Queensland demands practitioners facilitate abortion by referral

Sean Murphy*

The Termination of Pregnancy Act 2018 came into effect in Queensland, Australia, today.

The bill permits abortion up to 22 weeks gestation for any reason; no medical indications are required (Section 5).  Abortion after 22 weeks gestation may be performed for any reason that two practitioners find acceptable (Section6(1)a), including current and future “social circumstances” (6(2)b).

The bill requires disclosure of objections to abortion by a practitioner when asked by someone (not necessarily a patient) to perform or assist in the performance of an abortion on a woman, to make a decision about whether an abortion should be provided for a woman who is over 22 weeks pregnant (Section 6), or to advise about the performance of an abortion on a woman.

When a woman wants an abortion or advice about an abortion for herself, an objecting practitioner is required to refer or transfer the  care of the woman to someone or an agency willing to provide it (Section 3). 

Practitioners who object to abortion in principle and those who object in particular cases are often unwilling to facilitate the procedure by referral, transfers of care or other means because they believe that this makes them parties to or complicit in an immoral act.  Thus, the provision for conscientious objection in the bill actually suppresses the exercise of freedom of conscience by these practitioners.

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