ALRANZ Accuses Medical Council of Caving In to Anti-Abortion

Press Release – ALRANZ

ALRANZ today hit out at the Medical Council for caving in to anti-abortion doctors and abandoning its own principles in the on-going case over the use of conscientious objection in abortion care.21 November 2011

ALRANZ Accuses Medical Council of Caving In to Anti-Abortion Pressure

ALRANZ today hit out at the Medical Council for caving in to anti-abortion doctors and abandoning its own principles in the on-going case over the use of conscientious objection in abortion care.

The Council (MCNZ) told ALRANZ that it had withdrawn its appeal against the December 2010 High Court ruling in the conscientious objection case because of lack of funds.

“ALRANZ is appalled and dismayed that the MCNZ has essentially ceded its statutory role of setting standards for doctors to a small group of anti-abortion health professionals,” said ALRANZ executive member Alison McCulloch.

This matter arose in 2009 when the anti-abortion doctors objected to the MCNZ’s proposed guidelines on “Beliefs and Medical Practice.” Ms. McCulloch said the MCNZ then engaged in secret negotiations with the anti-abortion group, from which other interested parties were excluded.

“No one was asking these doctors to take part in an abortion procedure, as their right not to do so is clear under the law. What these doctors are seeking is an expansion of conscientious objection so they can simply show a patient seeking an abortion the door, without even making a referral to someone who will deal with her needs,” Ms. McCulloch said.

Despite the secret talks, however, the anti-abortion doctors were not satisfied with what the MCNZ offered, and took the MCNZ to court. A ruling in that case was issued in December, and ALRANZ was heartened when the MCNZ announced it had voted unanimously to appeal.

“Now we learn that appeal has been withdrawn,” Ms. McCulloch said.

“The MCNZ’s handling of a matter so important for patients’ rights has been appalling. It has been secretive, non-transparent and unfair to the majority of doctors and health professionals who do not share the anti-abortion views of one small group,” Ms. McCulloch said. “The MCNZ has essentially decided that it’s doctors who come first, not patients.”

If the December High Court ruling stands, doctors will have no obligation other than to tell women seeking an abortion they should go somewhere else. For a pregnant woman, this means starting the process all over again, making new appointments, further delaying her access to care.

ALRANZ supports the principle, which the MCNZ has apparently decided not to defend, that doctors who object to abortion be at least obliged to actively refer patients to someone who can handle their case.

The MCNZ is accountable to Parliament, and the Minister of Health appoints most of its members. ALRANZ is calling on the Minister to investigate the MCNZ’s handling of this matter.

“An independent review of the MCNZ last year by a UK agency pointed to the council’s lack of openness as a concern, and we believe this case shows the MCNZ’s procedures need urgent attention,” Ms. McCulloch said.

For more a detailed account and a timeline, visit our blog at: alranz.wordpress.com

ENDS

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