The new anti-abortion hero and the abortion death penalty

On October 12, clashing demonstrations in the Melbourne CBD brought reproductive rights back into the Australian spotlight. Anti-abortion politicians and activists have gone on the attack, on the streets and in Parliament.

The recent attention comes on the fifth anniversary of the decriminalisation of abortion in Victoria, which produced the most progressive abortion laws in Australia — among the most progressive in the southern hemisphere. This reform has provided a target for the anti-abortion movement in Australia, and their aim has sharpened on this fifth anniversary.

But, as in the US, the efforts of anti-abortion activists and lawmakers have largely not been to attack the law directly, but rather to chip away at it indirectly. They have claimed violations of human rights have occurred — but not those of unborn foetuses, and certainly not those of pregnant women in difficult and vulnerable positions. Rather they claim that the human rights of doctors have been violated.

This campaign, and its claims, deserve scrutiny. There have been some crucial omissions, which must be remedied. I can assist in remedying some of these omissions, from my own unfortunate personal experience.

In general, I think it is usually more important to understand the situation in society at large, the issues at stake, the political forces at play, and their social consequences, than it is to focus on any particular individuals. But sometimes you have to name names.

* * *

First, some background. I must say something about Victorian abortion law, and how it affects doctors.

Before 2008, abortion was a crime in Victoria. Although courts had carved out loopholes and prosecutions had become rare, a woman seeking to terminate a pregnancy potentially risked criminal sanctions.The reform of 2008 was the culmination of decades of efforts by doctors, lawyers, activists and citizens. Perhaps the most prominent figure in this long journey was Bertram Wainer, the campaigning physician who stared down slander, death threats, shootings, and arson from anti-abortion fanatics and corrupt police for establishing Australia’s first public abortion clinic in 1972. But Bertram and his wife Jo were part of a broad movement of women and men who struggled over four decades, until the Victorian Abortion Law Reform Act of 2008 brought the law into line with community expectations and long-standing practice.

Now, one might think that conferring a right to abortion on women might confer a corresponding obligation on doctors to perform one. But the reform of 2008 did not do so — except in emergency situations, where a woman’s survival is at stake.

Under section 8 of the Act, in a non-emergency situation, if a doctor has a religious or conscientious objection to abortion, the law does not compel them to perform an abortion. In fact, such a doctor doesn’t even have to advise, or authorise, or supervise an abortion.

The law only asks one thing of that doctor: if a woman comes to that doctor seeking advice on an abortion, the doctor must refer her to another doctor who can help her.

The law thus balances rights of women, on the one hand — rights to autonomous control of their own bodies, self-determination of their own lives, freedom of conscience, and religion — with the rights of doctors to freedom of conscience and religion, on the other.

Indeed, a doctor who refused to perform the minimal task of referral — to assist a woman who has come to them seeking advice about abortion — may well be seen as callous and inattentive to the needs of their patient. Not to mention that such behaviour undermines the ability of a woman to effectively invoke her rights to control her own body — her judgment is overridden by the doctor’s veto.

When a patient sees a doctor, the doctor is not supposed to judge the patient’s moral, religious or political beliefs. The doctor is there to help and care for the patient, respecting the patient’s autonomy and agency; certainly not allowing the doctor’s own moral judgments of their patient to affect treatment. If a Jehovah’s Witness refuses a blood transfusion because of a religious belief, the doctor may find the refusal unfounded, ignorant, even stupid; but the patient’s own judgment must prevail.

This position is reflected in the Australian Medical Association’s own code of ethics. According to the profession’s own rules, a doctor must treat their patient “with compassion and respect”, treat health care “as a collaboration”, “refrain from denying treatment… because of a judgement based on discrimination”, and when “a personal moral judgement or religious belief alone prevents you from recommending some form of therapy, inform your patient so that they may seek care elsewhere”. The Medical Board of Australia’s Code of Conduct, likewise requires doctors to understand “that each patient is unique”, and to work “in partnership with their patients”, “taking into account… the patient’s views”, and “recognising and respecting patients’ rights to make their own decisions”. Doctors must be “aware of [their] right to not provide or directly participate in treatments to which [they] conscientiously object”, but must not use an “objection to impede access to treatments that are legal”, in particular “not allowing… moral or religious views to deny patients access to medical care”.

All the Victorian law adds to this, in the case of non-emergency abortion, is to inform the patient of another doctor elsewhere, who can provide the care the patient seeks. Given the history of backyard abortions, and the shame and stigma that can be attached to the procedure, this extra requirement is not exactly an onerous one. It is very far from participation in the procedure — and without it the ability of women to realise their right to an abortion would be diminished.

Indeed, a doctor can easily avoid any conflict of interest. They can simply notify patients of any objection in advance, through a notice in the waiting room or on their website. The Australian Medical Association has even provided templates for this purpose.

Nonetheless, the argument has been made that something here infringes on a doctor’s freedom of conscience or religion. That is the argument anti-abortion activists have chosen to make in recent times.

That is the argument that one such doctor made to me — referring women for abortions violates his freedom of conscience. Because women who have abortions deserve to die.

You read that right. Women who have abortions deserve to die. And more besides.

And these were not the views of a random fanatic. I would rather not dwell on the views of one individual, but he is an exemplar of this movement. Indeed, he is one of its new martyrs.

* * *

It has been quite a coordinated campaign. The group Doctors Conscience (despite a somewhat underprepared website) has managed to enlist support from high-profile politicians. They feature supportive quotes from Liberal Premier Napthine and Victorian Labor Deputy Leader John Merlino. They have circulated a new petition, apparently detailing the injustices suffered by two innocent conscientious doctors. State Labor MP Christine Campbell spoke in the Victorian Parliament on October 17, arguing that the Abortion Reform act violates the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities. A keynote “Freedom of Conscience” Dinner was held on October 19. The campaign is evidently ongoing.

This campaign has highlighted the plights of two doctors, whose freedoms they allege have been violated.

One of these doctors is Mark Hobart, who has received the more publicity of the two. He claims to have been asked to perform a sex-selective abortion, which was a newsworthy story — although he failed to disclose his political affiliations; he had previously run for election as a candidate of the staunchly anti-abortion Democratic Labor Party. As it turns out, he believes abortion is “a mortal sin” and anyone assisting in it “will go to hell”.

But it is the other case I want to focus on — that of Jereth Kok. The reason is because I have direct personal experience of that case, and existing discussions of his case have missed some rather crucial details.

Dr Eamonn Mathieson, speaking at the Park Hyatt at the Doctors Conscience dinner, described him as:

a GP from Melbourne’s eastern suburbs… [who] was disciplined and threatened by AHPRA (the National Medical Board) when he was reported to them by another doctor for expressing his personal views on abortion and Section 8 in a hypothetical and private discussion on a social media site.

Kok features (anonymously) in the Doctors Conscience petition in similar terms. Christine Campbell in the Victorian Parliament made Kok’s case (calling him “Dr K”) the focus of her speech:

Dr K… is a general practitioner who practises in two busy suburban practices in Melbourne…

[I]n 2011 Dr K participated in an online conversation about abortion on the social media site Facebook during which he stated that he was opposed to it and did not refer patients. There were four or five other participants in the conversation. A few weeks later Dr K received a letter from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency which stated that the medical board was investigating him over his professional conduct after he was reported by one of the other Facebook correspondents.

According to these accounts, a hypothetical, intellectual, private discussion between friends online — in which Kok just honestly stated his conscience — was turned into a police state horror story when a busybody reported him to the authorities and terrifying interrogation ensued.

There are some notable omissions from these accounts, however.

I know this, because I was one of the participants in the conversation.

So let me provide some further details. I also include the full text of the conversation as an appendix, so that you can make your own judgment.

* * *

It should by now be clear that this conversation was not private in any meaningful sense of the word — claims to the contrary are inaccurate. I do not know Kok; I am certainly not his private confidant. If I could see and indeed participate in this conversation, so could many other strangers.

The conversation was instigated by a post made by a third party. The post was an anti-abortion fable, arguing that an abortion is equivalent to the murder of an almost-year-old baby. Unsurprisingly, it provoked several strongly worded comments. It was only after several comments that Kok joined in with a personal anecdote.

I get a request for abortion referral about once every 3 or 4 months. I tell the woman politely that it is against my moral principles to advise on this issue, and they need to find someone else to help them. (In a few instances I have attempted to talk them out of it.) Yes, I’m breaking Victoria’s new abortion laws, but I don’t give a stuff — I am not going to soil my conscience by being complicit in the slaughter of children.

(Emphasis added.) Needless to say, Kok did not explain why he couldn’t just use the AMA template to avoid the problem. But he went on. One interlocutor had suggested an alternative ending to the fable, where the woman refused an abortion ended up dying from peritonitis from a back alley abortion. His response:

Yep. And that’s exactly what she deserved for trying to kill her own child.

I have a 3 month old baby. If someone snuck into his room with a knife and tried to kill him, but accidentally slipped over and stabbed themselves through the heart, that would be exactly what they deserve.

If a man attacked my wife with a gun, but in the process the gun misfired and blew his head off, that would be his just deserts.

“He who lives by the sword shall perish by the sword” – Jesus Christ, Matthew 26:52

I hadn’t quite been expecting a judgment of a mandatory death penalty on women seeking abortions, let alone one imposed by scripture. (Actually, Matthew 26:52, in context, is about nonviolence: Jesus is telling his followers to put away their swords. Such a merciful reading of the gospel apparently didn’t appeal.) But I am, after all, a mathematician, and interested in boundary cases and exploring pathological arguments. So I wondered, facetiously, how far his death penalty should extend. After all, the Bible can be rather vicious in its punishments.

Well, I can understand why women having abortions deserve to die. … fathers of unborn children would deserve to die too, if they were complicit in it…

I did not quite expect the cold-bloodedness I got in response.

Don’t see anything to object to there! :-)

It’s a shame that more men don’t die from complications of abortion. It disappoints me that men can sire children, decide to kill them, and that they do not need to risk their neck in the process. Life is not fair.

Several people, including myself, took umbrage to Kok’s comments. Several argued with him at some length. In the course of such argument one interlocutor suggested that

Jereth may wish to delete his comment bragging about illegal or unprofessional practice, in writing, in a semi-public space.

In response, Kok doubled down:.

rest assured that if ever I need to speak to the AHPRA about this matter, I will have the backing of the AMA’s code of ethics, over 200 other Victorian doctors who are conscientious objectors, and the entire Catholic health system. It would be a great opportunity to bring to light the utter disgracefulness of the current Victorian law.

if you have courage of your convictions… why don’t you just report me to the APHRA [sic] yourself? Or are you afraid that you will be laughed out of the room, down the hallway, and out the front door?

See you at the hearing.

Evidently such a report to AHPRA was made (not by me).

And thus an anti-abortion martyr was born.

* * *

To be clear: I think Kok has every right to say that he thinks women who have abortions, and their partners, deserve to die, and would oppose any criminal sanction or legal penalty for him expressing that opinion. And nobody has questioned his right to do so. (If he proceeded to act and effect this “deserved” outcome, of course, it would be premeditated murder.) But whether such conduct is appropriate for a self-identified medical doctor, speaking in his own name to strangers, is another question entirely. Admissions of routinely breaking the law are, of course, entirely different again.

Medical practitioners are entrusted with great responsibilities, and held in very high esteem by the public. To be a medical doctor is a privilege which must be earned and retained. Medical practitioners must hold their colleagues to strict standards, if the public is to retain confidence in them.

Doctors are the people we turn to when we are weak, sick, and infirm. In my view, they should care for patients, not express views to strangers about how they and those they love deserve to die, while boasting about their routine illegal behaviour.

* * *

The full story of Kok’s case is thus rather different from the “hypothetical and private discussion” referred to by Dr Mathieson, or the mere “conversation about abortion… during which he stated that he was opposed to it and did not refer patients”, as Christine Campbell put it. It is not hypothetical, but involves concrete admissions of illegality. Not private, but open to me and people like me. Rather more than a conscientious statement of opposition to abortion.

Kok does not just refuse to help women regarding abortions. By his own account he routinely violates the law, every 3-4 months, and “doesn’t give a stuff”. By his own account he believes that women who have abortions deserve to die. By his own account he believes that the partners of women who have abortions also deserve to die — and it is unfair that they don’t. He quotes the Bible as his authority.

Kok restates his beliefs repeatedly, in a semi-public space, to strangers — strangers who warn him about his behaviour while he is doing it. He goads these strangers to report him to AHPRA, boasting of how he would win decisively and use the case for political influence.

As it turns out, he did not win his case. An AHPRA Panel found him to have engaged in unprofessional conduct. The Panel gave him a caution — the lightest slap on the wrist possible.

Nonetheless, evidently he has carried through on his boast to use the case for political gain, as the efforts of Christine Campbell and Doctors Conscience attest. He also published an account in a trade publication, the Australian Doctor. He has certainly not retreated into private life.

Kok has attempted to remain anonymous — a far cry from his original bravado. But he certainly had no reasonable expectation of privacy talking in his own name to a stranger like me. Indeed, in attempting to spin his story — or a version denuded of almost all relevant detail — for political gain, in the Victorian Parliament no less, Kok cannot expect that the full story will not come out. He cannot expect to remain anonymous. If he wants his case to be used to influence public debate, then the public ought to be informed about all the relevant details of the case.

I am pro-choice, and I oppose the anti-abortion lobby. But I especially oppose the anti-abortion lobby making their case in a dishonest way. Distorting Kok’s story, ignoring all the details which explain his adverse AHPRA finding, is a pathetic attempt at spin.

So far as I know, Kok continues to hold himself out as a suburban GP.

And as I said at the outset, while I have focused on an individual here, I think it is more important to think about the broader implications. If this case is the strongest one that the anti-abortion lobby can find, then I think the prospects for reproductive rights in Australia are rather bright.

* * *

FULL TEXT OF CONVERSATION:

Note that there are many different people involved. I have removed identifying details of all involved except Kok and myself; I have replaced names with [A], [B], etc.

All emphasis in the below is mine. Since it is a long text, I have emphasised the parts I think are most relevant.

The initial post by [A] was a story, which follows.

* * *

Inspire Your Living

A worried woman went to her gynecologist and said: ‘Doctor, I have a serious problem and desperately need your help! My baby is not even 1 year old and I’m pregnant again. I don’t want kids so close together. So the doctor said: ‘Ok and what do you want me to do?’ She said: ‘I want you to end my pregnancy, and I’m counting on your help with this.’ The doctor thought for a little, and after some silence he said to the lady: ‘I think I have a better solution for your problem. It’s less dangerous for you too.’ She smiled, thinking that the doctor was going to accept her request. Then he continued: ‘You see, in order for you not to have to take care 2 babies at the same time, let’s kill the one in your arms. This way, you could rest some before the other one is born. If we’re going to kill one of them, it doesn’t matter which one it is. There would be no risk for your body if you chose the one in your arms. The lady was horrified and said: ‘No doctor! How terrible! It’s a crime to kill a child! ‘I agree’, the doctor replied. ‘But you seemed to be OK with it, so I thought maybe that was the best solution.’ The doctor smiled, realizing that he had made his point. He convinced the mom that there is no difference in killing a child that’s already been born and one that’s still in the womb. The crime is the same! If you agree, please SHARE. Together we can help save precious lives! “Love says I sacrifice myself for the good of the other person. Abortion says I sacrifice the other person for the good of myself..

[Comments follow.]

[B]: At the risk of starting a flame war: “dislike”.

[C]: That’s only 1 side of the story, I think I disagree

[D]: So the woman left the pompous doctor who felt all self-righteous and went to the back alley stuck some knitting needles and a coathanger up there to do it herself and gave herself peritonitis and died.

[Daniel Mathews]: I think there is a happier ending actually. The patient complained about the pompous doctor, not about the doctor was pompous or because of their personal views, but for the doctor not respecting the patient’s values and wishes, and not providing the patient access to care consistent with the their values and wishes — a professional ethical obligation. And the doctor was deregistered, the patient found a better doctor (no thanks to the original doctor’s lack of a referral to someone willing to provide care consistent with the patient’s values), and everyone lived happily ever after.

[E]: Sadface for [D]‘s comment and thumbs up for Daniel’s.

“there is no difference in killing a child that’s already been born and one that’s still in the womb”

*jaw drop* Are you serious?

[E]: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2011/10/13/house-passes-hr-358-the-let-women-die-act-of-2011

via XXXXX, whom you may know from XXXXX and XXXXX.

[F]: women should determine laws on women’s health. And if you haven’t walked in everyone’s shoes, there is no right to judge.

[G]: [C] sorry i find this a pretty horrible story too… and “inspire your living”…? my goodness… >_<

[A]: Thanks for your honest opinions guys. I knew this was going to be a provocative post, and we are fortunate that most doctors do not act like this (it is clearly a made up story). But I thought it did make a pertinent point (in a rather shocking way) which is to ask, well, what IS the difference, philosophically and morally speaking, between killing the child in the womb and the one in her arms? It is not at all a clear cut question, particularly for later-term abortions beyond 24 weeks (now legal in Victoria), and it is one which I continue to grapple with, and am yet to find a satisfactory answer to, that sits right with my conscience.

[D]: It doesn’t really matter what sits right with your conscience unless it is a decision about your body. Before abortion was semi legal women still had abortions, they were just exploited in their desperation by backyard abortionists who were not medically trained and heaps of women died. Can’t ban abortions because they will still happen anyway so it is better it is done safely. Because it can’t be banned it has to be a decision each woman makes for herself.

[A]: [D], I agree that my conscience isn’t necessarily relevant to other people making decisions about their bodies (and each person is accountable for their own decisions). Yet I guess most of us thinking members of society will form opinions about things going on based on our own values and notions of what is right and wrong, just and unjust. And if we see something unjust happening (or something that doesn’t sit right with our conscience), I think many people would see it as their responsibility to say something, or point it out. As you are doing, by pointing out the risks of illegal abortion (clearly that is something that your conscience does not like), which is a valid point. So… that’s why I think our consciences do matter, even if we’re not involved in the decision itself directly.

(PS. Though I do believe that most of the drop in death rate occurred due to the advent of the antibiotics, rather than legal abortions; and also that the social pressures for pregnant women out of wedlock are far far less than back in those days…)

[E]: It does sound as apocryphal as the story about aborting Beethoven, and the point it makes is not as convincing to me as it is to you who already believe. I think there is a difference between a child and a foetus, and my moral intuitions, naturally selected for in my ancestors, feel just as ‘right’ to me as yours must to you, ordained by a higher power.

[A]: LOL [E] I reckon our moral intuitions probably come from similar places, i.e. our genetic makeup and our environmental influences. I certainly wouldn’t imply that mine is any more specially ‘ordained’ than yours. Nor does my concern about late-term abortions come from religion – the Bible makes no comment about the statuses of foetuses vs neonates. It’s simply a human concern, knowing what I know about late-term infants, having seen premmies in incubators, seen women give birth etc, and feeling that there doesn’t seem to be much that changes when the baby is born vs a few minutes (or even weeks) prior.

So because of that I think it’s just logical that anyone who abhors infanticide (like they used to do in China when XXXXX was XXXXX, injecting KCl into newborns basically as ‘abortions’ – horrible) should abhor late-term abortion, especially in our Western society where 24-week babies are viable. It is the same baby, whether it’s in the womb, or in an incubator, or in the mum’s arms.

To me that is a perfectly rational argument that doesn’t need any religious thought to back it up. In fact I would be surprised if there were no intelligent, thinking, non-religious people who thought the same way.It is easy to jump onto the bandwagon of the politically correct view of the day – and in our day and age, when individual rights and freedoms are most highly valued, it is an unpopular thing to question anything that may seem to limit someone’s choices. But I don’t believe that the most popular view is necessarily the most correct one – I think each should be judged on its merits, rather than who or how many are supporting them. And I do like to chew on these issues, and in some cases question ‘politically correct’ views… (as you may have already noticed…) But I appreciate all your comments, and for keeping disagreements respectful.

[A]: And I should mention that you may have perfectly rational reasons too for not thinking the same way as me – that’s fine. But at the very least, I wanted to point out that it is POSSIBLE to be a thinking person, and question some aspects of abortion.

[Jereth Kok]: I get a request for abortion referral about once every 3 or 4 months. I tell the woman politely that it is against my moral principles to advise on this issue, and they need to find someone else to help them. (In a few instances I have attempted to talk them out of it.) Yes, I’m breaking Victoria’s new abortion laws, but I don’t give a stuff — I am not going to soil my conscience by being complicit in the slaughter of children.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCe0lG_Z8NA

[Jereth Kok]: “So the woman left the pompous doctor who felt all self-righteous and went to the back alley stuck some knitting needles and a coathanger up there to do it herself and gave herself peritonitis and died.”

Yep. And that’s exactly what she deserved for trying to kill her own child.

I have a 3 month old baby. If someone snuck into his room with a knife and tried to kill him, but accidentally slipped over and stabbed themselves through the heart, that would be exactly what they deserve.

If a man attacked my wife with a gun, but in the process the gun misfired and blew his head off, that would be his just deserts.

“He who lives by the sword shall perish by the sword” – Jesus Christ, Matthew 26:52

[Daniel Mathews]: Well, I can understand why women having abortions deserve to die. But the sins of the father (and, presumably, mother) shall be visited upon the son (and, presumably, the daughter). Right on down to the third and fourth generations. After all, that’s in the bible too, which is the infallible revealed word of god. (True, the bible says the opposite as well, but only twice, while the punishment of the son is supported by four books of the old testament.) So, actually, then, unborn children of women having abortions deserve to die anyway, along with any children they might have had. Better not to have let them been born anyway. Well, they couldn’t have been part of the elect in any case, as revealed by their sin.

I can certainly see why fathers of unborn children would deserve to die too, if they were complicit in it, and letting their partners murder their baby, if the spray of the abortion-shotgun got them. And the MPs who voted for the change in law, they are enablers of murder aren’t they, so there’d be no problem with their death, just like the doctors at the abortion clinics. They all live by the sword, so let them perish too. But what about the vast majority of Australians who support decriminalisation of abortion. I think they deserve to die too, because they let it happen and might well be involved in it one day. And their families, if those families were complicit in abortion, down to the third and fourth generations.

Well, only the elect are going to heaven anyway, so I suppose it doesn’t matter. Let’s just kill them all.

[Jereth Kok]: “I can certainly see why fathers of unborn children would deserve to die too, if they were complicit in it … if the spray of the abortion-shotgun got them. ”

Don’t see anything to object to there! :-)

[H]: Are these same people who deny the rights of preborn people concerned with animal rights? I’m staggered at the community outrage at how cows are treated; wouldn’t it be nice if unborn children had so many standing up for them?

[Jereth Kok]: @Daniel – It’s a shame that more men don’t die from complications of abortion. It disappoints me that men can sire children, decide to kill them, and that they do not need to risk their neck in the process. Life is not fair. If abortion carried more risks for men, it would make them think twice where to put their penis.

Sorry, but despite your obfuscation you have failed to counter my point: that if someone attacks another human being with the intent to kill, and are accidentally maimed or killed in the act, then poetic justice is done. You have failed to show how there is any qualitative difference between a woman who accidentally dies of blood loss trying to kill her unborn baby, and a man who accidentally falls on his knife trying to kill my 3 month old baby. And try as you may, you won’t be able to, because there IS no difference. The two scenarios are equivalent.

[D] argued: “Can’t ban abortions because they will still happen anyway so it is better it is done safely.” I can show you the fallacy of this by proposing a simple analogy: It is impossible to ban murder. No matter how good the police are, they cannot stop murder from happening. Therefore, better that we allow people to commit murder safely. We should set up “murder clinics” where people can bring their intended victim, tie them up, and with the assistance of a qualified professional executioner administer a lethal dose of anaesthetic. That way no one will accidentally be injured while trying to shoot, stab, drown or asphyxiate their intended victim in a botched “backyard” murder.

[E]: (Somewhat off-topic for this thread, just a general comment:)

For abortion, like premarital sex, drugs and other things where the conservative reflex is to ban it, the evidence favours harm minimisation over zero tolerance. E.g. unwanted pregnancy is an outcome that all sides want to reduce and the evidence shows that available contraception achieves that more effectively than abstinence-only sex education, but sometimes people prefer to think their teenagers aren’t sexually active, than to actually educate and protect them. Just as some communities prefer to think they are taking the high road regarding drugs, never mind that safe injection rooms reduce deadly overdoses or that the ‘war on drugs’ takes lives as well as law enforcement resources that could be better spent elsewhere. There’s a mentality that it’s more important to be seen to do the ‘moral’ thing instead of what actually produces better outcomes. Decriminalising abortion takes away the perverse incentive toward ‘backyard abortions’, and however much one cares about foetuses, one should care at least that much about women.

(Back on-topic next comment)

[E]: I don’t think viable foetuses should be terminated (except where it’s an inevitable side effect of saving the mother’s life). And I’m a big fan of society moving with the times, so legislation should be updated periodically to keep up with changing technology and improved healthcare, e.g. with foetuses becoming viable earlier in gestation. So on this point, we do not disagree. That’s not what this thread is about for me.

The issue that your link spawns is one of inappropriate behaviour in medical practice. How appalling would it be if a surgeon said ‘you have appendicitis but I won’t take out your appendix because you’ve been naturally selected against and it would be wrong for me to get in the way of the evolution of humans to get rid of the appendix’? Absurd example I know, but the point is, we can’t let personal beliefs get in the way of being a good doctor.

[A] and I have respectfully disagreed a lot over the years, and it is because of that, that I still participate in discussions where I already know we have very different opinions. I’m not interested in a flame war, or a definition debate where we all agree that ‘slaughter of children’ is wrong but cannot resolve our differing opinions on what constitutes a child. Jereth may wish to delete his comment bragging about illegal or unprofessional practice, in writing, in a semi-public space.

[Jereth Kok]: I’m not bragging, [E]. I’m simply stating a fact. The story that [A] shared describes a situation that I am regularly in, and I’m telling her how I respond to it. I don’t revel in the fact that I need to ignore the law in order to live and work in a way that is consistent with my personal and religious principles. But I have to sleep at night, and that would be impossible if I made myself complicit in the abominable practice of defenceless children being killed in the womb.

And there is nothing unprofessional about adhering to one’s own conscience. The AMA, which represents my profession, objected to the Victorian law which no longer allows doctors to conscientiously object to providing a referral for abortion. In 5 out of 6 Australian States, doctors have this ability. It is silly to suggest that I’m being unprofessional by acting in a manner that is perfectly legal in 5 other states.

[Jereth Kok]: “How appalling would it be if a surgeon said ‘you have appendicitis but I won’t take out your appendix because you’ve been naturally selected against and it would be wrong for me to get in the way of the evolution of humans to get rid of the appendix’? Absurd example I know, but the point is, we can’t let personal beliefs get in the way of being a good doctor.”

[E], you said it yourself. This is an absurd example which is in no way analogous to a situation where someone presents seeking an abortion. A pregnant woman isn’t, in 99.9% of cases, going to become fatally ill simply by allowing the child within her to grow to term. Nobody is involuntarily killed when an appendix is removed.

With all due respect, you seem to be blissfully naive about the professional and ethical aspects of “being a good doctor”. “Being a good doctor” does not mean acting as a mindless, valueless automaton, simply giving patients whatever they ask for. The practice of medicine does not occur in a moral and relational vacuum. Being a good doctor involves bringing all of one’s training, skill, experience and values to bear on the varied situations one is faced with from day to day. Those values include personal values which, yes, include one’s worldview and religious principles. A doctor who is willing to violate his own deeply held values in the practice of his medicine is not a good doctor; indeed he cannot be a good doctor, because being a good doctor requires both personal integrity and consistency of thought and action.

(Perhaps you would need to actually have worked in this profession for a while to be able to appreciate this.)

Yes, respecting the views and wishes of a patient is part of being a good doctor. But when those wishes run counter to a doctor’s own values, a doctor who caves in is sabotaging his own professional and personal integrity. A good doctor, when faced with this situation, will politely tell the patient that he can no longer be of assistance to them and terminate the relationship. This is what I do when someone asks me to send them for an abortion. I don’t start preaching to them that they are a killer (even though that is what I believe), I simply say that I do not agree with the course of action they are seeking, and so I cannot help them any further. In 99% of cases there is no medical emergency, and the patient has plenty of time to find someone else willing to help them, of which there is no shortage so it would be ridiculous to suggest that a handful of pro-life Christian doctors are blocking women from having abortions.

[Jereth Kok]: By the way, regarding your “off-topic” comment [E], what you state as fact is actually far from it. I’d very much like to see your “evidence” that harm minimisation approaches to drugs and sex education are better for the health of society. Just looking at STDs and unwanted pregnancy, harm minimisation has been a spectacular failure. It has been the philosophy for some 25 years, and never has there been such epidemic rates of STDs (which includes cervical cancers and pre-cancers) and unwanted pregnancy. Were you aware that GPs are currently advised to screen ALL women between age 18 and 25 who walk through the door for chlamydia (an infection that renders women infertile) — even if they just come for a runny nose and a medical certificate? That’s how bad it is. Telling kids to use condoms clearly doesn’t work.

[Jereth Kok]: And finally, just to put to rest any silly ideas still floating around that it is “unprofessional” for a doctor to conscientiously object to helping a patient find her way to an abortion service, please see the following links. I will leave it to those interested to read through to the relevant parts of these articles.

http://www.australiandoctor.com.au/news/26/0c05bd26.asp
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2008-10-02/proposed-abortion-laws-threaten-doctors-rights/528682
http://news.theage.com.au/breaking-news-national/abortion-law-at-odds-with-autonomy-ama-20090725-dwu8.html
http://www.quadrant.org.au/magazine/issue/2011/10/the-greens-threat-to-religious-freedom

[E]: Funny you should mention that, [H]. Unborn children? Even ones already born! I was staggered by how much outrage there was over live cattle export compared to mandatory detention and deportation of human refugees.

Sorry I actually hadn’t read Jereth’s comments preceding my last reply so they weren’t addressing him at all. Now that I have, I think I should bow out of this conversation while I can still keep a civil tongue, because with each comment he incriminates himself further, not just as an unprofessional doctor who should be reported to AHPRA, but as a fanatic of staggering moral monstrosity.

Thank you for the discussion [A]. Hope you and XXXXX are well. =)

[Jereth Kok]: Farewell [E]; I wish you a good life. It’s disappointing that the only responses available to you when confronted with cogent arguments and facts which dismantle your position are either to develope an “uncivil” tongue, or to make some more foolish and uninformed remarks (with an ad hominem attack thrown in) and then duck out of the debate. But this is nothing that I have not experienced many times before when debating people who are “pro-choice”. After all, the “pro-choice” position is riddled with so much logical inconsistency, factual error and outright dishonesty that the only way for a “pro-choicer” to “win” an argument is to run from it.

BTW, rest assured that if ever I need to speak to the AHPRA about this matter, I will have the backing of the AMA’s code of ethics, over 200 other Victorian doctors who are conscientious objectors, and the entire Catholic health system. It would be a great opportunity to bring to light the utter disgracefulness of the current Victorian law.

[Jereth Kok]: P.S. if you have courage of your convictions, [E], rather than just carrying on and posturing here on Facebook, why don’t you just report me to the APHRA yourself? Or are you afraid that you will be laughed out of the room, down the hallway, and out the front door?

Before lodging your complaint with the APHRA about my “unprofessional conduct”, I suggest you first familarise yourself with the following document, particularly sections 1.1 p-r and 3 a-d and 4g

http://ama.com.au/codeofethics

Also, take some time to read through the materials available through Dr. Lachlan Dunjey and Dr. Eamon Mattheison.

http://www.medicinewithmorality.info/
http://www.doctorsconscience.org/index.php

See you at the hearing.

[I]: Jereth please chill out, remember things on the internet are written in ink, not pencil. Right now people reading this might agree with some points you make but still think you’re a doofus for the way you’ve expressed yourself perhaps a little too aggressively. Respect.

[Jereth Kok]: [I] – I stand by everything I have written here, or else I would have deleted or amended it.

If anyone needs to worry about having expressed things in an unsavoury way, it is those who have argued from the pro-abortion side.

“A little too aggressively” — well, that is a subjective judgment to which you are entitled. What we are talking about here is the violent slaughter of 80,000 defenceless young children every year in Australia (20,000 in Victoria) from within their mothers’ own wombs, and medical professionals being forced against their conscience and their own code of ethics to participate in this industry of killing. Please forgive me for getting mildly fired up.

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Written by dan

November 8th, 2013 at 1:09 am

4 Responses to 'The new anti-abortion hero and the abortion death penalty'

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  1. [...] quoted as expressing the opinion that women who seek abortions deserve death. This is detailed in Daniel Mathews’ blog post which provides quotations allegedly from Dr. K. Doctors Conscience has issued a press release [...]

  2. [...] with the ultimately fair guidelines of the law, though. A discussion of the subject exploded on Dan’s Facebook page and caught the blogger’s attention. Enter, Dr. Kok. Doctor Jereth Kok made it clear during [...]

  3. I couldn’t refrain from commenting. Well written!

    rebelmouse

    6 Jul 14 at 7:01 pm

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