In 2008 Victorian parliament voted to decriminalise abortion, making it possible for terminations at all stages of pregnancy. While the number of post 20 week terminations rose dramatically from 328 to 410 between 2008 and 2009, the numbers dropped back to the mid 300's for the subsequent 3 years. The trend of around half of these being undertaken for psychosocial indications has continued with disturbing numbers of these being done well after the viability of the foetus when delivery of a live child would have been a safer outcome for both mother and child.
One of the reasons put forward for the push for decriminalisation was that doctors feared prosecution under unclear laws and therefore refused to participated in abortion procedures. This meant a lack of access for women, particularly in the public sector. A number of other states have followed in Victoria's footsteps often using the same misleading information to propel politicians to vote in favour of decriminalisation.
Yet today we read that there continues to be access issues for Victorian women because doctors are still not prepared to perform abortions. The legislative changes in 2008 meant that doctors who held a conscientious objection to abortion were forced to refer women to doctors who didn't. Today we read that those concerned about abortion access are prepared to demand that policies and practices must change in order to, '...enforce the intent of the law and ensure the delivery of the services the community needs.'
This can only mean one thing; that is that doctors will be forced to provide abortion services.
Today we have created untenable circumstances for doctors advised by their professional bodies that if they hold an objection to abortion they shouldn't even engage in discussion with their own patients about it, but refer them on. This is even when a doctor may have vital information that the woman has significant risk factors for psychological harm from abortion, or that she is experiencing coercive factors that mean she is not making a choice of her own free will. It can't be too far down the track before doctors will be forced to perform abortions whether willing or not, and regardless of their assessment of the woman's circumstances.
We know that the majority of abortions are occurring in the context of economic or relational pressures, because as a society we are failing to meet the real needs of women and families. Yet the 'services the community needs' is apparently more abortion and the only way to get it will be to force the doctors, just like their circumstances often force the women.
Hopefully Queensland politicians will take heed of this news article and be able to see through the abortion advocates' rhetoric about current legislation being a barrier to access before it is too late for doctors in that state to exercise their right to care for their own patients as well.