QUEENSLAND: by special reportNews Weekly
GP protests - we are doctors, not baby-killers
, September 5, 2009
A revolt by Queensland doctors aimed at overturning the state's restrictions on abortions has seen at least two major Queensland public hospitals suspend drug-induced abortion procedures.
In a bid to break the impasse, Queensland's Anna Bligh Labor Government has agreed to amend the state's criminal code to exempt from prosecution doctors who perform hitherto banned terminations and who administer the controversial abortion drug RU486.
However, this concession has not been enough for the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG), whose president Dr Ted Weaver is pressing for the removal of all legal restraints on aborting babies.
"We would like doctors to be able to practise without the threat subsequently of having criminal charges laid against them", he told The Australian
(August 25). He objected that Premier Bligh's clarification of section 282 of the Queensland Criminal Code "does not withdraw the threat of criminal prosecutions".
Opposing Dr Weaver's campaign is Dr David van Gend, a general practitioner, senior lecturer in medicine and Queensland secretary of the World Federation of Doctors who Respect Human Life. Dr van Gend argued that "criminal limits on abortion are necessary for medical integrity".
He said: "Doctors do not need 'legal certainty' in terms of an unrestricted license for performing abortion; they need legal scrutiny to keep them honest, to ensure any abortion they perform is morally and medically justified."
He warned that "doctors are as corruptible as anyone else, and if some of us are not to degenerate into mere commercial killers of unwanted babies we need a backdrop of criminal restraints".
Dr van Gend pointed to the Abortion Law Reform Act 2008
in Victoria, which he described as "the model of unrestrained abortion preferred by Dr Weaver and by Cairns-based gynaecologist Caroline de Costa". In Victoria, said Dr van Gend, "even entirely healthy babies older than those in our hospital nurseries may now be killed, no medical reasons required, by the most unspeakably cruel methods, and the law has nothing to say on the matter".
He added: "The question of good faith to be put to Dr Weaver, and to authorities in those hospitals which have ceased to perform drug-induced abortion, is whether they simply want to clarify legal protection for the rare and tragic cases of medically necessary abortion, or whether they want the existing law demolished and replaced with the state-sanctioned medical barbarism of Victoria."Special report.
RANZCOG, "College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists supports the decriminalisation of abortion in Victoria", Media Release, August 25, 2008.
Caroline de Costa, "Decriminalising abortion - what now for the other states?", Crikey.com
, October 27, 2008.