Conscientious objection obstacle to safe terminations: Qld Government

Doug Hendrie

9/09/2019 4:16:52 PM

Concerns have been raised that increasing numbers of doctors with objections to abortion may threaten a woman’s ability to seek a termination.

Sign - Clinic, 200km
Long distances and conscientious objection may make it hard for women to seek terminations.

The head of the State Government’s healthcare improvement agency, Clinical Excellence Queensland, recently wrote to the RACGP calling for better management of conscientious objection to termination of pregnancy.
But the RACGP maintained its view that conscientious objection is necessary.
Since termination was legalised in Queensland last December, the issue of conscientious objection has flared in rural and regional parts of the vast state, where there may only be one GP servicing a large area.
While GPs who conscientiously object to providing terminations are required by state law to refer a woman seeking an abortion to an ‘accessible and willing’ healthcare provider, finding another provider close by can be challenging in rural areas.
The letter to the RACGP, signed by Clinical Excellence Queensland Deputy Director-General Dr John Wakefield, cites a 2018 International Women’s Health Coalition report on denial of abortion care, which states that an emerging obstacle to safe and legal termination is the ‘growing use of religious or conscience claims’.
The report states rates of conscientious objection are up to 80% in countries like Italy and Uruguay. No figures were available for Queensland’s rate of conscientious objection.
The Clinical Excellence Queensland letter states that conscientious objection should be balanced against the reproductive rights of women.
‘Conscience-based refusal of termination of pregnancy care may result in … [h]indering a woman’s access to appropriate services … [p]articularly for women who reside in regional, rural and remote communities that are not well serviced,’ it states.
The letter states that widespread conscientious objection could also lead to healthcare provider burnout, overburdening of remaining providers, and fewer providers offering services.
The letter has also been sent to the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation.  
RACGP Queensland Chair Dr Bruce Willett defended the right of GPs to conscientiously object.
‘While the RACGP recognises the new termination of pregnancy legislation represents a shift in community values, we have strongly advocated for the rights of practitioners to be able to conscientiously object when it comes to termination of pregnancy,’ he told newsGP.
‘The RACGP recognises that individual practitioners have disparate and strongly held views on this issue and respects the diversity of opinion of GPs on this issue.’
Queensland Health has released a checklist for healthcare providers who wish to conscientiously object.

abortion conscientious objection Queensland termination

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JD   10/09/2019 7:15:53 AM

Thankyou for recognising that conscientious objectors are not evil monsters. They are often portrayed that way in abortion debates. It is very important that we allow practitioners to put limits on what they are willing to do. Forcing them to act against their sincere beliefs is a form of abuse.
It is possible to be deeply concerned for, and supportive of, a woman in a difficult situation without wanting to facilitate the termination of her pregnancy.

Ian Denness   10/09/2019 9:28:23 AM

Thank you for not discriminating against us who want to remember the 'two patient rule' with pregnancy issues. Only mentioning the larger-sized patient in the equation is to arrogantly ignore the smaller one. After all, none of us would agree that a person's worth is only dependent on their size...

Dr Joshua Juniper   10/09/2019 9:58:54 AM

The RACGP stance on this is to be applauded.

Dannielle Kolos   10/09/2019 1:40:49 PM

With conscienscious objection, we need to offer advice and opportunity to the woman for also proceeding with the pregnancy. Most women, when interviewed, actually do not want to have an abortion, but feel compelled by circumstances to do so. Offering an early U/S to confirm a pregnancy is often an avenue for he[ping a woman to make up her mind. There are organisations who help with accomodation, medical care and financial assistance, and the woman should be made aware of these. Shared adoption is available if the woman does not have family help. Abortion clinics should focus on helping with her pregnancy, rather than focus on counting the number of abortions performed per year.

Elias   10/09/2019 2:59:46 PM

There is a requirement in the Act for a registered healthcare practitioner to inform the woman of their conscientious objection status and refer the woman in a timely manner to alternate accessible and willing registered healthcare practitioners who can provide the required service.
Consequences of non-compliance....

This is exactly the same as referring them directly for termination service ... sending to someone who the objecting doctor knows will refer . That’s a cop out of the act for people forcing their view on doctors who actually consciously object but are still forced to comply, or face a fine/ aphra . Killing innocent babies is never just , never ethical even if the mother wants to get rid of her problem. I believe even screening for purpose of finding and and referring disabled babies for killing or nicely put “termination of pregnancy” is wrong , is not medical excellence, and results in the loss of very beautiful members of society.

Sebastian   11/09/2019 12:00:57 PM

I agree with Elias' comment above.

I wonder what future medico-legal cases may be encountered with practitioners who are unwilling to compromise on this matter regardless of what the Acts and AHPRA say.

Johnny Khoury   13/09/2019 1:38:54 PM

Elias, I'm with you 100%. This not not a real conscientious objection at all. The RACGP needs to come out and say this clearly.