Termination of Pregnancy Act 2018
What follows are the parts of the Termination of Pregnancy Act 2018 that pertain to protection of freedom of conscience.
The bill permits abortion up to 22 weeks gestation for any reason; no medical indications are required (Section 5). Abortion after 22 weeks gestation may be performed for any reason that two practitioners find acceptable (Section6(1)a), including current and future "social circumstances" (6(2)b).
The bill requires disclosure of objections to abortion by a practitioner when asked by someone (not necessarily a patient) to perform or assist in the performance of an abortion on a woman, to make a decision about whether an abortion should be provided for a woman who is over 22 weeks pregnant (Section 6), or to advise about the performance of an abortion on a woman.
When a woman wants an abortion or advice about an abortion for herself, an objecting practitioner is required to refer or transfer the care of the woman to someone or an agency willing to provide it (Section 3).
Practitioners who object to abortion in principle and those who object in particular cases are often unwilling to facilitate the procedure by referral, transfers of care or other means because they believe that this makes them parties to or complicit in an immoral act. Thus, the provision for conscientious objection in the bill actually suppresses the exercise of freedom of conscience by these practitioners.
4. Definitions [from Schedule 1]
registered health practitioner means a person registered under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law to practise a health profession, other than as a student.
8. Registered health practitioner with conscientious objection
(1) This section applies if—
(a) a person asks a registered health practitioner to—
(i) perform a termination on a woman, or
(ii) assist in the performance of a termination on a woman or
(iii) make a decision under section 6 whether a termination on a woman should be performed, or
(iv) advise the first person about the performance of a termination on a woman, and
(b) the practitioner has a conscientious objection to the performance of the termination.
(2) The registered health practitioner must disclose the practitioner's conscientious objection to the person.
(3) If the request is by a woman for the registered health practitioner to perform a termination on the woman, or to advise the woman about the performance of a termination on the woman, the practitioner must refer the woman,or transfer her care, to —
(a) another registered health practitioner who, in the first practitioner’s belief, can provide the requested service and does not have a conscientious objection to the performance of the termination; or
(b) a health service provider at which, in the practitioner’s belief, the requested service can be provided by another registered health practitioner who does not have a conscientious objection to the performance of the termination.
(4) This section does not limit any duty owed by a registered health practitioner to provide a service in an emergency.