QUEENSLAND Bioethics Centre director Ray Campbell believes rumblings over the possibility of doctors being prosecuted for prescribing medical abortions are part of moves to pressure the State Government for abortion law reform.
Medical Guild of St Luke president Dr Terrence Kent supports Mr Campbell’s view.
Earlier this month the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital suspended medical abortion services (providing drug-induced abortions) after it sought advice from the Queensland Solicitor-General in the light of the prosecution of a Cairns couple for illegally procuring a drug-induced abortion.
The Australian newspaper reported that the hospital was also seeking clarification of a ruling by a Supreme Court judge that suggested doctors were at risk of committing a criminal offence for performing medical abortions.
It also reported that the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG), acting on legal advice, was calling on the State Government to repeal sections of the Queensland criminal code to address the situation.
In response to these developments, state cabinet on Monday agreed to amend a section of the criminal code to offer protection for doctors prescribing medical abortions.
The Australian reported the RANZCOG said the proposed changes were not enough.
Mr Campbell applauded the suspension of medical abortion services by the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.
“I do not think it is such a bad thing that doctors at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital have suspended their medical abortion service,” he said.
“I would hope that they might take the occasion to reflect a little more deeply on the service they offer.”
Mr Campbell and Dr Kent believe the discussions over medical abortions to be an orchestrated smoke screen to push for abortion reform.
Mr Campbell said no doctor had been prosecuted for prescribing a medical abortion.
“I suspect that what lies behind the present situation is another move to enforce the decriminalisation of abortion in Queensland,” he said.
“Given the role played by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the Victorian (abortion) legislation, their advice is rather predictable.”
Dr Kent said there had been no change to the law.
“We think this whole situation is an orchestrated thing, the law hasn’t changed,” he said.
“It is a definite move to change the law and we need these laws to protect against situations where women and babies are under threat.
“If you take away any legal impediment (to abortion) it could be disastrous. It would leave things open to abuse.”