Secular Obligations in Public Health

Public obligation

The abortion laws do balance freedom of conscience with the obligations of a public professional (Letters, 15/12). The section in question does not require a doctor to perform an abortion except when a woman's life is in danger. But they are required to refer when they do not wish to carry out a procedure in accord with a patient's needs.

It is not a debate just about freedom of conscience, but rather where freedom of conscience meets with public professional obligation. There are many other circumstances where people of faith, for example, have to bite their lip and accept universal secular law - the battles against Sunday trading are one such example.

The onus is on those who wish to refuse to refer, or are willing to let a woman die rather than perform an abortion, to provide secular reasons - and only secular reasons - on why their ''right of conscience'' is more important than a patient's needs or even life.

LEV LAFAYETTE, Victorian Secular Lobby