Publicly-funded religious hospitals in Victoria would no longer be legally able to refuse abortions under proposed new laws. Reason Party leader Fiona Patten has introduced a health legislation amendment bill into the Victorian Parliament in a bid to ensure that no denominational hospital actively refuses to give a woman an abortion or contraceptive treatment. Under the laws, hospitals that receive any taxpayer funding would be required to offer the services. The proposed changes would also extend to providing end-of-life treatments for terminally ill patients who wish to die. Ms Patten said while it was her hope for every Victorian public hospital to offer abortion, this legislation is targeted at religious-based public hospitals like those in Werribee and Heidelberg, which operate under the Mercy Health banner, that refuse to carry out the procedures.
Mercy Health’s website states: “As a Catholic provider of care we value the dignity of life from conception to death. For moral reasons, we do not provide some services: being women’s health and end of life care.” Ms Patten said: “The reliance of some institutions on the false construct of institutional conscientious objection has no rational, legal, or moral basis.” The bill states a denominational hospital that provides gynaecological, obstetrics or neonatal services must provide contraception, the supply of contraceptives, and medical and surgical abortions. The bill would also restrict organisations from directing employees to refuse to provide advice or services. However, medical staff employed at such facilities could still refuse treatments on the grounds of “conscientious objection”.
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