Doctors in Conscience Against Abortion Bill
Reproduced with permission
Conscientious objection is a right for all health professionals
We are a newly formed group of Victorian doctors from a range of medical
specialties, with diverse backgrounds, representing various faiths and none.
We call upon the Victorian government to reject the Abortion Law Reform Bill
We consider the proposed legislation to be poorly framed and
unnecessarily coercive. It is based on false premises, incorrect definitions
and is not reflective of current clinical realities nor is it supportive of
vulnerable pregnant women.
1. The AntiConscience Clause.
Clause 8 of the Bill is unconscionable and unprecedented in this country.
We believe it to be an attack on the basic human rights of health
professionals which undermines their moral integrity and professional
autonomy. The state should not coerce its health professionals to
participate in the taking of human life. Many doctors, nurses and
pharmacists, with strong ethical, religious and cultural beliefs against
abortion will have to consider whether to continue to practice in breach of
the law or to discontinue working as healthcare professionals in this state.
We concur with the position put forward by Dr Doug Travis, President of
the AMA (Victorian Branch): "The Bill infringes the rights of doctors with a
conscientious objection by inserting an active compulsion for a doctor to
refer to another doctor who they know does not have a conscientious
objection. Respect for a conscientious objection is a fundamental principle
in our democratic country, and doctors expect that their rights in this
regard will be respected, as for any other citizen."
We believe the right to conscientiously object to participation in the
process of abortion, either directly or through referral, should also be
respected for Nurses, Pharmacists and other healthcare workers.
2. The Bill does not reflect current medical knowledge or clinical
a. The definition of abortion used in this Bill incorrectly includes
inducing a live birth prematurely
for medical reasons and the management of an ectopic pregnancy. A proper
definition of abortion should refer to the active, direct and intentional
taking of a human foetal life.
b. The premise that an abortion is like any other medical procedure is
mistaken. Only euthanasia and medically assisted executions share the same
objective and intention of abortion: the taking of human life.
c. The concept of an 'emergency abortion' is a clinical fiction. Almost
always the management of complicated and lifethreatening pregnancies need
not necessitate an abortion.
d. Suicide risk in a pregnant woman is a psychiatric emergency, not an
indication for an abortion
e. Late term abortions are not medically necessary. Attempting a live
birth is a safer option when a mother's health is at risk.
f. The requirements for permitting a late term abortion in section 5 of
the Bill are meaningless and in effect endorse all abortions up to birth for
any reason. The agreement of just one other
"registered medical practitioner" would not be difficult to find and would
in practice pose little if any restriction on late term abortions.
3. This Bill offers no support for women facing difficult or unexpected
The rejection of proposals that would have given support to pregnant
women in crisis through
proper referral systems, information provision, independent counselling, a
cooling-off period and effective followup, does not reflect a real concern
for the welfare of women.
4. The Bill endorses poor clinical practice and exposes pregnant women
In terms of complexity and risk, abortions, especially late term
abortions, are the equivalent of
major medical and surgical procedures. However, unlike any other major
procedure, this bill would allow:
- a nonGP referral, walkin, same day service without the requirement
of a proper independent medical assessment or the need for appropriate
follow up provisions.
- an abortion to be performed by any "registered medical practitioner"
without the need for specialist training or proper accreditation.
- an accredited Nurse or Pharmacist to procure an abortion up to six
months without the
involvement of a medical doctor and without the need for proper medical
This legislation exhibits a disregard for the health concerns of women
with difficult pregnancies.
5. The interests, value and humanity of the unborn child are ignored.
This bill shows a disregard for the humanity and the basic human rights
of the embryonic and
foetal child. The unborn child should not be treated as though it were of no
value at all. We thank you for considering our concerns. A longer and
more detailed and referenced document is attached to more fully explain our
position against this Bill.