What can be done?
“We have been arguing this point on a number of platforms for some time, said Pecoraro. “The final straw was when the anti-discrimination board wrote back to my patient, saying that they didn’t think this was sexual discrimination,” said Professor Pecoraro.
“They patronisingly suggested to her that for it to be discriminatory, it had to specifically adversely affect women who were or could become pregnant. THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT IS GOING ON.”
After reaching out to the Australian Human Rights Commission on the matter, Courtney received the below response:
“Discrimination can occur when someone is treated unfairly because of their sex or pregnancy, than a person of a different sex or who is not pregnant would have been treated in the same circumstances. It can also happen where there is a rule or policy that is the same for everyone but has an unfair effect on a person of a particular sex or who is pregnant, which is not considered reasonable in the circumstances.
Unfortunately, it is not clear how your concerns could arguably be covered by the above definitions. It is not clear how you have been treated unfairly because of your sex or pregnancy.
Firstly, pregnancy is not necessarily a function of sex. In this respect, it is not clear that a woman who is not pregnant is treated less fairly than a man, for example.
With respect to pregnancy, it is not clear that direct discrimination could be argued as it is not clear you have been treated unfairly because of pregnancy or potential pregnancy. In terms of indirect discrimination, it is also not clear how you say the rule or policy would disadvantage you because of your pregnancy.”
“They pretty much brushed my letter under the carpet and didn’t really care,” Courtney told Mamamia.
Professor Pecoraro said this is why specialist doctors have started this petition – in order to get the federal government to look at the issue and reopen avenues of communication.
“I decided it was time for people power to force the government to do something about this situation. NASOG has been having meetings with the Federal Department of Health, looking at ways to try and save private obstetrics – and this issue was one of the three solutions we were offering.”
“While [Australian Minister for Health] Greg Hunt and his department were initially very supportive and we had multiple generally positive meetings, they recently stopped all communication with us.”
“We feel that with a federal election looming and the liberal government being perceived as having an issue with the female constituency, this might be a good time to bring this issue to the fore.”