Victorian MP Fiona Patten introduces bill to stop religious hospitals from banning abortions

Crossbench MP Fiona Patten is hoping to push a bill through the Victorian parliament to stop public hospitals from stopping doctors from performing abortions.

Party leader Reason said basic human rights are currently being “trampled on” in public hospitals.

“The health system mistreats those who fund it,” Ms Patten said.

“Hospitals and other publicly funded health facilities have no right to deny these legally enshrined rights that a woman has control over her body and her reproductive health.”

Under current legislation, pregnant women can access abortions for up to 24 weeks in Victoria.

After that, a doctor should seek another doctor’s opinion that it is appropriate to perform an abortion.

However, hospitals that receive public funds are not required to provide abortion services.

The bill will seek to protect the right to abortion, expand family planning services as well as guarantee end-of-life rights in any hospital that receives public funding, including those with religious affiliations.

It comes just a month after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in June, which immediately criminalized abortions in several states.

Ms Patten said the legislation will not impact the rights of individual healthcare professionals to refuse to provide services based on personal religious beliefs.

“It does not infringe on any rights of people within the private healthcare system, where people have a choice over service providers,” she said.

“On the contrary, it protects the rights of doctors – a hospital will not be able to prevent a doctor from carrying out legal procedures.”

The legislation will also overcome geographic barriers faced by residents who live further away from private hospitals.

“They shouldn’t have to depend on their postcode to access the full panoply of public health services,” Ms Patten said.

Ms Patten is also calling for nurses and midwives to be allowed to perform abortions and to step up research into the treatment of endometriosis and chronic pelvic pain.

“Women make up half the population, but women’s health concerns us all,” she said.

Originally published as Victorian MP introduces bill to stop religious hospitals from refusing abortions