A group of anti-abortion doctors has launched a legal challenge to new Medical Council guidelines on how physicians with personal objections to abortion must deal with patients. The doctors filed an application in the High Court at Auckland last week for a judicial review of the guidelines, titled Beliefs and Medical Practice, the New Zealand Herald reported. The Medical Council is withholding the guidelines until the case is decided. The doctors’ lawyer, Harry Waalkens, QC, would not comment on the grounds for the challenge and would not name any of the doctors.
Their main objection was understood to involve a new section in the guidelines which requires them to tell patients having doubts about a pregnancy that abortion is one of the options. A draft version of the document was issued in March but a Medical Council spokesman said changes had been made since then. The statement was intended to guide medical practitioners, and tried to balance doctors’ and patients’ rights – including the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion – and the entitlement to care and treatment.