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03 / 10 / 2008 - Australian Doctors Threaten Exodus if Mandatory Abortion Law is Passed
MELBOURNE - A coalition of medical practitioners have warned that the Abortion Law Reform Bill may force conscientious Victoria doctors to relocate or abandon their practice rather than facilitate abortions against their will.
The "Doctors in Conscience Against Abortion Bill" coalition, representing more than 100 Victoria doctors, has petitioned Parliament members to reject the current form of the bill scheduled for a final debate in Victoria Parliament's upper house next month.
Pediatirician Brian Conway representing the coalition said that the abortion bill's anti-conscience clause, which requires that doctors unwilling to perform an abortion refer women to a willing doctor, was a crucial concern.
"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 health-care professionals in this state," said Dr. Conway. "The state should not coerce its health professionals to participate in the taking of human life.
"And we're concerned that this bill places such great restrictions that we're aware of doctors who are considering moving interstate or retiring early from practice, which is only going to worsen the doctor shortage, because of the onerous demands of this bill."
The coalition includes prominent doctors including Graeme Clark, inventor of the bionic ear; Professor John Leeton AM, an Australian pioneer of IVF; and Professor David Clarke, a psychiatrist at Monash University. The Australian Medical Association has also asked that the referral clause be amended.
The coalition joins the Victorian Catholic medical community in its protest against the bill. Archbishop Denis Hart has warned Parliament that Catholic hospitals may have no choice but to close their maternity and emergency departments, or close entirely, if the bill is passed. Such a dramatic action could cripple Victoria healthcare; Catholic institutions oversee roughly one-third of Victoria's births.
In a meeting last week, Victoria's 15 Catholic hospitals unanimously reinforced Archbishop Hart's opposition to the proposed abortion law.
"We will not require our doctors to comply with the law. In the event that the bill is passed we will ensure that staff are able to examine their consciences," said Martin Laverty, chief executive of Catholic Health Australia. Catholic hospital referral policy would not change, according to Laverty, although he hoped that the bill would be amended to avoid conflict with the law, reported TheAge.com.
Lawyers on behalf of the Catholic Health Association are arguing that the abortion bill conflicts with the Charter of Human Rights, which establishes the right to freedom of conscience.
Source : Kathleen Gilbert - LifeSiteNews.com