Database lists GPs opposed to abortion

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 05:00 19/08/2014

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A new online database that lists doctors allegedly opposed to terminations and contraception is a "name and shame" exercise, an anti-abortion group says.

The database on the website My Decision, which opened on Sunday, lists dozens of medical professionals who are said to oppose abortion. The site's advocates say patients, as consumers, have a right to know who does not offer contraception or abortion referrals because of their moral or religious views.

Patients are being invited to add to the list - and practitioners are also being invited to add their own names.

However, a pro-life group said the database was a name and shame exercise that targeted doctors' reputations.

My Decision spokeswoman and reproductive rights activist Terry Bellamak said the database gave patients options to seek healthcare that met their needs. "From a consumer protection standpoint it makes sense for patients to know what their healthcare provider's stance is before they get in there prepared to make decisions."

Thirteen Wellington medical professionals are named on the database - including the wife of Finance Minister Bill English, Dr Mary English - who has previously spoken publicly about her Catholic beliefs and pro-life views.

The Dominion Post was unable to reach her for comment. Other medical professionals named could not be reached for comment.

Under the law, medical professionals can conscientiously object to performing abortions or sterilisations. Bellamak said the database was launched in response to the abandonment of a rule obligating objecting doctors to refer patients to colleagues who would provide abortion services.

In 2010, the High Court ruled the Medical Council's guidelines, which had been changed to require doctors to advise patients they could be referred elsewhere, had overstepped the law.

A group of doctors had successfully challenged the guidelines in a judicial review, arguing the council's statement would require them to give advice that would help patients obtain abortions.

The council later withdrew its appeal against the ruling because of the cost of the action.

Bellamak said the resulting status quo still privileged doctors. "It places the moral agenda of the practitioner far above the rights and interests of a patient."

Right to Life NZ vice-president Chris O'Brien said conscientious objection was a fundamental right and he felt the site's purpose was to "name and shame". O'Brien said Right to Life did not make public lists of the names and practices of abortion providers.

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