Nobody likes abortion. For Family Planners, having a patient who needs an abortion means that their contraceptive advice has failed either because the patient did not comply, or because the method was less than 100 percent effective.

For women who are in the position of needing an abortion, they are in a “lose-lose” situation — whatever decision they make has negative consequences. Continuing with an unplanned pregnancy may have serious social and economic consequences for the woman, the child, her family and her partner. On the other hand, no woman likes to have to undergo an abortion, and many do so with reservations.

In my 35 years of clinical experience, I have found that no woman makes the decision to have an abortion light-heartedly. Under the current law, we have to add to the negative feelings the fear that under The Victorian Crimes Act, they may be performing an “unlawful act”.

It is therefore in the public interest for abortion to be removed from the Crimes Act, and for the air of criminality be removed from pregnancy termination.

It has always been said that “there are no votes in abortion” so Premier Brumby should be congratulated for his decision to introduce this Bill. It was disappointing that there was so little support from the Opposition with, according to media reports, only five opposition MHRs supporting the Bill.

Will passing this Bill open the flood gates for abortions in Victoria? No, of course not. Despite abortion being currently unlawful, it has been readily available in Melbourne for all my working life. Decriminalising it will at least remove some stress from the unfortunate women who have to make this difficult decision.

Recently there has been publicity about the difficulty Catholic hospitals would have if the Act was passed. The Catholic Church has a significant role in providing health care in this State, especially in obstetrics, and the quality of care they provide is of extremely high standard. No-one would wish for this to be compromised.

All clinicians have to provide healthcare that they may not personally approve of, but our duty is to do what is best for our patients. A doctor who has a personal opposition to abortion cannot and must not inflict his or her views on a patient who has no such beliefs.

If a doctor or nurse is put in a “conflict of conscience” situation, he or she should refer that patient to another colleague/hospital. Similarly no doctor or nurse should be required to take part in an abortion procedure if they have a moral objection. This situation is already clear in the training of O & G specialists.

One can only hope that common sense will prevail in the Legislative Council, so that the Bill can be passed in both Houses, and abortion can disappear from The Crimes Act.

Peter Fray

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