“Pro-life” Archbishop Hart’s murderous misogyny

The Abortion Law Reform Bill 2008 can be read in its entirety at Austlii.

The emergency provisions are not complicated or difficult to understand. They are as follows:

Despite any conscientious objection to abortion, a registered medical practitioner is under a duty to perform an abortion in an emergency where th abortion is necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant woman.

Despite any conscientious objection to abortion, a registered nurse is under a duty to assist a registered medical practitioner in performing an abortion in an emergency where the abortion is necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant woman.

This Bill is quite straightforward on the matter. It means that if you are a doctor or a nurse, and you have a women in front of you who will die in the immediate future unless she has an abortion, you have an obligation to save her life.

The Catholic Church is beside itself.

From The Australian: Abortion laws threaten Catholic hospitals

The Catholic Church’s extensive network of hospitals in Victoria faces a “real threat” from planned new abortion laws, Archbishop Denis Hart says.

He warned parishioners that Catholic-run hospitals might have to stop running conventional maternity and emergency services if Parliament passed the laws.

He warned in a pastoral letter that Catholic staff would face having to break the law if they wanted to maintain anti-abortion beliefs.

Archbishop Hart is throwing a tantrum because he wants Catholic hospitals to reserve the right to let you die – even when there are doctors and nurses by your bedside who could save your life. Archbishop Hart would like those doctors and nurses to stand by, perhaps holding your hand and praying for you, as you breathe your last gasp.

If it’s not an immediate emergency but you’re still going to die without an abortion, Hart wants the hospital to be able to refuse to refer you to someone who will help you live. If you can’t figure out what you need and walk out of the hospital on a self-discharge to seek help, he wants the right to detain you while you expire. Hart’s idea of “medical care” for dying women seems to be calling a chaplain as they beg for help.

The answer? We need this law passed, across the country and not just in Victoria. We need it to be enforced.

Meanwhile, women who would prefer their doctors choose life – theirs – would be well-served by avoiding ever being admitted to a Catholic hospital. Emergencies can happen suddenly and unexpectedly. You never know when you might not be able to leave.

You can find a listing here at Catholic Health Australia. It includes Calvary Health Care, St John of God Hospital, Sacred Heart, Sisters of Charity Health Service, Mercy Hospital, Mercy Care Centre, Werribee Mercy Hospital, St Vincent’s Hospital, Mater Hospital, Lourdes Hospital, Mater Misericordiae Private Hospital, Canossa Private Hospital, Holy Spirit Northside, Cabrini Hospital, and more.

boycott catholic hospitals



Categories: gender & feminism, health, medicine, religion, social justice

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55 replies

  1. If it’s not an immediate emergency but you’re still going to die without an abortion, Hart wants the hospital to be able to refuse to refer you to someone who will help you live. If you can’t figure out what you need and walk out of the hospital on a self-discharge to seek help, he wants the right to detain you while you expire. Hart’s idea of “medical care” for dying women seems to be calling a chaplain as they beg for help.

    What a sadistic shit.

  2. Oh, got to love that threat to shut down emergency & maternity services altogether. It’s stuff like that that really shows where these people’s priorities lie. Embarrassments to Christianity.
    I have been having treatment with a specialist partly in a clinic at the Mercy. Somewhat ashamed to admit I never really thought about the religious rules there. How do they work it, anyway, in terms of making the non-Catholic doctors toe the required line? I can’t quite picture this particular doctor taking orders like that from a man like him. Do they make doctors setting foot in their hospitals sign pledges or something?

  3. fuck fuck fuck. I cannot believe that someone would seriously say that. What a fucking awesome Christian.
    And it’s not like there’s no other line of work for anti-abortion medical staff – psychiatric care (majority male patients) and geriatric care are desperate for staff. If you can’t carry out your job – saving lives – find another workplace where you can.

  4. “I believe in a woman’s right to bodily autonomy and her right to not be held hostage by her reproductive system.”
    “Well, I don’t think you should sacrifice the life of an unborn child for the convenience of a woman.”
    “It’s not just convenience! Sometimes it could mean her job or her house to have to go through pregnancy!”
    “Okay, so maybe it’s hard. But it’s still nothing compared to a *life.* You have sex, you should be ready to accept the consequences.”
    “But…okay, what if the woman’s life is in danger? Like, she’s in the hospital and she’ll die if she doesn’t get an abortion. Is it still convenience then?”
    I knew it. I knew the answer was “yes.” That’s what they really think. Women’s lives are worth less than fetuses. Bastards, bastards, bastards. *tears of rage*

  5. What they try to say, also, is that they’re just being terribly respectful of the religious views of their staff. What they don’t tell you is that Catholic hospitals enforce Catholic medicine: medical staff must sign a pledge that they’ll practise medicine with Catholic restrictions while within the walls. At least some hospitals extend this requirement to all leaseholders on-site who aren’t accredited with the hospital and provide no inpatient care at all.
    So it’s got bugger-all to do with the personal convictions of the staff involved. This is pure corporate misogyny.

  6. I read this piece this morning and honest to God, I cried for quite some time. I’ve been struggling with my Catholicism and liberal beliefs for some time now, and this was the last straw.
    I’m now officially no longer identifying as a Catholic.
    Bastards.

  7. Keri I did the same when JPII reaffirmed his hardline stance on all things private, back in the 90s.
    Isn’t he threatening to get the church out of the running of hospitals…? In which case, someone give the man a team of 10 and a million dollars to speed up the transition?

  8. Words have finally failed me. I knew it had to happen one day.

  9. I loved his attempt to make it all about the roman catholic doctors’ freedom. (To override the patients’ freedom.)
    What about THEIR rights (to limit other people’s rights)?
    Honestly, I don’t know how we can be so selfish.

  10. What Laura said. What a despicable act of blackmail. And now they want more money for their schools, too.
    It’ll never happen – because Labor in Victoria is still heavily Catholic, and of course we must be fucking Fiscally Responsible, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if the government took over all the Catholic hospital system as public teaching hospitals as a response to this extortion.

  11. So … deliberately leaving someone to die is Totes Morally Cool, and yet voluntary, merciful euthanasia is BADWRONG.
    It’s this shit that not only stopped me identifying as Catholic but also questioning the existence of any kind of benevolent God.

  12. What REALLY horrifies me is the thought that the only way to fix this BS is for a woman to die and a case for corporate manslaughter brought against the hospital admin.

  13. It is about time we eliminated the idea of ‘Catholic medicine’, and the Archbishop is ultimately leading in the same direction. Sure, he is trying some sleazy blackmail, but ultimately, he is right on one thing — it is becoming impossible to practice ‘Catholic medicine’. Which means it is about time for the Catholic church to choose between practicing medicine, or not, and give up the idea that it can pick and choose practicing the bits of medicine it likes.

  14. That’s an awfully high moral horse he’s riding for a Catholic Hospital system that wanted to refuse rape victims referral to services offering the morning after pill just a year ago.
    According to their site Catholic Hospitals Australia [CHA] accounts for 13% of the market in Australia. Job competition & access to health services being what they are; state funding for CHA probably encourages some staff who don’t subscribe to their “healing ministry of Jesus” values to shut up and sign on.
    Religious discrimination favours them already. Let it be revoked it they want to play blackmail with patients rights too.

  15. Back in the day, when I was being educated at a single sex convent school (why yes, I can pray in Latin), we were shown the usual films about abortion. But the nuns told us that if it came to a choice between the baby’s (their words, not mine) life and the mother’s life, then the better thing, or the less bad evil, was to abort the fetus, and save the mother.
    So were my nuns subversive?
    BTW, NZ is still a missionary church, so it is much less controlled by il papa, and more free to do its own thing. The NZ bishops have never particularly pushed for the missionary status to be revoked, in part because of the freedom it gives them.
    Nevertheless, I parted ways with them a long, long time ago.

  16. I’m so glad you guys commented on this. I kept reading the articles and translating, so:
    ‘”The . . . Bill, if enacted, will lead to Catholic hospitals and doctors who have a conscientious objection to abortion, acting contrary to the law,” Archbishop Hart said… ‘The Bill is an unprecedented attack on the freedom to hold and exercise fundamental religious beliefs,” he said.
    ‘”The … Bill, if enacted, will lead to Catholic hospitals and doctors who have an unreasonable objection to women governing their own bodies, being forced to follow the law,” Archbishop Hart said… “The Bill is an unprecedented step towards the freedom to hold and exercise reproductive choice and save lives.’
    And so on.

  17. If it’s not an immediate emergency but you’re still going to die without an abortion, Hart wants the hospital to be able to refuse to refer you to someone who will help you live. If you can’t figure out what you need and walk out of the hospital on a self-discharge to seek help, he wants the right to detain you while you expire.

    Thanks for reporting on this. Do you have a source for the quote above? I couldn’t find it in the linked article from The Australian, and I’d like to be able to back it up if I tell friends about it.

  18. Hi, CN. It’s all there in the article, read in combination with the law they’re opposing.
    The Church is opposing the law that would compel doctors to perform an emergency abortion when a women’s life is immediately threatened, and opposing the law that would compel doctors to provide a referral for abortion services if it’s not an emergency.
    If the hospital refuses to perform an emergency abortion for a dying woman in their care (say with eclampsia or HELLP syndrome), and refuses to refer her either (if there is time for transfer), this is what they are arguing for – the right to let women die.

  19. I think you’re wrong and I you are being misleading about Catholic teaching. This is from New Advent, the online Catholic Encyclopedia:
    “However, if medical treatment or surgical operation, necessary to save a mother’s life, is applied to her organism (though the child’s death would, or at least might, follow as a regretted but unavoidable consequence), it should not be maintained that the fetal life is thereby directly attacked. Moralists agree that we are not always prohibited from doing what is lawful in itself, though evil consequences may follow which we do not desire. The good effects of our acts are then directly intended, and the regretted evil consequences are reluctantly permitted to follow because we cannot avoid them.”
    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01046b.htm
    As you can quite plainly see, your claim that “Archbishop Hart wants Catholic hospitals to reserve the right to let you die…” isn’t correct. Allowing the mother to die would be murder and it would be against the teaching of the Catholic Church.

  20. And yet, Muerk, this Archbishop is fighting for doctors working in his system to refuse to perform emergency life-saving abortions. How do you explain that?
    You need to read about the doctrine of double effect. RC teaching is that a doctor may not perform a deliberate pregnancy termination, even on a completely doomed pregnancy such as an ectopic pregnancy. What they are allowed to do in the case of an ectopic pregnancy is to remove the entire Fallopian tube as a life-saving procedure, thus – oops! – ending the pregnancy as a “side effect” of the tube removal, and pretending to themselves that since the pregnancy termination wasn’t what they _intended_ to do, it was just a side effect, and was therefore ok under Catholic teaching.
    What they are not allowed to do, in the case of a tubal pregnancy, is to perform surgery remove the pregnancy from the tube, thereby preserving the woman’s full fertility; nor are they allowed to inject the pregnancy with methotrexate via minimally invasive surgery (reducing the risks to the mother) or give methotrexate as medical treatment (where appropriate) to avoid surgery at all. This is sub-standard medicine.
    So the woman is exposed to more invasive surgery and a higher threat to her future fertility to achieve exactly the same end – saving her life and ending the pregnancy. This is the doctrine of double effect, which is grossly hypocritical and is damaging to women.
    Since there is no real equivalent when the pregnancy is much more advanced (women who need emergency non-first-trimester abortions aren’t generally in good enough shape to withstand, say, a hysterectomy), Catholic teaching is that no pregnancy termination can take place at all.
    Not all Catholics subscribe to this teaching, of course. However – Catholic hospitals compel this doctrine as a condition of employment or accreditation of their staff, whether those staff are Catholic or not, whether the patients are Catholic or not – it is not left to the healthcare provider’s conscience, as Hart implies.
    And I can tell you from years of personal experience on both sides of the consulting desk that women are not offered informed choice by the hospitals when making their maternity care decisions, and of course have no choice at all when they’re just taken to the nearest hospital by ambulance, so the argument that “they should just go elsewhere” fails before it has a chance to start.

  21. Oh hai, forced-birthers in moderation. Are you here from Blogocracy?
    If your posts aren’t in line with our Comments Policy, I may decline to publish them. And I really don’t give a flying pineapple-flavoured fuck whether that makes your little heads explode.
    I’m not going to use my thread as a venue to squabble about whether a bunch of men in Rome should have control of my uterus. Because it’s not. up. for. grabs.

  22. Murderous misogyny – they are doing it heere. Can’t save girls from the most common type of cervical cancer because the virus that causes it is sexually transmitted. You might be encouraging them to have sex…
    Here’s a tip – if girls don’t share your moral and social values, your fallback shouldn’t be to scare them into behavioural submission.

  23. “You need to read about the doctrine of double effect.”
    I’m well aware of this, that was my exact point – the abortion can not be directly willed. And I see you agree with me, Catholicism does _not_ teach “leave the woman to die” as stated by the above post.
    The Archbishop is not fighting specific clinical decisions, he is fighting a law. And by all means, disagree with Catholic teaching on direct abortions that will improve a mother’s health. I can see the logic there.
    What I object to is the gross untruth that “Archbishop Hart would like those doctors and nurses to stand by, perhaps holding your hand and praying for you, as you breathe your last gasp.”
    BTW – I saw this linked from No Right Turn, which is why I turned up here.

  24. Okay, so the general vibe here seems to be: Selfish Catholics, providing all that healthcare and then drawing a line at certain procedures”
    Is that about right?
    Look, I don’t want to be inflammatory, but as a person who believes strongly in freedom (both personal and social) I have no problems with the Church saying they won’t perform abortions. They are providing healthcare as a kind of religious imperative, you can’t then expect them to conveniently dismiss this same religion when it suits you. (Yes, I am aware that they receive some public funding – but they are not 100% publicly funded)
    And don’t forget that there are already several cases where possibly life-saving surgery is withheld from people (e.g. smokers won’t get cardiac bypass surgery – and that applied to almost all hospitals, catholic or not), so considering that some doctors equate the abortion of a fetus with murder, is it so surprising that they won’t perform this procedure?
    The freedom that allows them to not do something is the same freedom that allows you to go elsewhere for your treatment. Do you really want the government making all the ethical choices regarding life and death?

  25. We get that Catholic hospitals won’t perform abortions. That is not the issue. The issues is that this particular bishop is saying that even when the life of the woman is in danger, they will not perform an abortion. IE they will let her die. That’s what we are talking about. Please read the post.

  26. Okay, so the general vibe here seems to be: Selfish Catholics, providing all that healthcare and then drawing a line at certain procedures”
    Is that about right?

    Not quite, no. “Drawing a line at certain life-saving emergency procedures, and refusing to either perform them or transfer for them, no matter what the patient’s wishes, and without informed consent at the time of booking/admission” is much closer.
    On funding, I expect any institute that takes public funds to do its job. I expect schools that accept public funds to teach the curriculum, including science. I expect medical organisations to do their medical best by their patients, whether they are publicly funded or not. Let’s hope you never find yourself being taken to a JW ED after a major trauma bleeding out and being refused a blood transfusion or transfer, eh?

    you can’t then expect them to conveniently dismiss this same religion when it suits you.

    I don’t expect them to “conveniently” do anything, and I don’t find the decision trivial in the least. Abortion of a wanted baby when a mother is gravely ill is a harrowing tragedy for everyone concerned. I expect staff to, faced with the decision between letting me and my fetus die, or removing my fetus so that I might live, choose life. And if they won’t do it and it’s absolutely safe to wait a short time, I expect them to call someone who will.
    “Pro-life”, right? That’s what they say?

    And don’t forget that there are already several cases where possibly life-saving surgery is withheld from people (e.g. smokers won’t get cardiac bypass surgery – and that applied to almost all hospitals, catholic or not),

    Do you have a cite for the systematic refusal of emergency life-saving bypass surgery for smokers? If so, I revile that also, yes.I revile all sorts of things. Drop the cite to me by email if you have it. This post is about abortion.

    The freedom that allows them to not do something is the same freedom that allows you to go elsewhere for your treatment.

    Women are not, I repeat NOT, informed of these policies at the time of referral or admission to Catholic maternity units. Or surgical units, or any other unit. I’ve been a maternity patient in a large Catholic hospital several times, under at least three doctors accredited with the hospital, and not once was I informed of this policy. As it happens, I had doctors who would have broken any law or precept to keep me alive, which was lucky – and it is completely unfair and unreasonable that they would have been breaking their contracts and risking their accreditation by doing so.

    Do you really want the government making all the ethical choices regarding life and death?

    Is this a trick question? I want to make the ethical choices regarding my life and death. If I’m not competent to do so, I want my next of kin making them, in concert with my doctor, who has only my best medical interest at heart. Pretty simple, no?

  27. “You need to read about the doctrine of double effect.”
    I’m well aware of this, that was my exact point – the abortion can not be directly willed. And I see you agree with me, Catholicism does _not_ teach “leave the woman to die” as stated by the above post.

    I’m not getting you. Hypothetical. I’m in your Catholic hospital. I’m critically ill. I have no relatives, and am too ill to use a phone. I will die without an abortion in the near future. The staff will not perform an abortion.
    What happens next, in your scenario?

  28. The Archbishops own words, as quoted in The Age:

    ”It also requires health professionals with a conscientious objection to abortion to perform an abortion in whatever is deemed an emergency.”

    See? Objection to emergency abortions = possible death of both patients. That’s what we object to.

  29. Lauredhel,
    Many thanks for this thread and for your insightful comments throughout it. I agree with everything you have said.
    You obviously know a lot about this issue, and I am curious as to whether you know much about the teaching practices of Catholic universities when it comes to reproductive health for medical degrees.
    I tried to look into this a few years ago in regards to a Catholic university in Perth when it first offered medicine as a course, and was only given some vague answers that they did cover reproductive health (contraception, IVF, abortion), but I am wondering whether you know to what degree this is covered?
    I’d hate to think that there are doctors out there coming out of Catholic universities who then could work in the public sector (let alone the Catholic sector) whose knowledge on these areas would be questionable, but as Catholic institutions I cannot see how they would be teaching upcoming lawyers how to terminate a pregnancy.

  30. Sorry, upcoming ‘doctors’, not lawyers!

  31. “Do you really want the government making all the ethical choices regarding life and death?”
    “Is this a trick question? I want to make the ethical choices regarding my life and death.”
    Couldn’t agree more. My life, my death, my choices. But if what not_a_doc meant was whether we want the government setting the boundaries within which we make those decisions, rather than, say, the Catholic Church, then to that I say a great big HELL YES.

  32. Sam: I don’t have any insider/personal knowledge on what they’re teaching. There has been some debate in the Medical Journal of Australia, which you can find at mja.com.au (and if you decide to do a blog post summarising/reacting, please feel welcome to post the link here.)
    I found the Notre Dame side of the debate to be vague, and unreassuring at best.

  33. “I will die without an abortion in the near future. The staff will not perform an abortion.”
    But that’s where my point comes in – the Church teaches that your life _must_ be saved, and if the fetus dies because of the life saving treatment, then that’s morally acceptable. Only direct abortion is forbidden, QED INdirect abortion (abortion as a side effect of saving your life) is licit.
    The scenario you posit above isn’t going to happen. A Catholic hospital should do what it took to save your life according to Catholic teaching. If it didn’t we’d hear about cases where women were actually dying now.
    To be fair, I’m in NZ, so I don’t know if Catholic hospitals are allowing women to die – are they?
    I do however agree that when a person comes into a Catholic hospital all this should be carefully explained. It’s irresponsible not to give people the opportunity to have fully informed consent.

  34. Muerk, you’re in denial. This is EXACTLY and precisely the situation that the law covers – read the text. The Archbishop is objecting to it.
    And what is an “indirect abortion”? Under the doctrine of double effect, it’s something like defining a Fallopian tube containing an ectopic pregnancy as “diseased”, and therefore removing the entire tube, “indirectly” removing the pregnancy at the same time.
    What’s the equivalent with a 21-week pregnancy? How is the mother saved by an operation on her body (as defined under Catholic doctrine, which doesn’t include the fetus’s body) without directly performing an abortion, if pregnancy-termination-right-now is what is needed?
    Again, what _exactly_ do you think the Catholic hospital will do if an D&X is what I need?

  35. Am kinda amazed at the people here and elsewhere who remain steadfastedly convinced that the Archbishop can’t possibly have meant what he said.
    You know this is an organisation that thinks a married couple where one partner has HIV shouldn’t use a condom, right? You know that it’s an organisation that believes I should stay celibate till menopause, married or not, or risk death? What exactly is it that you find so unbelievable about this position- one that is entirely consistent with the rest of their doctrine (if not with basic human decency)?
    It’s like you’re clapping your hands and saying “I don’t want to believe.”

  36. Muerk is right and I suspect Hart would know and understand Catholic teaching better than you do Lauredhel.
    I’m not a Catholic and I understand it -it’s not rocket science.
    There are plenty of good Catholic resources explaining this on the net – including the Catechism, Encyclicals etc on the Vatican’s own website. You want to look them up. You might also want to look up the principle of double effect.
    What is more, an honest obgyn would tell you there are very, very, very few situations where a pregnancy threatens the very life of a mother. Many obgyns can go through their entire careers without ever knowing or seeing one instance of needing to abort a child to save the mother.
    What is heinous about this legislation – which surpasses any other legislation in the world with perhaps the appalling laws in Britain – is that it would force doctors to make “an effective referral” for abortion against their conscience (and guess which bureaucrat decides “effective referral”). To have 70,000 Australians murdered each year by abortion (and yes that’s Family Planning’s stats) is a crime against humanity. But to go further and introduce what is effectively state-imposed murder is even more monstrous.

  37. saint: the doctrine of double effect was introduced back at 21. Read the whole thread before replying again, please.
    I don’t buy the “it’s rare, and it’s ok to let women with rare diseases die” argument. It doesn’t fly here.
    So, since you claim to understand Catholic teaching: do I get a D&X in this hypothetical HELLP or eclampsia case in the Catholic hospital or not? Or do you redefine my uterus as “diseased”, though it is not, and remove uterus and fetus together; or do you perform an unnecessary hysterotomy despite my coagulopathy and the fact that if I do survive, it will leave a uterine scar? Why? Show your work.
    Please also read comment 22 and our full Comments Policy before proceeding. This is not, I repeat not, a thread to debate the merits of reproductive choice.

  38. For a start, that 70,000 figure is notoriously innacurate, given that it’s based on the Medicare Claim numbers for the Procedures themselves, which are quite frequently used for non-abortive purposes. Perfunctory research would have informed you of that.
    secondly, between 10 and l2 per cent of pregnant women experience pre-eclampsia or HELLP syndromes, just two life- threatening conditions that can occur Particularly late in pregnancy.
    keris last blog post..Failing to disappoint

  39. It will probably surprise no-one to know that I’ve just deleted a long screed from “saint” not answering my question and expounding on about how abortion is child murder, and about how he supports the death penalty for child murder.
    Not gonna repeat myself again. Just letting the other commenters know, in case you were hanging on tenterhooks for a perspicacious and on-topic response from him.

  40. hmmm… okay, I think I see our key difference emerging. And please understand, that I fully support your position of wanting to be able to choose your medical treatment.
    A referral in medicine is a bit more than just offering an option. Its really part of the treatment process. A referral for anything is one doctor saying to another ‘I want you to perform this procedure which I am unable to do’. Is it hard to fathom that doctors who consider abortion to be murder refusing to request that another doctor perform this procedure on their patient?
    You say that when patients are admitted to a catholic hospital they are not told they will not be referred for abortions, and that is likely true. But they are also free to get a second (or first…) opinion from their own GP/obgyn while they are staying in any hospital, and their own doctor is free to refer them.
    I suppose in the pathological case there might be a person who is acutely sick, has no other carer, is unconscious, and taken to a catholic hospital for a condition for which there is no other treatment than an emergency abortion. In this situation, they may be failed by the system, but it could go either way. (What if this person would have preferred the baby to survive instead of herself?) There is no way for a doctor to know ahead of time if a person is pro-choice or pro-life, and in this case, who should force a doctor to choose one way or another?
    If a patient wants an abortion, all they have to do is have a doctor who will refer them, as with just about any other medical procedure. I find it hard to believe that there won’t be *any* doctors around who wouldn’t refer them, since I’m pretty sure the Church is a minority in doctors, like everything else.
    Medical doctors are in a somewhat sticky situation in general. They must carefully consider the health of their patients, and this is more than simply trying to cure their sickness. I believe that trying to change medicos into some kind of ‘healing machine’ is detrimental to all patients. Doctors have different ethical positions, and should generally be permitted to operate within their own ethics. I would consider it just as wrong to force a doctor to refer patients for a treatment to which they are opposed as to force a journalist to leave out certain details of a story unfavourable to government.
    As for funding, I think this an area on which we will have to just agree to disagree, because I think we have fundamentally different attitudes towards public spending. My personal opinion is that if a group says ‘hey we want to do something (e.g. build a hospital), and society (as represented by the government) considers this a valuable contribution they can say ‘good idea! Here is some money to help you along.’ I don’t think they should get a say in how the idea is created, because its not their idea in the first place. They can choose to fund or not to fund (they could even make funding conditional on certain things), but they can’t choose to fund and then say ‘oh, now that we have given you money, you have to do such and such’.
    So if the JWs set up an emergency department that refused to perform blood transfusions using their own capital, that would be their right. And if the government wanted to give them money, they are free to do so (well, freeish). But they can’t then demand blood transfusions, because that is not part of the deal. If the government then says okay, all emergency departments must perform blood transfusions, they surely must be free to close their ED right?
    And if I were unconscious in a car accident, how would the treating medicos know I am not a JW? They might transfuse me and save my life at the cost of my immortal soul (JWs can be pretty strict on these issues).
    So I guess what I am trying to say is that as the government respects your right to choose one way, it should also respects the right of others to choose a different way.
    Pretty simple, no?

  41. not_a_doc, I think you have the wrong end of the stick. This post is not about women who want abortion; it’s about women who require abortion as a life-saving procedure.
    I also, as a doctor, disagree entirely with this: “A referral in medicine is a bit more than just offering an option. Its really part of the treatment process. A referral for anything is one doctor saying to another ‘I want you to perform this procedure which I am unable to do’.”
    An X-ray or pathology referral might be classified under that. Again, “might”, because the radiologist or pathologist is quite within their rights to refuse to perform the test if it’s inappropriate, and to suggest other tests that might be more appropriate. You only have to talk with a radiologist or pathologist about how pissed off they are at getting referral forms with no clinical information to see this.
    Any other referral, it’s even less true for. When I refer to a surgeon, I am not demanding a procedure. I am referring for a consultation and assessment as to whether that procedure (or another procedure, or some other treatment) might be appropriate for that particular patient.

    I suppose in the pathological case there might be a person who is acutely sick, has no other carer, is unconscious, and taken to a catholic hospital for a condition for which there is no other treatment than an emergency abortion.

    This is exactly what the post is about. This, and women who have chosen care for their wanted pregnancy at a Catholic hospital, and then had things go horribly wrong.

    But they are also free to get a second (or first…) opinion from their own GP/obgyn while they are staying in any hospital, and their own doctor is free to refer them.

    Actually, they’re not. Catholic health services (at least some; I can’t speak for all) require that accredited doctors (and, in some cases, leaseholders) practice Catholic medicine while on their premises. See comment 15, where Catholic hospitals barred their staff from referring raped women to rape crisis centres. See also my experience, where I lost a wanted job because I would not sign this requirement.

  42. If a patient wants an abortion, all they have to do is have a doctor who will refer them, as with just about any other medical procedure. I find it hard to believe that there won’t be *any* doctors around who wouldn’t refer them, since I’m pretty sure the Church is a minority in doctors, like everything else.

    As has been stated many times, but once more for emphasis, this is not about women who WANT an abortion. This is about women with much wanted pregnancies that go wrong, and where the foetus will die anyway, but the mother could be saved.
    It’s easy to say that they could go somewhere else to have the life-saving abortion, but this assumes that someone actually tells them that an abortion would save the mother’s life, but that they won’t do it.
    It’s far more likely that the mother and her partner are just told “there’s problems, severe problems, but we’re doing what we can”. This is why there are no outraged stories from surviving partners in the press – they still don’t know that an abortion could have saved their partner’s life, and that their other children could perhaps still have a mother.

  43. I would consider it just as wrong to force a doctor to refer patients for a treatment to which they are opposed as to force a journalist to leave out certain details of a story unfavourable to government.

    Would you see it as wrong for a journalist to leave out certain details of a story unfavourable to government because they ideologically supported that government? Should journalists be able to write a story that promotes their ideological beliefs or their institutions at the expense of the ‘truth’–is that fine?
    Of course that is happening in the media, but it is a bad example for you to use. What you are talking about is censorship ‘from above’ and yes, that’s undemocratic. What is being talked about here is whether a professional or their institution has a write to ‘censor’ a women’s reproductive rights based on their personal beliefs. Your example would be the same as saying that you endorse media institutions or journalists being able to write stories that fit their ideological positions regardless of whether that means censoring the truth or misrepresenting things. Who would argue for that? What’s democratic about that?
    Do you then think a defence lawyer has the right to undermine a client’s case, or refuse to defend that case, or refuse to defend it to the best of their ability, or refuse to refer them etc. if they didn’t agree with the crime committed? Again, what’s democratic about that?
    The doctor/patient dynamic means for most people the doctors are the ones with power, expertise and knowledge, and the patient must inevitable trust that the doctor is giving them all of the information available to them so that the patient can make an informed decision. You seem to be endorsing the fact that doctors should be allowed to withhold information in certain circumstances, even if that information is in the patient’s best interests, and even if that means the patient cannot make an informed decision. That’s an abuse of power. Professionals, particularly those such as doctors, do not have the right to put their interests (in this case, their personal beliefs) ahead of the patient’s interests. Do you really want a medical system in which this is the case?

    If a patient wants an abortion, all they have to do is have a doctor who will refer them, as with just about any other medical procedure. I find it hard to believe that there won’t be *any* doctors around who wouldn’t refer them, since I’m pretty sure the Church is a minority in doctors, like everything else.

    We live in a country where a lot of people live in rural communities in which their access to medical choices are severely limited if non-existent. If you have ever experienced medical care in a rural environment you would know that your example is laughable. It is also one of the reasons why access to RU486 is so essential.
    Nevertheless, I think it is really unethical to argue that a patient seeking an abortion under the circumstances discussed above (and provided that they have been informed of that need) should have to seek to arrange access to that themselves in a stressful time in which they would undoubtedly like to act swiftly, and in which many women wouldn’t know where to begin, just so their treating doctor doesn’t have to have to do something they would prefer to not have to do (as simple as a reference). In the case of an emergency, it is inexcusable, to say the least, that you could possibly think that a doctor has the right to withhold the procedure from a women where it could save her life, therefore increasing her chance of dying, so that they do not have to perform a procedure that would make them uncomfortable.
    We have legal rights to access abortion safely in this country. While these vary, each State at least has legal rights that a women may have access to an abortion if her health or life are compromised, which is what is being discussed on this thread. This is just a way for the Catholic church to debate abortion again. But if you are a practicing doctor in a country which has these rights, you should be legally obliged to follow them, and that means referring a patient to ensure access to this right, or performing the procedure yourself in an emergency. I can’t think of a single instance in our society where your personal religious beliefs should allow you to break the law AND deny other citizens their legal rights. These rights were hard fought for and won, and must be defended.
    Given that legal status of a right to an abortion under such circumstances, it is the equivalent of saying that a doctor has a right to refuse to refer a patient for any other medical treatment, such as for cancer etc, or to refuse to perform any life saving emergency surgery. These are all legal rights.

  44. Now some Victorian docs are threatening to leave the state if the bill goes through.
    The Age’s reportage fails to note that the referral requirement in the Bill only applies to lifethreatening emergencies.

  45. The Catholic church leaving the Victorian health system in a titanic huff is possibly the most exciting unintended consequence I could possibly have imagined. One can only hope.

  46. G, y hmcdl hrps r rll crp. Jst stp stp kllng chldrn – t’s tht smpl nd t’s nt bg sk.

  47. While this thread, with the exception of Troll McTroll @47, went silent a couple of weeks ago, I’d just like to point out that the word “referral” was discussed in parliament during the debate on the Abortion Reform Bill. Candy Broad (ALP) clarified that “referral” in the bill did not mean that the doctor with an objection to abortions had to write out a proper referral to another doctor, it simply meant the doctor had to say: “I object to carrying out an abortion, but Doctor X around the corner doesn’t – go and see that person.”
    I can’t see what the problem with that approach is – especially in country areas where the next doctor might be a few villages away.

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