Melbourne, Australia, Oct 12, 2013 / 15:07 pm
A Catholic doctor in Australia could face suspension or the loss of his license for refusing to refer a couple who sought the sex-based abortion of their unborn daughter.
"I refused to refer the patient because there was no medical reason to do it and it offended my moral conscience," Dr. Mark Hobart told Nine News Australia.
"It's very wrong, I don't know any doctor in Victoria that would be willing to refer a woman that wanted to have an abortion just because of gender at 19 weeks."
The 55-year-old doctor, who lives in the Australian state of Victoria, has practiced medicine for 27 years. He said the pregnancy was "well advanced."
The married couple had asked Hobart to refer them to an abortion clinic 19 weeks into the woman's pregnancy, when they discovered they were having a girl but wanted a boy.
For the last five months, Hobart has faced an investigation from the Medical Board of Australia and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. Victoria's Abortion Law Reform Act of 2008 requires that doctors with moral objections to an abortion refer their patient to another non-objecting practitioner for treatment and advice.
He said the investigation shows that the state's abortion law "stops doctors from using their conscience whether it is appropriate or not."
Hobart went public about the request for the sex-selection abortion in April. The Medical Board of Victoria began an investigation after board members complained that the incident called into question his professional conduct.
Neither the woman nor her husband filed a complaint against him, the Daily Mail reports.
Any decision could affect Hobart's ability to practice medicine throughout Australia.
Sex-selective abortions are common in parts of the world, particularly in some Asian countries where there is a strong cultural preference for boys over girls. The practice has contributed to severe gender imbalances in some regions.
Abortions based on sex also take place in Western countries, especially in some immigrant communities.
The controversial procedures have become the focus of controversy in the United Kingdom after investigative reporters with the Daily Telegraph secretly filmed doctors at British clinics agreeing to abort unborn babies merely on the basis of their sex.
Opponents of sex-selective abortions contend that the procedures violate the 1967 law allowing abortion only in "a limited range of circumstances." However, the head of public prosecutions has said that the law "does not expressly prohibit" these sex-targeted abortions, the Catholic Herald reports.
Anthony Ozimic, a spokesman for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, warned that British doctors could face situations similar to Hobart's if sex-selective abortion continues and if conscience protections continue to be weak.
"The lives of baby girls and livelihoods of good doctors are at stake," he said.
In the United States, the states of Arizona, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma have barred sex-selective abortions. Utah, Florida, New York, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Colorado and North Dakota are considering legislation to ban the practice.