How Can You Tell if Your Health Provider is a ‘Conscientious Objector’?

When looking for a new GP 

When enrolling in a practice, ask “Are there any services the doctor refuses to perform because of a conscientious objection?” (You might need to explain that you are concerned about abortion, contraception, or sterilisation.) If the answer is…

  •  NO – they don’t provide some/all of those services, you can say thanks and goodbye. Please let us know about this!

  • UNSURE – ask them to find out and let you know (so you don’t waste time and money later). If they refuse, perhaps treat that as confirmation and try another doctor.

  • YES – write down the date, time, name of the person you spoke to, and what was said. (You might need it later.) When meeting the doctor for the first consultation, ask again, to confirm. 

Existing GP

If reproductive health care has never come up for you with your GP, you can ask next time you visit: “If I needed an abortion, would you refer me or do you have a conscientious objection? If I wanted contraception or a sterilisation, would you provide that?”

If they say…

  • YES – record the date, time, place, and what was said. Ask them to make a note in your chart that you asked about it today.

  • NO – decide how important that is to you and whether you want to continue seeing that GP.

If you discover later that a healthcare provider won’t offer abortion, contraception, and/or sterilisation

If it is the first consult with a new doctor, tell them you were misinformed, do not wish to proceed with the appointment, and expect that you won’t be charged. (You wouldn’t have made an appointment if you had received the correct information.)

If your existing doctor refuses a service they said they provided, you should tell them you expected to be informed of changes to their policy since it is in your chart.

In both these instances you can lay a complaint to the Health and Disability Commissioner for the inconvenienced/cost caused (e.g., wasted time, transport costs, lost wages, stress) by being misinformed, or if the practice insists on payment.

The information you recorded about your initial conversation and patient notes will help.


ALRANZ can help if you want or need assistance laying a complaint.