’” Pulford said.

But in the very next sentence, Pulford conceded she’d been inundated with correspondence from those who wanted a change to the state’s abortion laws. Predictably, Pulford described this as “a backdoor effort to recriminalise abortion.”

As we reported in October, it wasn’t as if the woman (whose husband wanted a son, not a daughter) had any trouble securing an abortion. Contrary to the pro-abortion talking point, abortion is easily secured and no referral is needed. The couple, which had the abortion a couple of days later, is not behind the inquiry.

Indeed, it is not known who is. As Miranda Devine of the Herald Sun reported, “Dr Hobart’s repeated requests for the identity of his accusers and the substance of the complaint have been rebuffed by the board and its parent body, the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency.”

She added that the AHPRA told Dr Hobart that “’some’ members of the board initiated the ‘Own Motion’ against him at a meeting on 9 May, and that a majority of members present voted in favour.”

But the latest news is far more encouraging. It includes

· Last month pro-life Labor MP Christine Campbell lodged a submission on behalf of Dr. Hobart to a Legislative Council inquiry into the AHPRA. She observed that “all Victorian women could access an abortion without a referral and it was unnecessary for doctors who objected on grounds of conscience to have to provide an ‘effective referral,’” Cook wrote. “It [section 8] is poorly drafted because what doctor is going to know in every single circumstance another doctor who would automatically provide an abortion.”

· While the Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association supported the “decriminalisation of abortion,” it also is in the camp of those who want Section 8 of the Abortion Law Reform Act removed.

· And last week, Cook reports, “Liberal MP Andrew Katos and National’s whip Peter Crisp tabled a petition in state parliament in support of Dr Hobart, which said health professionals should not be forced to act against their conscience and refer patients for an abortion.

Editorial Comment: Protection of a Health Professional’s Right to follow his or her Conscience is key to this latest development in Australia. As the pro-life Victorian Labor MP, Christine Campbell, was quoted in The Age as saying “I’m opposed to any law that denies people the right to exercise their conscience, because to deny conscience is to deny who a person is.” Developments across the Tasman will be followed with great interest by the New Zealand Health Professionals Alliance. It would be a great outcome for those who believe in the right to practice with an informed conscience, if Section 8 of Victoria’s Abortion Law Reform Act 2008 was amended to include the right to conscientious objection for health practitioners.


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