Tag Archives: Reproductive freedom

Memo to doctors: women are moral adults

A group of New Zealand doctors is challenging a proposed Medical Council guideline on abortion. The new guideline requires doctors to tell women who are unsure about their pregnancy that termination is a possibility. They are not required to provide the certification for abortion themselves (under NZ law, a woman must obtain signatures from two certifying consultants), they are certainly not required to provide the abortion themselves. However under the proposed guideline, they must tell women of the possibility of abortion, and refer them on to another doctor.

So this is an attempt to balance doctors’ freedom of conscience with patients’ needs. I’m already pretty unhappy with the balance in favour of doctors: why on earth should doctors be allowed to refuse to provide medical treatment in the first place. But this is hardly an imposition, that doctors should be required to tell patients about the possibility of a particular procedure.

I think the subtext from the doctors who oppose this new guideline is particularly nasty. It says that they will make moral decisions for their patients, because women can’t be trusted to make those moral decisions themselves.

I’m not interested in any medical doctor telling me what to think about moral issues. I’m interested in them telling me about what treatment options are available to me, what effects those particular options may have on me, what the likely outcomes are if we leave a condition untreated. But in no circumstance do I think that a doctor has any role in making moral decisions for me.

The text of the new guideline is under judicial review. It will be interesting to see what the court says about doctors as arbiters of morality.

Update: See the Queen of Thorns for an excellent snark about this, and there’s a discussion at The Hand Mirror too.

More stripes

Tony Abbott, leader of the opposition in Australia, doesn’t like contraception. Because if people can use contraception, then oh noes, they have sex. And even worse, because women and men can use contraception, some women have been taken advantage of. Really, women should stay virgin until they get married, because virginity is a gift to their husbands.

Yes. It’s really true. He did say all this. Take a look for yourself.

I confess that I laughed out loud when I read the article. Racing straight back to the nineteenth century, he is.

Jeremy, An Onymous Lefty, does a nice job taking apart the “save yourself for marriage” idea. You should head on over there and read it. But more than no-sex-before-marriage-for-women, Father Abbott has a rather nasty idea about women’s autonomy in this. It seems he thinks that they don’t really have any, that they can just be pressured into sex.

Well, yes, of course that can happen. But really, don’t you think that lots and lots and lots of pre-marital and extra-marital sex happens because – quick, cover your ears, Tony – people like sex. And even people who are women like sex. And they might choose to have sex because they want to have sex, not just because they ‘give in’ to some man. And that the fantastic part about contraception is that at last, women could choose to have sex, without fear of becoming pregnant. A good liberal ought to be delighted that people’s autonomous choices were made easier, not chewing his fingers and angsting over whether people ought to have sex at all. Or maybe he just doesn’t like the idea that women might choose to have sex, might be sexual beings, might have preferences and desires and make choices, all of their own.

It’s all pretty antediluvian stuff. Whaddya think Abbott will come out with next? And when do you think that the Liberal party will realise that Abbott’s conservative Catholicism might not actually be a vote winner?

Update: Forgiveness is overrated by SkepticLawyer is worth reading.

Rather, I’m suggesting that shaming is the appropriate response to public figures who get off on wallowing in their sin in public, and who then purport to advise the rest of us on the basis of that wallowing. Talking the talk requires walking the walk, in other words.


This is the second in what I predict will be a not so very occasional series about Tony Abbott.

Previous post in this series: Revealing his stripes

Plus if you haven’t already, read Pavlov’s Cat’s piece: The Abbott and the Women: some thoughts.