Pro-life doctors have gone to court to challenge new medical guidelines that require doctors to advise patients who have doubts about continuing a pregnancy that abortion is one of their options.
One of the doctors challenging the guidelines is believed to be Mary English, who is a General Practitioner from Wellington and the wife of Deputy Prime Minister Bill English. According to The New Zealand Herald, Dr. English is a Catholic whose opposition to abortion is widely known. She and her husband have six children.
The doctors filed an application in the country’s High Court concerning the New Zealand Medical Council guidelines, which are titled “Beliefs and Medical Practice.”
The current guidelines note that the law allows doctors to conscientiously refuse to provide a service or give advice on contraception, sterilization or “other reproductive health services.”
The proposed guideline reads:
"While the council recognizes that you are entitled to hold your own beliefs, it remains your responsibility to ensure that a pregnant woman who comes to you for medical care and expresses doubt about continuing with the pregnancy is provided with or is offered access to objective information or assistance to enable her to make informed decisions on all available options for her pregnancy, including termination."
According to The New Zealand Herald, the final version of the document is not available. A spokesman for the Medical Council said changes have been made since the release of the draft but the final text cannot be provided because of the ongoing court action.
The case marks the first time the issue of personal beliefs and abortion has been addressed in Medical Council guidelines. The action follows a similar move in Britain.
Guidelines also cover areas where spiritual, cultural or religious beliefs could conflict with what the Council considers to be patients’ rights. The rules say doctors should set aside their own beliefs where necessary and must make the care of the patient their first concern.
Under New Zealand law, abortions can be performed only if two certifying consultants agree certain factors are present. According to the Herald, these factors include cases of incest or if the mental or physical well-being of the mother or unborn child is at risk.
The country’s Abortion Supervisory Committee appoints the consultants who authorize abortions to take place. Pro-life groups and a High Court judge have questioned the legality of many of these authorized abortions.