Australian Medical Association Tasmania Ltd.
Submission to the Tasmanian Government on the law governing termination
5 April, 2013
The Tasmanian branch of the Australian Medical Association expressed
qualified support for statutory legalization of abortion in a submission to
the Tasmanian state government concerning its proposed
Health (Access to Terminations) Bill 2013. However, the
Association also emphasized its opposition to parts of the proposed bill
that would suppress freedom of conscience among physicians. Those
parts of the submission are reproduced below.
Extracts of submission concerning freedom of conscience
From the Introduction
. . . AMA Tasmania has grave concerns that the draft legislation has the
potential to criminalise members of the profession with conscientious
objection to termination of pregnancy.
From Concerns and comments with the draft new legislation
Conscientious objection - Importantly, the proposed changes to the
termination laws in Tasmania should not deny a doctor opposed to
terminations the ability to act according to his or her beliefs. AMA Members
are very concerned about conscientious objection. It is noted that Members
of Parliament would have a conscience vote on the proposed legislation but
that the draft as it stands denies similar consideration to medical
Mandating referrals - Mandating a conscientious objector
to make a referral to another doctor could be viewed as denying that doctor
the ability to live according to their beliefs (if the person considers
providing a referral to be participating in an activity to which they
object). The AMA has already informed the minister directly that a referral
in medicine is a very formal process. We suggest removing section 7,
subsection 2 and replacing it by paraphrasing the Federal AMA position
statement on Reproductive Health and Reproductive Technology. "When a
personal moral judgement or religious belief prevents doctors from
recommending termination of pregnancy, they must so inform their patients.
They must also inform patients that this option may be available elsewhere."
Fines - The legislation allows for a fine where a referral is not
provided. This provision criminalises conscientious objection. We understand
in Victoria one doctor has been required to appear before the medical board
for not providing a referral.
Referral obligations - The draft legislation information paper states
that referral obligations exist under the Tasmanian Charter of Health Rights
and Responsibilities, the Australian Medical Association Code of Ethics, and
the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and
Gynaecologists Code of Ethical Practice. The AMA Code of Ethics does not
oblige a doctor to provide a referral in the case of conscientious
objection. What the Code says in relation to referral is '19. Recognise your
professional limitations and be prepared to refer as appropriate'. Again,
this does not impose a duty to refer in relation to conscientious objection.
From Relevant Federal AMA policy on conscientious objection
Below are statements on conscientious objection (and the policies in
which they are found). Please note that none of these statements indicate
that a doctor with a conscientious objection has a duty to provide a
referral to another doctor.
AMA Code of Ethics 16.
When a personal moral judgement or religious belief alone prevents you
from recommending some form of therapy, inform your patients so that they
may seek care elsewhere.
Position Statement on Reproductive Health and Reproductive
2.6 When a personal moral judgement or religious belief prevents doctors
from recommending some form of therapy, they should so inform their
patients. They should also inform patients that such therapy may be
Medical Board of Australia Good Medical Practice: A Code of
Conduct for Doctors in Australia statements on conscientious objection
2.4.6 Being aware of your right to not provide or directly participate in
treatments to which you conscientiously object, informing your patients and,
if relevant, colleagues, of your objection, and not using your objection to
impede access to treatments that are legal.
2.4.7 Not allowing your moral or religious views to deny patients access
to medical care, recognising that you are free to decline to personally
provide or participate in that care.
For further information please contact
Tony Steven CEO AMA Tasmania
147 Davey Street Hobart TAS 7000
Tel. 03 6223 2047
Fax. 03 6223 6469
Mob. 0409 219 368