Medical Referral for Abortion and Freedom of Conscience in Australian Law

Joanne Howe, Suzanne Le Mire

Journal of Law and Religion

Abstract

This article examines legislative changes related to abortion regulation in Australia that create obligations of medical referral on practitioners who have a conscientious objection to abortion. Despite a significant Australian history of accepting secularized conscience claims, particularly in the field of military conscription, the limitation of conscience claims about abortion can be traced to a failure to appreciate the significant secular arguments that can be made to support such claims. We draw on arguments of plurality and pragmatism as capable of providing a firm foundation for legislative protections of freedom of conscience in the case of medical referral for abortion. These justifications are not dependent on religious grounds, and therefore they have the potential to be relevant and persuasive in a secular society such as Australia. Acceptance of a pluralistic argument in favor of freedom of conscience is a powerful commitment to the creation of a society that values human autonomy and a diversity of opinion. It sits comfortably with the democratic values that are enshrined in the Australian political system and institutions. It avoids the potential damage to the individual that may be wrought when conscience is overridden by state compulsion.


Howe J, Le Mire S.  Medical Referral for Abortion and Freedom of Conscience in Australian Law. J Law and Religion. 2019 Apr;34(1):85-112 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/jlr.2019.14 Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 July 2019

Victoria’s voluntary assisted dying law: clinical implementation as the next challenge

Ben P. White, Lindy Willmott, Eliana Close

The Medical Journal of Australia

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (Vic) (VAD Act) will become operational on 19 June, 2019. . . . While some have written on the scope of, and reaction to, the VAD legislation, there has been very little commentary on its implementation. Yet, important choices must be made about translating these laws into clinical practice. These choices have major implications for doctors and other health professionals (including those who choose not to facilitate VAD), patients, hospitals and other health providers. This article considers some key challenges in implementing Victoria’s VAD legislation.


White BP, Willmott L, Close E. Victoria’s voluntary assisted dying law: clinical implementation as the next challenge. Med J Australia. 2019 Mar;210(5):207-209.e1