Except for a small article in Quadrant magazine, authored by Victorian Liberal Senator Julian McGauran, the first anniversary of the Victorian Abortion Law Reform Act passed quietly this month. While abortion is often seen as a divisive moral issue Australia has avoided the open societal conflict that has so troubled the United States. Quite rightly Australians tend to take the view that abortion is a decision for a woman in consultation with her doctor.

The Victorian legislation, however, has broken that nexus. The law goes beyond simply legislating the common law position -- a position that has broad community support. Section 8 of the legislation undermines the community expectation that women consult with their doctors and requires doctors to either participate in the abortion process or recommend a doctor who will do so. The text of the section is reproduced below.

8: Obligations of registered health practitioner who has conscientious objection