Dr Mark Hobart, a Melbourne GP, is being investigated by the Medical Board of Victoria for allegedly refusing to refer a couple for an abortion of their healthy 19-week unborn baby, simply because she was a girl.
This case highlights the likelihood of coercion of doctors under Section 8 of Victoria’s controversial Abortion Law Reform Act 2008. Under its provisions Dr Hobart could face suspension or even be deregistered.
Section 8 of Victoria’s abortion law requires a doctor with a conscientious objection to abortion to refer a woman seeking an abortion or advice on an abortion to another doctor who he/she knows does not have a conscientious objection.
The Medical Board of Victoria launched its investigation of him after he had disclosed to Melbourne’s Herald Sun in April that a couple had asked him for a gender-selective abortion.
There was no complaint made by a patient nor any allegation of harm to a patient. He is being investigated by the board solely for refusing to refer a woman for a gender-selection abortion of a healthy baby, which polls consistently show most Australians are opposed to. He told the Herald Sun that he doesn’t know any doctor who would agree to abort a healthy baby because of its gender. He said: “The general response from my colleagues is disbelief and revulsion.”
Miranda Devine, writing in Melbourne’s Herald Sun (October 5), remarked: “The irony is that Victoria’s abortion laws, among the most extreme in the world, were driven by a bipartisan feminist agenda. Yet now those laws are being used to punish a doctor who refused to participate in the sort of selective abortion of female foetuses which has made girl babies an endangered species in India and other patriarchal societies.”
Dr Hobart is not the only doctor known to have fallen foul of the Medical Board of Victoria over Section 8. Another doctor earlier this year reported that he had been cautioned by the board for comments he had made about Section 8 in an online “conversation” with colleagues, one of whom complained to the board. Again, there was no patient complaint.
Dr Hobart risks being deregistered by the board and losing his livelihood. The other practitioner who was investigated was cautioned and warned that if he came before the board again the matter would be regarded very seriously.
Section 8 contravenes Section 14 of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006, which states: “14(1) Every person has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief.” Section 8 creates the anomalous situation in which medical and health professionals are denied the freedom of conscience guaranteed to all other Victorians by Section 14 of the state’s charter.
Section 8, by denying doctors the right to freely exercise their professional judgement and by interfering with their obligation to act and give advice in the best interests and for the welfare of their patients, can have far-reaching consequences.
Often, a woman presents to a doctor with her boyfriend, husband, partner or family members. Sometimes it’s one of these other parties asking for the woman to be referred for an abortion.
There are many recorded instances in which the pregnant woman is being coerced into the abortion, as is recognised even by Women’s Health Victoria (WHV), which ironically led the campaign for the 2008 abortion act.
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