9 July 2012

Lexie O’Shea
Chief Operating Officer
Southland Hospital
PO Box 828

Dear Mrs. O’Shea,

The Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (ALRANZ) is a pro-choice group formed in 1971 that advocates for a woman’s right to control her own reproductive health choices, including abortion. We are writing to request further information, and to express our concern, about recent news media reports claiming that the entire staff of Southland Hospital’s Obstetrics Department has a stated position of refusing to participate in any future abortion service at the hospital, other than dealing with complications.

The claim was apparently made by a long-time physician, now retired from the hospital, Dr. Norman McLean, during a Southern District Health Board meeting in Dunedin on 5 July, and was reported in The Southland Times: “‘Mr McLean told board members staff in the Southland obstetric department had ‘unanimously’ refused to be part of the service, apart from dealing with complications.’” (See: http://www.stuff.co.nz/southland-times/news/7230263/SDHB-challenged-on-abortion-plan)

This statement, if correct, is of great concern to ALRANZ. We appreciate your hospital is staffed by highly trained health-care professionals, but we are nevertheless worried about the kind of care and support a woman that decides not to continue with a pregnancy might receive from a staff that is committed to opposing abortion care.

Can you let us know if Dr. McLean’s contention regarding the unanimity of the Obstetrics Department’s staff is indeed correct and, if so, what procedures the hospital has in place to ensure women facing decisions about pregnancy are given non-biased, non-coercive support and care? And given Dr. McLean’s position on the subject and his former role as head of Obstetrics Department, did the hospital have a hiring policy that excluded those who support abortion services and has this policy continued since his retirement?

Thank you for your time.


Dr. Morgan Healey
President, ALRANZ