Monday, October 20, 2008

Australia: Abortion Through the Ninth Month--Culture of Death Brooks No Dissent

A new law out of the Australian state of Victoria must be discussed. First, it permits abortion through the ninth month, meaning that viable babies are subject to being killed, which is to say it gets close to the land of infanticide. Second, it requires all doctors to either do abortions, or if they have a moral objection, to find and refer to an abortion friendly doctor who will--which I presume would also apply if the woman were 8 1/2 months along.

The law legalizes abortion generally through the 24th week.(Babies become viable at about 20-22 weeks). But the door is wide open to abortions up to the moment of birth. From the statute:

Part 2: (5): Termination of pregnancy by registered medical practitioner after 24 weeks:(1) A registered medical practitioner may perform an abortion on a woman who is more than 24 weeks pregnant only if the medical practitioner--(a) reasonably believes that the abortion is appropriate in all the circumstances; and (b) has consulted at least one other registered medical practitioner who also reasonably believes that the abortion is appropriate in all the circumstances.(2) In considering whether the abortion is appropriate in all the circumstances, a registered medical practitioner must have regard to--(a) all relevant medical circumstances; and (b) the woman's current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances.
This is to say, that if a doctor thinks it is okay, and finds another who agrees, the abortion can go forward. If Kansas' late term abortionist George Tiller gets shut down in Kansas, he can move to the Victoria.

Second, it requires all doctors to be complicit by either requiring them to perform the abortions or refer to a doctor who they know will do the abortion. From the statute:
Part 2 (8) Obligations of registered health practitioner who has conscientious objection--(1)If a woman requests a registered health practitioner to advise on a proposed abortion, or to perform, direct, authorise or supervise an abortion for that woman, and the practitioner has a conscientious objection to abortion, the practitioner must--(a) inform the woman that the practitioner has a conscientious objection to abortion; and (b) refer the woman to another registered health practitioner in the same regulated health profession who the practitioner knows does not have a conscientious objection to abortion.
This means, at least theoretically, that every physician in Victoria is forced to be complicit in abortion, perhaps even very late term abortions.

We have seen the same kind of proposals in assisted suicide legalization schemes. This will--and is intended to--force physicians of a certain moral persuasion to either can their beliefs at the office door--or quit practicing medicine.

The culture of death countenances no dissent.

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37 Comments:

At October 20, 2008 , Blogger the.joyful.one said...

The "Catch 22" of laws like these (from the pro-life perspective) are very difficult to overcome. Consider this: because the doctor must not only do these types of abortions, but if he doesn't want to, he must refer to a doctor who will, what pro-life doctor is going to continue practising? I would suggest very few. Also, being near the college age and having numerous strong-willed friends on this issue, I can say that if they knew this would be required of them, they would never go into medicine, or at least not this branch.

 
At October 20, 2008 , Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

It is my opinion that the doctors should engage in civil disobedience. This is clearly an immoral law. It can no longer be claimed that this legal situation is just a matter of "allowing" private persons to commit or procure abortions. It requires active involvement.

What I always note about such laws is that it would actually be quite easy for the person in question to find the "service" independently. Clearly their value in forcing complicity is chiefly symbolic--making sure no dissent, even silent dissent, is allowed, making sure everyone says shibboleth.

Do I understand that this has actually passed?

 
At October 20, 2008 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

Yes. It passed last week.

 
At October 20, 2008 , Blogger Don Nelson said...

The 9 month abortion statute in Victoria mirrors abortion law in America as handed down in Roe v. Wade and its companion case Doe v. Bolton-which describes the health of the mother exception. "...the medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors - physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age - relevant to the wellbeing of the patient. All these factors may relate to health. This allows the attending physician the room he needs to make his best medical judgment." It's hard to think of a situation where an abortion couldn't be procured as long as there were an MD like George Tiller to do the deed and he wasn't doing a partial birth abortion on a living unborn child.

It's pretty much the same as the law in Victoria." (2) In considering whether the abortion is appropriate in all the circumstances, a registered medical practitioner must have regard to--"(a) all relevant medical circumstances; and (b) the woman's current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances." Expectant dads have no defense there or here. Such is the bizarre and radical nature of abortion laws in America and in this Aussie state.

Fortunately it appears US doctors have protections, but those are under assault. I can't tell if there's an effort to scrub the profession of Christians in this. In Nevada, we fought a regulation to force pharmacists to particpate in death. One senator said if they wouldn't go along, they could go sell shoes. Sorry shoe salesman. You have a tough and honorable profession. The senator was telling pharmacists to check their consciences at the state line.

 
At October 20, 2008 , Blogger Donnie Mac Leod said...

Seems like folks have an easier time destroying human babies today then kittens and puppies.

 
At October 20, 2008 , Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

Don Nelson is, by th eway, right about abortion "law" (if we include court decisions in law) in the U.S.

 
At October 20, 2008 , Blogger Joshua said...

It would appear to me that disobeying the law, and committing medical malpractice, because you thought it was an immoral law is still illegal.

People seem to notice this when a utilitarian doctor illegally refuses to treat a patient to assist in fulfilling that patient's wish to die. But those same people don't seem to notice when a pro-life doctor illegally refuses to provide a patient with birth-control and/or abortion services. In both circumstances, a doctor is legally required to do something that the doctor thinks is immoral (i.e. allowing a patient to suffer or allowing an abortion to occur) - so why the double-standard?

 
At October 20, 2008 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

Joshua: There is a distinction to be made, I think, between elective and non elective procedures. If the abortion were necessary to save the life of the mother, you would be right, I think. But to demand a doctor destroy human life in an elective situation, is not warranted.

But your post proves my point: The Culture of Death brooks no dissent.

 
At October 21, 2008 , Blogger Joshua said...

How exactly does one define what procedures are elective or non-elective, without referring back to the very morals in question?

In both scenarios I mentioned, the doctor is illegally frustrating the requests of the patient. And both doctors would have reason for arguing that they are morally required to break the law - one because she thinks a non-elective procedure should be elective (treatment should be optional) and the other because he thinks an elective procedure should be non-elective (abortion shouldn't be an option).

It would appear that for something to be non-elective, it has to be judged to be more important than the patient's wishes (and vice versa for something to be judged elective). Therefore, the distinction between elective and non-elective moves around depending on legality and morality - and is therefore not useful.

 
At October 21, 2008 , Blogger Donnie Mac Leod said...

If you requested that I kill your child in the womb or out of the womb and the reason had nothing to do with saving your life then you are forcing me to destroy my moral code. Not that hard to understand. Most Drs would intervene if your life were at stake and retain their morality.

 
At October 21, 2008 , Blogger Don Nelson said...

Donnie, thanks for saying that. This isn't hard to understand at all. It doesn't take a lot of brain power to figure out that no one should be compelled to kill or help kill another human being for another person when that targeted human being poses no physical threat to the person requesting the killing. Forcing them to do so is a sign of madness in our culture.

 
At October 21, 2008 , Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

You know, this didn't used to be so hard to figure out. Actually, the concept of an elective procedure is something used in medicine and by, for example, insurance companies, all the time. It is usually related directly to physical health and or life saving--elective procedures are those that the person chooses for reasons that are not physically urgent, procedures not required to save his life or prevent severe physical damage. It was a matter of professionalism for doctors to understand this distinction, and the ethics involved were connected to the idea that it is a doctor's professional job to preserve physical life and restore physical health. That's all. Nothing more complicated than that.

If we are really totally unable to decide what is elective or not in the medical profession, then, heck, why should't a doctor be forced to cut off a patient's healthy limb, no conscientious objection allowed?

 
At October 21, 2008 , Blogger Donnie Mac Leod said...

Hello Don. Wasn't that tough a point to make. Where the issue becomes very sticky is when PHILOSOPHERS and IDEOLOGISTS take over and try to mitigate & legislate, the results of societies choices. Especially notable. Ideologists fixating on a woman wanting an abortion for a non life threatening reason, can't wrap their minds around the point that the person wanting a life terminated ,are forcing someone to kill that life. That is a very hard choice for people wanting to save lives .

 
At October 21, 2008 , Blogger miller_schloss said...

I hope it doesn't in any way undermine the seriousness of this issue if I insert a lighthearted anecdote...the first paragraph of this post made me think of the workshop about abortion that I did with 35 tenth grade students on Sunday. One of the questions on the team worksheet is, "Throughout which month of pregnancy did Roe v. Wade legalize abortion?" The correct answer, of course, is "the ninth month/all nine months." Almost all the teams got this correct, except for the team that answered "January."

-Becky Miller
Rhode Island Right to Life

 
At October 21, 2008 , Blogger bmmg39 said...

Becky, that's like the time on FAMILY FEUD when, during the Fast Money Round, Richard Dawson asks the woman, "During which month does a pregnant woman first begin to show her pregnancy?" She had one of those momentary brain-clouds you get when you're on television, and said, "September."

It took maybe fifteen minutes for them to get the game back on track after that.

 
At October 21, 2008 , Blogger Laura(southernxyl) said...

"How exactly does one define what procedures are elective or non-elective, without referring back to the very morals in question?"

Joshua, this is where moral principles come in, if a person has any. For instance, if a person is pro-life, this is a moral principle. It's easy to see, then, the difference between terminating a pregnancy because continuing it threatens the mother's life (in which case, if the pregnancy is far enough along, an attempt should be made to save the baby,) and terminating a pregnancy because the mother doesn't want the child. I realize there are other circumstances that cause abortion to be contemplated, but IMO they fall somewhere on a continuum between those points. For instance, I don't want the baby because I don't want to have to find babysitters on Fridays, v. I don't want the baby because I can't feed the ones I have. Or a pregnancy that could be made less hazardous for the mother by putting her on bed rest, which might not appear to be feasible given other responsibilities (children) she has. But if you have an underlying moral principle, you go back to that in every situation and find a solution that is compatible with it.

Joshua, you have an underlying moral principle whether you acknowledge it or not. You think it's wrong to limit the freedom of an individual in a certain circumstance (a pregnant woman) to direct her fate, regardless of the hardship it might put on another individual (a doctor who doesn't want to perform an abortion; an unborn child). Everything goes back to her autonomy, period. Now, why is that?

 
At October 21, 2008 , Blogger Makarios said...

The matter of mandating referrals is an interesting one. Certainly, a physician who conscientiously objects to performing a particular procedure should not, prima facie, be conscripted into performing it. Please note the "prima facie" in the preceding sentence. This is necessary if the autonomy of the practitioner is to be respected.

On the other hand, refusing to provide a referral to another physician who will consider ALL of the available options at least comes close to the line between obeying the dictates of one's own conscience and forcing those dictates onto others. In some circumstances, it may cross that line; and that is a violation of the rights of those others.

It comes down, IMO, to the right to swing your arm being limited by the point where my nose begins. Hence the "prima facie" in my first paragraph. The counter-example would be the case of an ER doctor who is a Jehovah's Witness and who refuses to perform blood transfusions. In my view, such a physician has no business working in an ER, and prohibiting her from doing so, even if it is a violation of her rights, is fully justified in the circumstances.

 
At October 21, 2008 , Blogger Laura(southernxyl) said...

Why did the patient have to have a referral? Did she have a referral to the first doctor? She can't look up "abortion" in the phone book?

 
At October 21, 2008 , Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

Makarios, I think it's fairly obviously erroneous to compare a refusal to help somebody find a doctor who will help them do something one considers morally wrong to hitting somebody in the nose. I mean, think about it: You're saying that a doctor's telling a woman she has to find her own abortionist is like assaulting her? It's infringing on her "rights"? Since when does she have a right to have somebody _help her find an abortionist_?

 
At October 21, 2008 , Blogger Makarios said...

As with most things, it depends on the circumstances. In some areas, the physicians who perform abortions take patients only upon referral. I don't know if that's the case in parts of Australia--perhaps someone might look it up. In such situations, a GP who refuses to refer is not only failing to provide information--he is also effectively blocking access, on non-medical grounds,to a desired medical procedure that is legal to perform.

You will say that the woman could find another GP who would provide the appropriate referral. Perhaps yes,perhaps no. In a small town, it could conceivably be that the only GP's available are ones who would refuse to refer. A larger city might be a different matter, but could legislation be drafted to make the distinction?

It also depends upon whether there was a physician-patient relationship between the woman and the doctor. If this was the woman's first visit, and such a relationship had not yet been formed, then the professional obligation would be considerably more limited.

 
At October 21, 2008 , Blogger Don Nelson said...

Hello Donnie. It's a difficult one and one they should not have to make. Something huge will be lost when we force doctors to do these sort of things. If we don't want ethically compromised MDs, we shouldn't force them to compromise their ethics. I think someone made this point above.

 
At October 21, 2008 , Blogger Joshua said...

"Joshua, this is where moral principles come in, if a person has any"

Exactly. Distinguishing an elective procedure from a non-elective one is just setting up some cases were autonomy is not considered paramount. And that is a moral decision.

Therefore, our question of whether a doctor should be able to break the law if he/she feels it is morally acceptable to do so is not answered by referring to the moral views of the doctor on right to liberty vs right to life. It's a legal decision, if anything - should a doctor have to obey the law, or should ethical objections to legal responsibilities be allowed.

 
At October 21, 2008 , Blogger Joshua said...

"If we don't want ethically compromised MDs, we shouldn't force them to compromise their ethics."

Unless all MDs have the same ethical viewpoint, that is impossible. No matter what the law requires, some doctor, somewhere, is going to have an ethical problem with it.

 
At October 21, 2008 , Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

"Exactly. Distinguishing an elective procedure from a non-elective one is just setting up some cases were autonomy is not considered paramount. And that is a moral decision."

Actually, Joshua, I don't agree. And if I was unclear in any of my earlier comments, let me clarify here: Wesley's distinction between elective and non-elective procedures can be made without reference to the moral statement that some procedures ought or ought not to be done or that autonomy ought or ought not to be paramount. It can be explained entirely in terms of saving someone's physical life, preventing severe physical harm, healing physical illness, and the like. Wesley is calling procedures and actions "elective" if they don't have to do with any of these categories.

Note that by this designation, an abortion to save a woman's life is non-elective. It is non-elective in the sense that she is not choosing it for some reason other than saving her life, etc. (see list above). It doesn't actually follow that it is moral. The very fact that an anti-abortion hard-liner (like myself, for example) could say that even this non-elective abortion should still not be done (that is, that abortion is wrong even to save the life of the mother) only goes to show that Wesley's distinction does not *presuppose* the moral categories you say it does but rather is a distinction entirely in terms of biological and medical categories.

 
At October 21, 2008 , Blogger Helm Hammerhand said...

Oh, wonderful, those who profess to be "pro-choice" and laud free choice, now turn around and remove the free choice to decline involvement in abortion without making a referral.

Pro-choice should be redefined as freedom of choice, but only when it suits us. Can anyone say, hypocrisy???

HHH

 
At October 21, 2008 , Blogger Joshua said...

"It can be explained entirely in terms of saving someone's physical life, preventing severe physical harm, healing physical illness, and the like."

Ok, but without the moral presupposition that such non-elective procedures are more important than autonomy, I don't see how Wesley's distinction can help distinguish between the legality or morality of two examples I gave.

It would appear that the aphorism "one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist" could apply equally to a doctor guilty of malpractice, depending whether one agrees with the doctor's ethical viewpoint or not.

 
At October 21, 2008 , Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

It's certainly true that you aren't going to get a moral conclusion out of entirely non-moral premises. I was merely pointing out that the distinction itself between elective and non-elective procedures is not, in and of itself, a moral distinction. It has, however, generally been taken to be relevant to moral conclusions and even economic conclusions. For example, many insurance companies do not cover elective procedures on the assumption that what a health insurance policy is _for_ is healing people who are sick, not giving them something that they want for some reason not required by their physical health. Similarly, while it might be called a moral principle that the proper purpose of being a physical doctor is to help and heal people physically and to save their physical lives, it has not been considered a controversial one until relatively recently. It is only when we pretend a kind of complete ignorance about the purpose of medicine, seeing it as entirely a free-floating matter of technique put at the disposal of any set of ends--whether harming the healthy or refusing to heal the sick--that we start having severe problems with knowing what doctors should and shouldn't do. While a distinction between elective and non-elective procedures doesn't answer all moral questions, even when combined with the traditional concept of the purpose of the medical profession, the two of them taken together take us quite a long way.

 
At October 21, 2008 , Blogger Don Nelson said...

"Unless all MDs have the same ethical viewpoint, that is impossible. No matter what the law requires, some doctor, somewhere, is going to have an ethical problem with it."

How convenient. It's impossible so you have the right to force others to do what you want. It's wrong to force people to kill other human beings who pose no physcial risk to them. I doubt that people want ethically compromised MDs.

 
At October 21, 2008 , Blogger Donnie Mac Leod said...

Don't trip over the fact that most Drs believe in saving lives and not in destroying them Josuha. However I find it most telling that you feel that killing by proxy is so easy for Government personal . Also find it strange that a woman wants her child killed to satisfy her desires while the actual hitman is a Dr that must either carry out the contract or find another killer by Government decree. So much for the Hippocratic Oath that most Drs want to honor. A baby that has made it to 8 months, should be facing a lung clearing spanking and kisses of acceptance, not a murder of conveinience.

 
At October 22, 2008 , Blogger Joshua said...

"I doubt that people want ethically compromised MDs."

Very true, but that is impossible to avoid. I think doctors who refuse to provide abortion services are ethically compromised. I think doctors who seek to keep a patient alive, though the patient is in pain and wishes to die, are ethically compromised.

You, and donnie, would no doubt disagree with me. I'm sure some doctors would too, but some doctors would also agree with me. And both types of doctors would be ethically compromised in someone else's eyes.

 
At October 22, 2008 , Blogger Donnie Mac Leod said...

No brush you use can distort the fact that killing an INFANT in the womb at 8 to 9 months of the gestation period is murder unless the woman's health is at risk,Josh. The majority of folks in the Medical community understand that reality. In fact that child could be removed by Cesarean Birth and have a very good chance at survival. However legal eagles and government philosophers are to anxious to force their agenda & ignore the Hippocratic Oath's importance to the humanity of Doctors.

 
At October 22, 2008 , Blogger Joshua said...

The Hippocratic Oath hasn't been affirmed by doctors for decades, not least because doctors have to swear by Apollo (who nobody worships) and have to promise not to charge money for teaching medicine. The oath's taken by most doctors hardly resemble what the ancient Hippocrates wrote. And, in fact, it is doubtful whether doctors in ancient Greece used this oath either, as euthanasia and abortion were commonplace then too.

In addition, the idea that doctors should avoid doing any harm is laudable but clearly mistaken. Other benefits may be more in the patient's interests, such as preserving the patient's autonomy and acknowledging consent. A doctor, in my view, should act in the patient's best interests. An infant has no interest in living, and so the death of such can only be against the interests of the mother.

 
At October 23, 2008 , Blogger Donnie Mac Leod said...

Whether a Dr. repeats the oath or not it should be imprinted in his heart and soul to protect his patient or in the case of a 8 month old infant who is mostly developed in the womb the one who is in the most dangerous position. Thus the 8 month old baby's life should be protected if the mother's life is not at stake. For you to ignore that a 8 month old baby in the womb has no interest in living is a very subjective and unproven mistake .

 
At October 23, 2008 , Blogger Joshua said...

"For you to ignore that a 8 month old baby in the womb has no interest in living is a very subjective and unproven mistake ."

Is this actually what you meant to say? Because I'm certainly not ignoring the fact that a foetus at 8 months has no interest in living. In fact, that is central to my argument - the only interests that matter in this case are the mother's or, if if the baby is born, both of the parents. If they want the child, then the child should be protected. If they do not, then it is in the interests of the parents, and against the interests of nobody, for the life of that foetus or baby to be ended (or, for adoption, if that is preferable).

 
At October 23, 2008 , Blogger Laura(southernxyl) said...

"An infant has no interest in living...."

What in the world does this mean? Under what definition of "interest" could this possibly make sense?

Of course an infant has interest in living. Why in the world do you think they cry when they're hungry? For pete's sake. And if you're talking about an 8-month fetus and not a baby that's been born - well, my daughter was born at 8 months' gestation and I promise you she had interest in living. She had a very angry howl if she thought we were late feeding her, in the first week she was born.

I'm sure I am just totally not getting your meaning here.

 
At October 23, 2008 , Blogger Donnie Mac Leod said...

It would seem that Josh wants to claim that an 8 month old fetus has no interest in living so his conscience will not be seared by killing a healthy almost full term baby.

 
At October 24, 2008 , Blogger Joshua said...

"Of course an infant has interest in living. Why in the world do you think they cry when they're hungry?"

A baby does indeed have an interest in being fed, but that is not the same as having an interest in living. The baby cannot make the connection between starvation and death, and as such cannot be crying because it wishes to live.

Needless to say, starving a baby to death would be against the baby's interests. Painless and swiftly ending its life, however, would not be.

 

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