23 June 2023

Correction to abortion report issued after Committee admits testimonies weren't 'accurately' reflected

| Claire Fenwicke
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Johnathan Davis MLA

Health and Community Wellbeing standing committee chair Johnathan Davis said the correction did not change the report’s recommendations regarding Calvary Public Hospital Bruce. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

A woman’s testimony to an inquiry into reproductive and abortion choices in Canberra has been removed from the final report after it was found her testimony wasn’t accurate.

The woman, given the pseudonym Tamara in the report, had told the Inquiry into Abortion and Reproductive Choice she had been “refused critical medical treatment following a miscarriage” by staff at Calvary Public Hospital Bruce (CPHB).

Calvary Health Care national CEO Martin Bowles then wrote to the ACT Government stating there was “no evidence” that Tamara had been denied care as a “direct result” of advice from the hospital.

The organisation called on the government to redact the woman’s statements from the report.

On Friday (23 June), inquiry chair Johnathan Davis tabled a corrigendum to the report after a review found “the report does not accurately reflect the evidence of Tamara as part of her submission to the inquiry”.

“Specifically, the corrigendum notes that a Canberra patient who made a submission to the Committee’s inquiry was not directly refused post-miscarriage care by Calvary Public Hospital Bruce,” the government statement said.

“Instead, it was the patient’s specialist who advised her that Calvary Public Hospital Bruce would not perform the necessary post-miscarriage procedure because her case was not an emergency.”

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The references to Tamara’s submissions were altered in the final report to make it clearer what had actually occurred.

“The Committee was told of the experience of a Canberra patient who was advised by her obstetrician-gynaecologist that Calvary Public Hospital Bruce would not perform a dilation and curettage (D&C) because her medical condition was not an emergency,” the amendment reads.

It also clarified another submission about a conversation a person had had with a friend in an ambulance on the way to CPHB, concerned they would be turned away or judged, as they needed treatment for complications following a medical abortion.

“This evidence together with the advice of a specialist … demonstrates a narrative of concern throughout the community about which reproductive health-care procedures Calvary Public Hospital Bruce may or may not provide and under which circumstances,” the corrigendum to the report noted.

“It is the Committee’s view that this unease can only be resolved if Calvary Public Hospital Bruce provides full reproductive health care.”

Mr Davis said the amendments do not change the committee’s recommendation that the hospital provide full reproductive health services.

“The corrigendum to the report reflects the mis-framing of Tamara’s evidence. The fault by no means lies with the evidence provided by Tamara in her submission,” he said.

“The Committee received 52 submissions to our inquiry. There was significant evidence to support the understanding that reproductive health is a basic human right.

“There was also evidence that there are tangible barriers to full reproductive health care in the ACT that need to be redressed. This is the premise of the report. This is scaffolded by evidence. Our recommendations remain.”

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Amendments were also made to the report’s section on CPHB, including additional evidence about the facility’s limitations on reproductive health care services.

It also contained a revision with a statement from Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith clarifying what abortion services are available at Canberra’s hospitals.

“There is not such a disconnect there between Calvary and Canberra Hospital because neither of them specifically provides surgical terminations,” she had told the inquiry.

“But for things like direct advice on post-partem contraception and contraception for people who have experienced rape and sexual assault that then cannot access the morning-after pill, for example, through Calvary Public Hospital, we do recognise that those are things that people raise on a regular basis.”

Calvary Health Care declined to comment.

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Mitch Thompson6:47 pm 24 Jun 23

If you’re going to forcefully take over a hospital you can have reports out there with made up information in them.

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