Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 2613 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
matter, I will also be supporting Ms Tucker's amendment when it is moved so that a referral can take place, and the rights and choices of both the woman and the doctor can be maintained and respected.
MR HUMPHRIES (Leader of the Opposition) (9.53): Mr Deputy Speaker, I support the amendment, and I have indicated that I oppose the alternative that is to be proposed by Ms Tucker.
It is important to remember that, tonight, we have repealed the provisions in the former Health Regulation (Maternal Health Information) Act, which provided quite broad protection against people having to unwillingly perform or assist to perform an abortion, provide counselling in relation to abortion, or refer a person to another who might do things mentioned in the previous paragraphs. It provided a very broad protection for people to prevent them being forced to involve themselves in any way with the provision of those services if their personal convictions prevented them from doing so.
Let us be clear. There is a difference between what the AMA rules might say about the obligation on doctors and what the law says about doctors and other people having an obligation to do certain things in respect of procedures for abortion. It may be that the AMA's code of ethics provides for doctors not having to treat a particular patient, or involve themselves in a particular procedure, if it is contrary to those doctors' personal beliefs. I quote the paragraph that Ms Tucker quoted from the code of ethics:
When a personal moral judgment or religious belief alone prevents you-
that is, you, the doctor-
from recommending some form of therapy, inform your patient so that they may seek care elsewhere.
What that says to me is that the doctor may say to the patient, "I am sorry, I do not believe in the treatment or therapy that you are seeking, and I cannot help you." I am not sure that it follows that there should be an obligation on that doctor, flowing from that document, to then tell the patient where she may obtain the services, or to assist her in that process. It would seem to me that, if you had a moral conviction that abortion was wrong, then it would be morally reprehensible for you to take part in that process. It is almost equally morally reprehensible to assist somebody else to-
Mr Berry: On a point of order: the clock has not been started and this could be the longest 10 minutes ever.
MR DEPUTY SPEAKER: Indeed. We must not go on for too long with this matter. Thank you.
MR HUMPHRIES: The point I am making is that the mere fact that the AMA provides a person with the right not to take part in the treatment does not, I think, lead necessarily to the corollary that the doctor or medical practitioner should be required to assist that person to obtain that treatment elsewhere. As I have said, if you have a personal conviction that it is wrong to conduct or be involved in abortion-