Law in Australian state of Victoria 'stops doctors from using their conscience'
A Catholic doctor who refused to sanction a sex-selective abortion is fighting for his career after a complaint was made against him.
Dr Mark Hobart could be struck off Australia’s medical register for declining to arrange an abortion of a healthy girl because her parents wanted a boy instead.
He was asked for an abortion by an Indian couple who wanted to a boy but the mother was 19 weeks pregnant with a girl.
But he would not accede to their demands because the pregnancy was at an “advanced stage” and because he saw no medical necessity for it.
He also refused to refer the woman and her husband to a second doctor who would arrange the procedure.
The couple found another doctor and went ahead with the abortion a few days later.
An investigation was launched into the conduct of Dr Hobart after he publicly discussed his case and members of the Medical Board of Victoria complained about him.
The Victoria Abortion Reform Act 2008 allows conscientious objection only if doctors will find other medics to arrange abortions instead.
The Melbourne-based medic is being investigated by the Medical Board of Australia and also by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency – the Australian equivalent of the General Medical Council – and he could lose his licence to practice medicine anywhere in the country.
“I refused to refer the patient because there was no medical reason to do it and it offended my moral conscience,” said Dr Hobart, 55, who has practised medicine for 27 years.
“It’s very wrong,” he told Australia’s Nine media. “I don’t know any doctor in Victoria that would be willing to refer a woman that wanted to have an abortion just because of gender at 19 weeks.”
He added: “The pregnancy was well advanced and I refused to refer the patient because there was no medical reason to do it.”
Dr Hobart added: “I think it demonstrates the problem with abortion law that stops doctors from using their conscience whether it is appropriate or not.”
The 2008 Abortion Law Reform Act of the Australian state of Victoria is one of the most permissive abortion laws in the world.
It allows abortion on demand in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy and up to birth with the consent of two doctors.
But because the regulatory agency is national rather than federal, the loss of a licence to practice would apply in all Australian states.
All gender abortions would be relatively late because the sex of the unborn child is generally only discernible from 16 weeks of gestation.
The case has emerged just days after Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, announced that gender-based abortions were legal in Britain.
In a letter to Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General, he that the 1967 Abortion Act does not “expressly prohibit gender specific abortions”.
Instead, the Act, Mr Starmer said, prohibited “any abortion carried out without two medical practitioners having formed a view, in good faith, that the health risks of continuing with a pregnancy outweigh those of a termination”.
The clarification of the law follows an outcry from politicians, Church leaders and the media amid concerns that the law had been broken by two doctors who had agreed to arrange abortions on gender grounds.
Anthony Ozimic of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children predicted that demands for gender abortions would soon become a problem for British doctors.
He said: “Doctors in Britain eventually will suffer Dr Hobart’s fate if the authorities here continue to give succour to the pro-abortion lobby’s support for sex-selective abortion and opposition to conscientious objection.
“The DPP’s flawed reasoning for not prosecuting two doctors caught agreeing to sex-selective abortion cannot be allowed to stand, lest the already widely-abused safeguards under the Abortion Act are swept away.”
He added: “The right of conscientious objection under the Abortion Act is being strangled by influential forces in government and the medical profession, at the urging of the pro-abortion lobby.
“We urge MPs to join other parliamentarians who are saying that draconian pro-abortion laws, such as those in Victoria, South Africa and under Obamacare, must not come to the UK.
“The lives of baby girls and livelihoods of good doctors are at stake.”
In the United States, politicians are beginning to outlaw sex-selective abortions following a surge in demand from new migrant communities who culturally favour boys over girls, such as those from India, China, Korea and Vietnam.
There is also increasing demand from wealthy, established communities with small families who are seeking to set their own balance of boys and girls.
At present, the states of Arizona, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma have laws against sex-selective abortions.
But those states actively drafting legislation to outlaw the practice include Utah, Florida, New York, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Kansas, Colorado and North Dakota.