A group of health practitioners who conscientiously object to abortion are in the High Court today, suing the Crown over new legislation.
A new requirement in the Abortion Legislation Act 2020 requires a practitioner who objects to abortion to refer the patient to a doctor who can help them.
The Health Professionals' Alliance is fighting for a declaration that the new law interferes with the Bill of Rights Act.
Before Justice Rebecca Ellis, plaintiff Ian Bassett argued part of the Abortion Legislation Act 2020 infringes on a health practitioners rights: "Namely the rights to freedom of conscience without interference".
The Abortion Legislation Act states conscientious objections must be accommodated unless it risks providing "unreasonable disruption".
Bassett told the courtroom practitioners may fear their job was in jeopardy if their employer considered them disruptive.
He claimed this was coercion, and pressured doctors to play a part in the "chain of causation that leads to taking a human life".
Abortion Law Reform Association president Terry Bellamak was watching the hearing from the public gallery and said outside court that it was important to balance the rights and responsibilities of doctors with those of patients.
"There are some other [things] that need to be taken into consideration for balance, and that's the right of people to get medical care without being harassed by their GP or their gynaecologist."
She said it was a huge win when the legislation took effect last year, removing abortion from the Crimes Act.
It also meant that, as of March 24 last year, any practitioner who objected to abortion for religious or personal reasons must refer the patient to the closest abortion services.
Bellamak was hopeful that over the course of the three-day hearing Judge Rebecca Ellis would consider the feelings of the patient.
"What we're talking about is not just people being refused care, but being refused care in the most insulting and degrading and slut-shaming manner. It's just unconscionable."
Health Professionals Alliance spokesperson Catherine Hallagan was also in the public gallery but did not want to comment while the hearing was under way.
The Wellington GP has been in the High Court before on the issue of abortion, having made a case against the medical council in 2010 over proposed guidelines that looked to define how doctors should give advice to people seeking an abortion.
She argued doctors had a right to refuse to provide abortion advice, and won.
Anti-abortion group Right To Life president Chris O'Brien backed the Alliance's latest legal challenge.
"It's not right for the government to be saying that all doctors must be able to perform those [abortions] - or even to actually refer them to someone who will - is making them complicit in the abortion itself."
He said the issue of conscientious objection spilled over into End of Life Choice legislation too. On both issues "it's vitally important that health professionals have the right to maintain their integrity," he said.
The hearing is expected to last three days.