ACT Government

ACT Government Falsely Accused Calvary Hospital of Withholding Life-Saving Care

4 August 2023

4.5 MINS

Less than one month before the announcement they would forcibly acquire Calvary Hospital, the ACT Government handed down its “Inquiry into Abortion and Reproductive Choice in the ACT” on 18 April 2023.

The report is evidently concerned with making abortion as accessible as possible. The former Calvary Public Hospital in Bruce, Canberra, takes the particular interest of the Territory Government.

Calvary Hospital and ‘the Church’ Accused of Punishing People for Abortion

As previously reported by the Daily Declaration, the ACT Government’s report made the following accusation:

Following the legality of abortion, societal punitive responses may have ended from [the] State but still they prosper at the hands of the Church (see sections in this report ‘Calvary Hospital’ and ‘Stigma and Harassment’).

The claim that “punitive responses” for abortions “still… prosper at the hands of the Church” is a serious allegation that deserves scrutiny.

But the report offers no evidence for its assertion. The section on ‘Stigma and Harassment’ documents no such “punitive” responses and mentions neither Calvary Hospital nor ‘the Church’.

This leaves the section on ‘Calvary Hospital’, which centres on one chief piece of evidence. Rather than giving examples of abortion, the inquiry focuses its attention on a tragic story of a miscarriage.

Accusation of Calvary Hospital Denying Life-Saving Care

If you’re wondering how an example of Calvary preventing life-saving treatment to a woman who’s suffered a tragic miscarriage is an example of a “punitive response” against those who have had an abortion, well, you’re not alone.

The committee stated that a woman who had suffered a miscarriage and presented to Calvary Hospital was “refused critical medical treatment” and turned away.

The report went on to claim that the “medical care limited by Calvary’s Catholic ethos has implications for life-saving reproductive care…”

Denying life-saving treatment to a woman who suffered a miscarriage would be an outrageous breach of medical care. It is a grave allegation.

Calvary Hospital denied the incident, saying they had no knowledge of any such occurrence. The accusation prompted a written response issued by Calvary National CEO Martin Bowles. Unsurprisingly, his statement outlines the Catholic institution’s pro-life commitment to always act to preserve and protect life. Bowles stated:

Calvary does respond in situations when a mother (and/or the unborn child she carries) suffers an urgent, life-threatening condition during pregnancy.

In these instances, and with informed patient consent, our clinicians provide medically indicated treatment, even if this treatment poses a risk to the foetus or may result in the unintended death of the unborn child.

Following Bowles’ response, the ACT Government released a corrigendum that retracted their baseless allegations and gave an explanation for their necessary removal.

The Inquiry’s Incredible Blunders

The ACT Government inquiry evidences a severe bias and astonishing negligence from its researchers. Incredibly, the committee report stated the patient was denied medical treatment upon presentation “at Calvary Hospital”.

But that’s simply not the case. What the patient actually wrote in her submission was that she was told (by her obstetrician-gynaecologist) that Calvary Hospital wouldn’t provide the care. The patient never presented to Calvary Hospital.

The report grossly misinterpreted and consequently, misrepresented the claims of the patient.

Crucially, the obstetrician-gynaecologist gave the patient false information about Calvary Hospital. The hospital network does provide life-saving treatment for a mother who suffers a miscarriage or “a life-threatening condition during pregnancy”.

The government report uncritically accepted a false claim made in a submission. It then further misunderstood and mispresented that claim. Finally, it levelled the unfounded accusation (plus other baseless allegations) at Calvary Hospital.

Wilful Blindness

It is at least something that the ACT Government issued the corrigendum retracting their allegation.

However, any balanced response would include an unreserved apology for public slander. But no apology was forthcoming.

Instead, the corrigendum doubled down on its negative assessment of Calvary Hospital. It issued another remarkable statement, claiming there was

… a narrative of concern throughout the community in the ACT about which reproductive health-care procedures Calvary Public Hospital Bruce may or may not provide and under which circumstances.

The ACT Government made outlandish accusations about Calvary Hospital withholding life-saving medical treatment. Such accusations would naturally lead to public distrust of the hospital. Yet in the next breath, the government says it is concerned about public angst against Calvary Hospital.

The Territory Government sowed seeds of distrust about the hospital, then chastised the hospital for not having the public’s trust.

This obvious irony seems to be completely lost on the government.

The report concludes that the only way “this unease can… be resolved” is “if Calvary Public Hospital Bruce provides full reproductive health care”. In other words, the way to reassure the public about quality life-saving care is by taking life.

Discrimination Against Pro-Life Christians

The ACT Government has repeatedly and emphatically denied the takeover of Calvary Hospital is “about Calvary being a faith-based service”.

At the same time, it was publishing and pushing its view that the hospital’s “religious ethos” was “problematic”. The hospital’s pro-life position was by no means going to be tolerated.

It is understandable the ACT Government wants to distance itself as far as possible from the suggestion that the takeover was motivated by an anti-Christian sentiment.

Such a move would place the ACT Government’s takeover of Calvary Hospital in breach of the Constitution and Australia’s human rights commitments. Section 116 of the Constitution reads:

Commonwealth not to legislate in respect of religion.

The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion.

Removing Calvary Hospital is an example of “prohibiting the free exercise” of the Catholic religion.

Further, Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Australia is a signatory, states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Emphatically, the Catholic Calvary network has the right, “in public” and “in community”, to manifest its religion and conscience in their provision and practice of health services. To prevent this is a breach of human rights.

There’s a further piece of evidence the ACT Government is uncomfortably retreating from its evident religious discrimination. The original report stated Calvary Hospital’s “religious ethos” was “problematic”. The corrigendum removed that statement. The question is, why?

In light of the implications outlined above, it’s easy to imagine what motivated this deletion. Statements about a “problematic” “religious ethos” are themselves problematic for an ACT government attempting to cover its tracks.

Conclusion

The ACT Government wants people to believe its disdain for the Christian pro-life position was entirely irrelevant to the hospital takeover.

That “problematic” “religious ethos” statements are no problem at all.

They claimed the hospital didn’t enjoy the trust of the community, even while spreading false, slanderous accusations against the hospital.

They never once apologised.

Based on their track record, are you going to believe them?

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2 Comments

  1. Jim Twelves 4 August 2023 at 8:51 am - Reply

    Sam, great piece, thank you. Forensic analysis. I have come to realize in recent times that those who perpetrate and peddle lies, have ‘no conscience’, as we might expect. They simply say nothing, wait, and the public gaze simply moves on. I can’t believe our society has sunk so low, but it has!

  2. Kim Beazley 4 August 2023 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    Thank you, Sam, for this insight into the cynical dishonesty of the ACT Government. Unlike Jim, though, I do not believe that our society has sunk as low as the ACT Government has in this affair. Because if society had sunk to the same level, then the ACT Government would not have seen the need to go to such dishonest lengths. As long as those in authority see the need to couch their anti-Christian actions in such lies there is actually still some hope.

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