Abortion bill permits discrimination against conscientious objectors

NZ Doctor 9 October 2019
Family First Comment: In written submissions, the NZMA and the RNZCGP express concern that, if passed unchanged, the bill will “undermine a doctor’s ability to exercise true freedom of conscience”…. “Legislating the ability for employers to discriminate on these grounds is a retrograde step. Furthermore, the phrase ‘unreasonably disrupt the employer’s activities’ could be open to wide interpretation…. “You wouldn’t expect an abortion facility to employ people who have a conscientious objection to abortion”.
Of course not, but that’s how dangerous this bill is, and its architects!

The NZMA wants abortion decriminalised, but says doctors who object to being involved should not be penalised

“Legislating the ability for employers to discriminate on these grounds is a retrograde step”

Planned changes to abortion law will allow employers to discriminate against medical practitioners who refuse to participate in abortions, says the NZMA.

A parliamentary committee is hearing submissions on the Abortion Legislation Bill, aimed at decriminalising abortion and making it a health matter.

In written submissions, the NZMA and the RNZCGP state their support for decriminalisation.

But the association goes on to express its concern that, if passed unchanged, the bill will “undermine a doctor’s ability to exercise true freedom of conscience”.

New obligation to refer 

At present doctors with a conscientious objection must inform a patient she can get an abortion from another health practitioner, but they do not have to provide a list of such people nor their contact details.

The bill requires a conscientious objector to tell a woman how she can access contact details of an abortion provider. The Ministry of Health will have to maintain a list of providers.

Section 20 of the bill says abortion, sterilisation and contraceptive service providers must accommodate conscientious objection of employees or job applicants, but goes on to permit discrimination against them if their objections “unreasonably disrupt the employer’s activities”.

Types of permitted discrimination 

Permitted discrimination includes dismissal, not hiring the person in the first place, or providing worse terms of employment.

The association’s submission says: “Legislating the ability for employers to discriminate on these grounds is a retrograde step.

“Furthermore, the phrase ‘unreasonably disrupt the employer’s activities’ could be open to wide interpretation. While this is likely to be tested in court, we ask the committee to rescind these draft provisions that allow employers to discriminate on the grounds of personal conscience.”

Association chair Kate Baddock told New Zealand Doctor the “pragmatic response” of MPs on the committee when this matter was raised at a hearing was “you wouldn’t expect an abortion facility to employ people who have a conscientious objection to abortion”.

The NZMA has raised questions over the proposed ministry list of abortion doctors, saying the profession must be consulted.
https://www.nzdoctor.co.nz/article/news/abortion-bill-permits-discrimination-against-conscientious-objectors (behind paywall)

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