According to Monday’s Herald Sun, by refusing to provide a referral for a patient on moral grounds or refer the matter to another doctor, Dr Hobart admits he has broken the law and could face suspension, conditions on his ability to practice or even be deregistered. But he was willing to risk punishment in pursuit of principles. He said he did not believe any doctor in Victoria would have helped a couple have an abortion just because they wanted a boy. Another doctor who was brought before the Medical Board in January for airing his views against abortion was cautioned and warned he could be deregistered if it happened again.
Victoria's Abortion Law Reform Act 2008 specifies the obligations of registered health practitioners who have a "conscientious objection" to abortion. Under the Act, if a woman requests a doctor to advise on a proposed abortion and the practitioner has a conscientious objection, he or she must refer the woman to a practitioner who does not conscientiously object.
But this incident highlights a much bigger problem regarding abortion. The Law states that "the woman's current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances” need to be considered when proposing an abortion (especially after 24 weeks). I agree with the first two conditions: if a woman’s physical or psychological health and wellbeing are threatened by the pregnancy then a higher law comes into play. But what we’re seeing in society today goes far beyond this. Abortion is being used as a form of contraception because a baby would interfere with lifestyle or career, or, as in this instance, because the couple wants a boy not a girl. So, what happens if they become pregnant with a girl next time? Abort? What if they keep having girls? How many babies die until these people get the son they want?
One in six Australian couples cannot have children. Why don’t people choose to adopt their “unwanted” babies to people who’d love and care for them? But it’s just a fetus, an unwanted pregnancy, just a lump of disposable epithelial tissue right? The word “fetus” comes from Latin and means “offspring”, “bringing forth”, “hatching of young.” When a couple are happy to find out they are pregnant you don’t hear the words, “we’re expecting a fetus.” No, they’re expecting a baby. Maybe our “throw-away” society has just gone too far.