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News Commentary 2002

Letter to the Editor, The Daily News
27 December, 2002

This response to your article Bacon, eggs and peace of mind: Pharmacists, Planned Parenthood push for prescription-free morning-after pill (17 November, 2002) has been delayed by the need to consult the Nova Scotia College of Pharmacists.

With respect to the 'morning-after-pill', your article attributed the following quote to Kelly Grover of Planned Parenthood: "Nobody is forcing pharmacists to prescribe this. There is a code of ethics that requires them to refer patients."

In fact, the College's Code of Ethics does not require referral. A pharmacist who objects to providing a drug for reasons of conscience is to advise an employer of that fact when being hired. It then becomes the obligation of the employer, not the pharmacist, to find an alternative means to deliver the drug.

The disclosure requirement in the Code of Ethics is intended to ensure that the freedom of conscience of pharmacists is fully respected, without preventing patients from getting drugs or services that they want. Unscrupulous employers could misuse the disclosure requirement by using it to identify conscientious objectors and deny them employment. One hopes that the College will defend pharmacists against this form of discrimination, as it would be a pity to see Nova Scotians forced to leave home to seek employment in more tolerant environments.

Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project

Letter to the Editor, New Brunswick/Saint John Telegraph Journal
12 November, 2002

Doctors at the hospital in Moncton have decided to perform only abortions they believe necessary for maternal health, so that scarce health care resources can be dedicated to reducing waiting lists for surgery. Dr. Henry Morgentaler calls this "disgusting". He also accuses his colleagues of unethical conduct because they appear to be imposing their religious or moral views on patients. (Morgentaler calls decision to halt abortions 'disgusting' 9 November, 2002)

It is remarkable that Dr. Morgentaler should be disgusted by physicians who perform abortions for 'health' reasons, but not abortions for which there is no medical justification. When he decided to break the law against abortion, it was because he decided to follow something he called his "medical conscience".1 His Moncton colleagues, while they will break no law, are doing the same thing. Baseless diatribes about 'imposing moral beliefs' are unfair and do nothing to improve health care in New Brunswick.

Dr. Morgentaler has also misrepresented the Code of Ethics of the Canadian Medical Association by implying that it obliges doctors to provide abortions. It does not, nor does it require physicians to refer for abortions or other morally controversial procedures.

Finally, Dr. Morgentaler clearly applies his own moral views in his own medical practice. Upon what basis would he deny his colleagues the same freedom?

Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project


1. Pelrine, Eleanor Wright, Morgentaler: The Doctor Who Couldn't Turn Away. Canada: Gage Publishing, 1975, p. 29

The Unfree

The National Review

Reproduced with permission

Katherine Jean Lopez

It's still legal to oppose abortion, isn't it?

You might think that any piece of legislation with the word "non-discrimination" in it is just about automatically headed for easy congressional passage. What politician wants to be on record as being in favor of discrimination?

Well, it's just not so. At least if the issues involved are religion and abortion.

The House of Representatives is set to take up the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) this week. The goal of the bill is to protect Americans' right to not have to pay for or otherwise participate in abortions. Specifically, ANDA seeks to protect religious hospitals and other health-care providers (clinics, insurers, nurses, doctors) who are opposed, in conscience, to abortion, from having to have anything to do with them.

This has been one of the hottest "reproductive rights" issues over the last few years. Very few statehouses haven't seen coercive bills seeking to force religious - often Catholic-hospitals to provide the whole gamut of so-called "reproductive health" services, including abortion, all in the name of "access." Currently 49 states (the exception is Vermont) have some kind of conscience protection for health-care providers, though none of them are as comprehensive as the proposed ANDA bill-which covers all health-care "entities."

In this regard, one of the favorite topics among abortion advocates recently has been hospital mergers. Planned Parenthood argues, in an action alert send out to supporters this week, that health-care institutions, whatever their affiliation, "operate in a secular sphere, and employ and serve people of diverse backgrounds and faiths. Thus, their claimed right to refuse to provide these services imposes serious burdens on people who do not share their religious views."

The ANDA bill, says PP, "would allow the 'conscience' of the entity to trump the 'conscience' and needs of the women they serve. . . . This is wrong."

What is not wrong, however, in Planned Parenthood's estimation, is "the entity" - i.e. actual private organizations and Americans - being forced by law to provide services that the people who make up the organizations believe to be morally prohibited. In fact, these hospitals often believe the very essence of their work is founded on an opposition to the taking of a human life. It's a principle that all of medicine - whether the practitioners were religious, agnostic, or atheist - once considered at its very core.

Even a nonsectarian hospital can get in legal trouble under the current regime. In Alaska, Valley Hospital's (elected) board decided that it did not want to continue letting a community OB/GYN use hospital facilities to perform abortions. The board's decision meant that abortion was no longer available at the hospital except in cases of "rape, incest, and danger to the life of the mother - exactly the same policy the federal government has had in Medicaid and its other health programs for many years," as board member Karen Vosburgh told the House Energy and Commerce committee this summer.

As Vosburgh told the committee, an Alaska court's subsequent decision (upheld by the state supreme court) to prohibit Valley Hospital from making such a decision "potentially places all hospitals in our state in a 'Catch-22' situation. If you are a non-religious hospital you have no First Amendment claim of religious freedom, so you must provide abortions. If you are a religious hospital with a 'free exercise' claim, respect for your right of conscience may be seen as showing favoritism to religion, so you may still have to provide abortions."

It's just not Planned Parenthood and the overt abortion-advocacy groups actively opposing ANDA. The American Civil Liberties Union's Reproductive Freedom Project sent a representative to the Hill earlier in the summer to argue that the bill would unfairly restrict women from abortion, contraception, and even simple counseling.

The groups lobbying against ANDA have grabbed the talking points from their anti-abortion folder without focusing on the actual legislation they are so enthusiastically opposing. In fact, if this were not the narrow clarification that ANDA is, pro-lifers would likely be debating amongst themselves, some saying that the bill does not go far enough into specifics, into the realm of abortifacient so-called contraception, for instance. But these are battles for another day-having nothing to do with this piece of legislation.

Simply put, this isn't a bill about abortion politics. It's a bill about freedom. What abortion advocates have been arguing when it comes to "access" is that they would see rather a hospital merger not go through-and a hospital potentially shut down - than allow a hospital to choose not to participate in what its employees and founders believe to be murder of a human life. For them, this is not about freedom. Their opposition to ANDA is a backdoor way to oppose any restrictions on women getting abortions whenever, wherever. As Brigham Young University Law School professor Lynn Wardle has put it, "zealous abortion activists continue to try to use the powers of government to compel participation in and payment for and coverage of abortion. Specifically, they try to compel hospitals, clinics, provider groups, and health-care insurers to provide facilities for, personnel for, and funding for abortion."

In fact, despite the scare stories from those opposed to ANDA, federally funded abortions would still be possible under ANDA. Nor is this a bill that seeks to reverse Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that okayed abortion. As a fact sheet put out by the Catholic Bishops' pro-life department notes, "States can ensure access to any abortions they fund without forcing specific providers against their will to provide these particular abortions. A requirement that a state will contract only with a provider that offers absolutely every reimbursable service would be an enormous barrier to patients' access to care, as few providers in any state could meet such a test."

The case for the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act is a simple one, despite the heated rhetoric. As Pennsylvania congressman Joe Pitts put it at a hearing in July, "Abortion is an elective surgery. It is not prenatal care. It is not basic health care, as some of our friends would like us to believe. Private hospitals should be able to decide what types of elective surgery they wish to offer. If they don't want to provide abortions, they shouldn't have to."

That simplicity might give the bill a decent shot at passage. Tough sells on pro-life issues, like Republicans Tom Davis and Fred Upton, are cosponsoring ANDA. And some leading pro-life members - along with the Catholic bishops, an important voice on this issue in particular, given that there are over 600 Catholic hospitals in the U.S. (never mind other Catholic health-care entities) - are willing to push for this as a top priority for passage before the end of the year (likely as part of a lame-duck session, after the election). Rep. Pitts tells NRO: "I think there will be overwhelming support for the bill when it comes up for a vote." In fact, as Pitts points out, even President Clinton signed a less comprehensive conscience-clause bill in1996. Cases like the Alaska one, however, make the need for ANDA clear.

In fact, for some members, ANDA is not at all different from what they voted for in 1996. Senator Olympia Snowe said on the Senate floor in 1996: "[The amendment] does protect those institutions and those individuals who do not want to get involved in the performance or training of abortion when it is contrary to their beliefs . . . I do not think anyone would disagree with the fact - and I am pro-choice on this matter, but I do not think anybody would disagree with the fact that an institution or an individual who does not want to perform an abortion should do so contrary to their beliefs."

She didn't foresee how courts would interpret the law: as not including hospitals, because they are "quasi-public" entities. Of course, prospects in the Senate - as is so often the case - are murkier than in the House.

As Lynn Wardle noted in his testimony this summer, ANDA "is a very small, but very important, step in the right direction." Wardle tells NRO, "The basic issue in the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act is forced abortion. A forced abortion occurs not only when a woman is forced to have an abortion she does not want, but also when a health-care provider is forced to provide or participate in an abortion against her will. Even the Supreme Court abortion cases are based on protecting voluntary choice. The right of individuals and organizations of individuals to choose in accord with their conscience to not have and to not participate in abortion must be protected against extremists who are trying to coerce others to provide abortion services that extremists want but which others find morally repugnant. That is what ANDA is about. It protects freedom of choice, the freedom not to be forced to perform or support abortion against one's moral beliefs."

But then, for some, there are issues much more important than choice and non-discrimination: like making sure abortion is anything but rare. That's why National Organization for Women calls ANDA "one of the most harmful bills yet proposed."

No More Pro-Choice Movement

Reproduced with permission

Richard M. Doerflinger
Deputy Director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities,
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Once there were basically two sides to the abortion debate.

One side said that, whatever the moral status of unborn life may be, a woman and her physician must be free to make a choice about abortion. The other side said that, whatever value the struggle for greater freedom may have in other contexts, responsible freedom for women and physicians must stop short of destroying the life of an innocent child. Not surprisingly, these sides called themselves "pro-choice" and "pro-life" respectively.

Those were simpler times. For however useful these labels once were, it's becoming ridiculous to refer to abortion advocacy groups as "pro-choice."

This was already clear to anyone following the debate on U.S. funding of the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) a few months ago. President Bush ultimately decided not to give this group any funds this year, because it helps the Chinese government implement a population program that uses coerced abortion and involuntary sterilization. His decision was greeted by howls of protest from pro-abortion groups, who ditched their commitment to women's "reproductive freedom" to defend their allies in the population control movement.

More recently the coerced-abortion agenda has come home to guide domestic policy. When the House of Representatives debated a modest measure called the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) last month, the idea that each individual should have "freedom to choose" whether to be involved in abortion was denounced as heresy by "pro-choice" groups.

ANDA builds on a law that Congress passed in 1996 to protect medical residency programs from being forced by government bodies to provide abortions or abortion training. It clarifies and extends that law to make sure that this protection covers the full range of health care providers, so everyone can make his or her own conscientious decision whether to participate in abortions. But to hear pro-abortion spokespersons talk, you would have thought that abortion was about to be declared a capital crime. If women can only get abortions from those actually willing to provide them, they seemed to say, there will be almost no abortions - an interesting comment on how widely accepted abortion is in the medical profession!

Pro-abortion groups opposed every aspect of this bill -- including its effort to extend the conscience protection now enjoyed by doctors to cover other health professionals, such as nurses, who are mostly female. In opposing this modest step toward equal treatment, abortion advocates managed to promote an agenda that was anti-life, "anti-choice," and
anti-woman all at the same time. Fortunately most House members ignored their tirades and approved the bill, which now goes to the Senate.

One bumper sticker produced by pro-abortion groups says: "Against abortion? Don't have one." That slogan always ignored the unborn child, who has no opportunity to choose not to "have one." But now women and doctors may join the child in having their choice disregarded, unless pro-life legislators are vigilant.

Against abortion? If you're in China, have one anyway. If you're a health professional in the U.S., perform one anyway. Oddly, that is now what being "pro-choice" is all about.

A Doctor's Choice

The Washington Times
25 September, 2002.
Reproduced with permission

[Dick Armey was the Majority Leader (Republican) in the U.S. House of Representatives when the following opinion column was written.]

Dick Armey

The vast majority of all hospitals - public and private - do not get involved in abortion. In fact, 86 percent of all hospitals did not perform a single abortion last year.

There is a reason for that. Most health care providers are interested in protecting and saving human life, not taking it. Government shouldn't force them to take part in actions - such as performing abortions - against their beliefs, morals or religion.

In 1996, Congress enacted legislation ending state and federal discrimination against health care providers that do not perform abortions. In a series of court opinions and rulings, activist judges are flouting the will of Congress and ordering hospitals, not to promote life, but to end it. They are telling doctors and nurses to suspend their most strongly held
beliefs and perform a practice so heinous that even progressive hospitals have rejected.

So today, the House of Representatives will consider the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) and right the wrong perpetrated by liberal courts. The bill signals Congress' intent in one simple yet powerful message - no health care provider should ever be forced to do something that violates their moral, ethical, or religious beliefs.

While there is deep disagreement in America about whether abortion should be legal, nearly all Americans would agree that no one should be forced to have an abortion or to perform an abortion if they don't want to. That, however, hasn't stopped some on the extreme fringe of this issue from trying to force hospitals to provide abortions anyway.

Valley Hospital in Palmer, Alaska, is one such example. Located about 50 miles east of Anchorage, the hospital's board implemented a policy in 1990 barring abortion procedures except in cases of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother. The hospital was sued, and a judge arbitrarily ruled that because Valley Hospital received some government money, it was a "quasi-government entity" and had to provide abortions. The hospital appealed the case to the Alaska Supreme Court, citing a state law that protected its right of conscience. The Supreme Court ruled against the hospital and, in one fell swoop, threw out the state's conscience law.

Congress' conscience guarantees were also overturned in New Jersey. When Rancocas Hospital in Willingboro, N.J., was purchased by Our Lady of Lourdes Healthcare Services, a new policy was instituted against performing abortions. Our Lady of Lourdes, as the name suggests, is a Catholic agency, and the Catholic church believes abortion is wrong. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey sued. It argued that if Our Lady of Lourdes didn't want to allow abortions in its hospital, it should provide a separate building on the hospital's campus for that purpose. This, obviously, made no sense to the hospital. The ACLU also argued that the hospital was duty-bound to provide abortions because its original mission
statement called for "comprehensive" health care services. The ACLU conveniently forgot that when the mission statement was written in 1961, abortion was a felony.

So much is at stake in this bill. Without its passage, the viability and integrity of our country's health care system are in jeopardy. In this age of managed care and skyrocketing health care costs, hospitals are merging in order to survive. If courts demand that pro-abortion policies be a condition of merging - as a number already have - there will be fewer of these cost-saving partnerships.

Many of these alliances involve denominational hospitals - hospitals principally organized to serve the poor and needy. They have been and will continue to be the first victims of court-imposed abortion mandates, for in many cases they cannot practice medicine at all under these conditions. The poor and vulnerable will be the ultimate casualties when these facilities have to close.

Tough Pill Bill to Swallow

National Catholic Register Commentary & Opinion
August 25 - 31, 2002
Reproduced with permission

Michael J. O'Dea
Executive Director,
Christus Medicus Foundation

Regarding "N.Y. 'Pill Bill' Puts Church in Tough Spot" (July 28-Aug. 3):

Passage of New York's Equity in Prescription Insurance and Contraceptive Coverage (EPICC) bill forces New York's fully insured health plans to subsidize all FDA-approved contraceptive pills and devices. In addition to violating religious liberty and an individual's right of conscience, this law undermines parents by expanding government control of American children's sexual and reproductive health. How dare Ms. (Assemblywoman Deborah) Glick get away with her comments in this article. The bill is not about religious freedom, she says, but about individual choice and health care.

This bill is not about individual choice nor health care. It is about state and federal control of our children and what we finance in health care. This is a totalitarian agenda, proposed by Planned Parenthood and the Alan Guttmacher Institute. How does the Church get out of cooperating with a state law that interferes with parents' right to shape the conscience of their children? The Catholic Church still does have options of setting up self insured plans that are regulated by ERISSA, the federal law that frees self-insured health plans from state contraceptive mandates. However, if Sen. Kennedy and Congressman Bonior get their way with S 104 and HR 1111, those options will quickly vanish. President Bush could be forced to use his veto power - or every private and public health insurance plan that has prescription coverage will force employers and individuals, through taxes and insurance premiums, to confidentially fund unhealthy and morally objectionable contraceptive chemicals and devices for children, without parental consent or knowledge.

In addition to challenging this insidious N.Y. EPICC legislation in the court and teaching the intrinsic evil of contraception, Catholics must unite to establish, administrate and control financing in their own self-insured Catholic health plan. Catholics must also unite with other faith-based organizations and defeat EPICC. If EPICC is not defeated, what will employers and individuals be forced to pay for next - euthanasia, artificial insemination, invitro-fertilization, cloning, and coverage for unmarried and same-sex partners? America prides itself on assuring parents the opportunity to raise children without government intrusion and interference. A nation with the greatest political freedom is being undermined by a few powerful political interest groups. At this critical time, when the health and welfare of the American family, our nation's future and our political freedom are all at stake, it is time for all Christians, particularly those in positions of leadership, to take charge of what we pay for in health care and "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is Gods."

Who is "imposing morality" in Barrie?

Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project

[The following was sent to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Winnipeg, Manitoba on 5 April, 2002, asking whether or not it would be accepted for broadcast in the same region where Dr. Goldman's editorial was aired. The CBC did not reply.]

In an editorial broadcast on CBC Radio on 7 March, 2002, Dr. Brian Goldman criticized Dr. Frederick Ross of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Dr. Stephen Dawson of Barrie, Ontario. Dr. Ross had told his patients to stop smoking or find another doctor, while Dr. Dawson had refused to prescribe birth control pills or Viagra to single patients.

It does not seem that Winnipeg's Dr. Ross believes that treating smokers is wrong, nor that it would be wrong to refer a smoker to another physician. His public statements do not preclude the possibility that he would treat smokers on an ad hoc basis (while standing in for an absent partner, for example).

In contrast, Dr. Dawson refuses to help single patients obtain birth control pills and Viagra under any circumstances, because he believes that by doing so he would be a party to immoral activity (i.e., extramarital sex). Dr. Goldman was more sympathetic to this position, but criticized Dawson because he would not refer patients to other physicians who would prescribe the drugs.

Dr. Goldman recognized that his colleagues were acting for different reasons, but in drawing his conclusions he failed to maintain this distinction or recognize its significance. It is one thing to refuse to do something because it is inconvenient, difficult, frustrating, or pointless; it is quite another to refuse to do something because it is wrong. Grasping this distinction is the key to understanding the difference between the case of Dr. Ross, which does not seem to involve conscientious objection, and that of Dr. Dawson, which plainly does.

What some characterize as Dr. Dawson's inflexibility actually illustrates the normal human reaction to a request to do something wrong. For example, a fifty year-old man who wanted to have sex with a fourteen year- old girl might be refused the use a friend's apartment for that purpose. Nor would it be surprising if the unco-operative friend also refused to refer the lecher to a more 'flexible' apartment owner.

We see the same principle at work in criminal law. It is an offence not only to commit a crime directly, but to counsel, aid or abet a crime committed by someone else. Again: many people who engage in 'ethical investment' do so because they do not want to be implicated, even indirectly, in business practices to which they object for reasons of conscience, even if the practices aren't illegal.

Now, no one is suggesting that consensual extramarital sex between adults is morally equivalent to criminal activity. But when Dr. Dawson refused to provide birth control for single patients, he reacted exactly as an 'ethical investor' might react if asked to purchase shares in a company that exploits child labour. He reacted exactly as an honest man would act were he asked to help someone lie or cheat. In other words, he acted as if extramarital sex really is wrong, and that its wrongness is not merely a matter of opinion or taste. That, in truth, is what has upset many of his critics; he has disturbed their repose in their comfortable pews.

Of course, one may criticize a physician for causing needless distress to a patient by offering a poorly articulated or inappropriate explanation of his moral position. But that was not Dr. Goldman's concern. Instead, he complained that Dr. Dawson had acted upon his own beliefs.

In fact, Dr. Goldman does exactly the same thing. He believes that he does nothing wrong by providing single patients with contraceptives and Viagra, and he acts upon that belief by writing prescriptions. Why should Dr. Goldman be allowed to act upon his beliefs by writing prescriptions, while Dr. Dawson is forbidden to act upon his by refusing to do so? Is it because "the true north strong and free" is afraid of religious believers?

A physician who refuses, for reasons of conscience, to do something he believes to be wrong - falsifying a diagnosis, amputating a healthy limb, or prescribing contraceptives - does not force a patient to conform to his moral code. He is not "imposing morality." To see what "imposing morality" really means, watch this month when the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons tries to force Barrie's Dr. Stephen Dawson to give up his Christian convictions, on pain of professional excommunication.

No Hospitality: The Unborn and the ACLU

BreakPoint with Charles Colson
Commentary #020308 - 03/08/2002

Reproduced with permission

Few, if any, organizations in the world promote abortion as zealously as the American Civil Liberties Union. Now it's training its guns on hospitals.

A new ACLU report recently released complains that access to abortions is "increasingly jeopardized by the imposition of religious beliefs in the health care context."

This deceptive language suggests that a Catholic or Baptist or Presbyterian hospital is "imposing" its beliefs on a woman by refusing to kill her unborn child. "No," is equated with "imposing." Well, the fact is that it's the ACLU that would impose its zeal for killing the unborn on those who disagree.

Naturally the report doesn't quite say it that way. The ACLU website says, "It is often . . . appropriate to accommodate an individual health professional's refusal to provide a service . . . " That sounds good, but read the fine print. It goes on to say "but only if the patient is ensured safe, timely, and feasible alternative access to treatment" -- which means that if the woman can't get an abortion nearby, medical personnel at a religious hospital have to
perform it even though it is against their deepest convictions.

While the report concedes that an individual might be excused, it concedes nothing to the institution. The report states that hospitals "operating in the public world and serving and employing a religiously diverse population . . . ought to play by public rules." To do otherwise is viewed as a violation of "reproductive rights" and a failure "to provide basic
health care."

But wait a minute -- Public Rule number 1 is the First Amendment, guaranteeing the free exercise of religion. Clearly the ACLU and the abortion industry want to eviscerate the exercise of religious conviction in faith-based medical centers.

Christians and other people of compassion have established hospitals to heal the sick and care for the dying. They're motivated by a concern for the ill -- and also by the desire to obey God. The Scriptures command, "Practice hospitality" (Romans 12:13). The ministry of "hospitality" means gracious, tender care for friend and stranger alike.

Hospitality does not mean doing anything and everything to please a guest. If a friend comes over asking for a gun to kill himself, we invite him in, comfort him, and encourage him to choose life. We don't give him what he wants; rather we give him what he needs. In the same way, we don't kill an unborn child because the child's mother says he or she is unwanted.

I am thrilled that President Bush has reiterated his commitment to faith-based institutions, both in his State of the Union address and in his recent message to Congress with a new faith-based bill. Religious hospitals are one more good example of faith-based solutions that get the job done. And these hospitals need to be protected by law.

A pregnant woman and her child deserve real hospitality that affirms life and gives them wise
counsel. And hospitals must remain free to minister in the name of Christ. It's a shame the ACLU can't practice a little hospitality toward these ministries of compassion.

Copyright (c) 2002 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. "BreakPoint with Chuck Colson" is a radio ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries.

Emergency contraception a flawed choice

London Free Press, March 19, 2002
Reproduced with permission

Sharon Osvald

Tomorrow, the first day of spring, a coalition of American national, state and local organizations will take Walt Disney's Bambi's notion of "being twitter pated" to a new level.

March 20 is the kick-off to their first annual "back up your birth control" campaign. On that day, women all over the U.S. will be asked, regardless of their need, to request emergency contraceptives (EC) from their doctors. Doctors will promise to tell their patients about EC; pharmacists will talk to their customers about it and activists will lobby both state and federal legislatures in favour of more access and awareness of EC.

Similar campaigns to support what many call the morning pill have been taking place for a couple of years with radio ads, billboards picturing a broken condom and other literature. The Web site has an image of a young working woman flexing her bicep with a heart-shaped tattoo saying EC.

Preven and Plan B are the two emergency contraceptives approved in Canada, but according to pharmacists I've talked to, many doctors have been prescribing concentrated birth-control hormones within 72 hours of sex since the 1970s. If taken in time, it prevents fertilized eggs from implanting on the uterine wall. Advocates for EC call it "a safe, effective back-up birth control method that can prevent pregnancy after unprotected intercourse or contraceptive failure." Opponents, however, call it an "abortifacient," believing conception begins at fertilization and the idea of contraception after the fact is nothing more than wishful thinking.

I am certain the intentions of the majority involved in this initiative are good. After all, even the most pro-choice person knows the fewer full-fledged abortions that take place, the better for everyone. Consider the horrible state of the 15-year-old Brampton girl recently charged with second-degree murder after hiding her pregnancy and injuring her baby girl in an unassisted home birth. In contrast, EC pills seem such a neat little compromise. More radical feminists embrace EC as a tool to empower women against the evil oppressor, men, who make us pregnant in the first place and get off scot-free.

However, aside from my personal convictions about when life begins, this campaign and others like it give me the willies. This is because, in the words of Canadian organization, The Protection of Conscience Project, they are so "well-organized, well-connected and well-funded" and "may directly impact some conscientious objectors, especially if activists decide to target objectors or objecting facilities in order to get media coverage or to initiate complaints of professional misconduct." In short, these groups bully those who don't see the world from their point of view and trample on objectors' rights and freedoms.

Secondly, it seems to me the message of emergency back-up plans is cheap. I mean, if a group is going to take time, energy and resources to imprint a message into the psyche of young women, is this the best message we have to give them? Why not teach them to respect themselves, to be responsible for their actions (even mistakes) and how to form monogamous, lasting accountable relationships, instead of ones that create an emergency if you become pregnant when pre-intercourse birth control fails? Why don't we hand out planned parenting post cards that say, "Don't waste yourself on a one-night stand," instead of, "You have 72 hours to erase last night." Rather than simply empowering women to be in charge of their bodies, why not teach men and women what a wonderful thing sex can be in the right context? Maybe even, heaven forbid, encourage them to wait? Then we might not only have less unwanted pregnancies, but also women who are emotionally healthy and truly empowered.

Letter to the Editor,New Brunswick/Saint John Telegraph Journal
24 February, 2002

Dr. Monica Brewer's characterization of physician referral for morally controversial purposes as a "black and white" issue is the result of inadequate reflection.("MD's Morals Restricting Birth Control Access," February 9, 2002) Her suggestion that doctors who object to the morning-after-pill and contraception "should pair with doctors to whom they can refer" is a suitable solution only for those whose objections are simply matters of professional judgement or personal preference.

For example: physicians who know that 94% of the women who are sold the morning-after-pill do not actually require it to prevent pregnancy (the numbers are provided by those who support its widespread use1) may be unwilling to prescribe it for that reason. However, they might well refer a patient who wants the drug to a doctor who will.

Similarly, some physicians believe that women's health and social interests are better served by learning to recognize their natural fertility cycles, so that they need not be dependent upon physicians or drug companies to plan or avoid pregnancy. These physicians may not prescribe birth control pills for 'ecological' reasons, but probably wouldn't object to referral.

Finally, an obstetrician who thinks that aborting Down syndrome infants is a good idea, but finds performing abortions a traumatic experience, would probably welcome the opportunity to refer a patient to another colleague.

The situation is quite different when physicians are asked to refer a patient for something to which they have grave moral objections. They believe that by referring patients they are themselves morally culpable for facilitating the wrong that is done. Strange? Not at all.

Consider Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter's suggestion that, since physical torture is "contrary to American values", the US should turn terrorist suspects who won't talk over to "less squeamish allies."2 No one would seriously argue that this would relieve the US of moral complicity in torture.

Of course, moral complicity in abortion, contraception and the morning-after-pill are not issues for people like Dr. Morgantaler and his associate, Judy Burwell, who think these are good things, and that those who think differently are mistaken. But it is surprising that they view freedom of conscience as a problem to be solved by abolishing it, at least for those who don't agree with them.

After all, Dr. Morgantaler justified his defiance of Canadian abortion law in a 1970 article titled, "A Physician and His Moral Conscience." 3

Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project

Notes (provided for editorial verification)

1. "In 16 months of ECP services, pharmacists provided almost 12,000 ECP prescriptions, which is estimated to have prevented about 700 unintended pregnancies." Cooper, Janet, Brenda Osmond and Melanie Rantucci, "Emergency Contraceptive Pills- Questions and Answers". Canadian Pharmaceutical Journal, June 2000, Vol. 133, No. 5, at p. 28. See also Valpy, Michael, "The Long Morning After", Globe and Mail, 15 December, 2001)

2. Alter, Jonathon, "Time to Think About Torture". Newsweek, 5 November, 2001, p. 45.

3. The article appeared anonymously in The Humanist. Quoted in Pelrine, Eleanor Wright, Morgantaler: The Doctor Who Couldn't Turn Away. Canada: Gage Publishing, 1975, P. 79

Letter to the Editor, National Post
23 February, 2002

A doctor caring for patients in four Ontario cities may be driven from the profession, or from the country, because he refuses to practise medicine in accordance with the policies of Planned Parenthood ("MD under fire for denying birth control," National Post, 22 February, 2002). Welcome to the world of single-issue ethics.

Professor Laura Shanner asserts her personal belief that a physician "absolutely must" help patients obtain drugs or procedures to which the physician objects for reasons of conscience. But there is no self-evident reason why her morality should be imposed upon dissenting physicians under threat of professional excommunication. Nor do mantras like "standard of care" provide useful guidance when the morality of the 'care' itself is in issue. Dr. Morgantaler's standard of care is, in some respects, markedly different from that of Physicians for Life. The standard of care in Oregon includes assisted suicide, and in the Netherlands, euthanasia.

On the other hand, John Hof is mistaken in his suggestion that conscientious objectors may refuse to prescribe contraceptives in order to meet the "spiritual needs" of their patients. People do not go to the doctor to satisfy their spiritual needs, and physicians should not assume the role of spiritual director.

Conscientious objection arises from concern about one's own moral culpability, not that of others. It is a matter of personal integrity, not an attempt to control someone else's behaviour. The unfortunate situation in Barrie may be the result of an infelicitous explanation that failed to make this clear.

Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project

Letter to the Editor, The Barrie Examiner
22 February, 2002

Continuing attempts to suppress the freedom of conscience of health care workers like Dr. Stephen Dawson ("Doctor's Faith Under Scrutiny," The Barrie Examiner February 21, 2002) give the lie to the claim, oft repeated by Canadian politicians, that protection of conscience legislation is unnecessary. Perhaps their complacent attitude reflects the influence of rigid party discipline that only rarely permits them the 'privilege' of voting according to conscience.

Professor J.R. Brown of the University of Toronto appears to covet the role of party whip, ready to lash or to exile recalcitrant 'scum' like Dr. Dawson for daring to let their beliefs affect their public behaviour.

Yet Professor Brown's private beliefs affected his public behaviour when he asserted that people like Dr. Dawson should "find another job." Will Professor Brown take his own advice? Or will he continue to speak, act and live in accordance with his own beliefs, even as he denies the same freedom to others who think differently - those whom he characterizes as 'scum'?

Thoughtful readers will recognize that their relationships and their political and social activities are almost always governed, not by an analysis of empirical evidence, but by deeply held convictions about human dignity and equality, about good and evil, and other equally fundamental concepts. Some of these beliefs may be religious, others not, but all are beliefs. There is no reason, apart from anti-religious bigotry, to allow only atheists and agnostics the freedom to act on their beliefs in public life.

Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project

Letter to the Editor, Telegraph Journal
New Brunswick, Canada
14 February, 2002)

[Comments in the December, 2001, Bulletin of the College of Physicians and Surgeons came to media attention in February, 2002, generating pressure on conscientious objectors in New Brunswick. Catholic Bishop J. Edward Troy responded to the news reports in this letter, reproduced with permission of the author. - Administrator-]

The headline on the front page, "MDs' morals restricting birth control access" (Telegraph-Journal, Feb. 9) was eye-catching. Upon reading the piece, I learned the reporter was culling from the Bulletin of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick (CPSNB) in which it was recorded that at its meeting of Nov. 23, 2001, its council discussed the implications of the right of physicians not to participate in a treatment or process to which they morally object.

In other words, the Code of Ethics of the College quite properly permits physicians to practice their profession in accordance with their conscience. The discussion, as recorded in the bulletin, is repeated almost in its entirety in the Telegraph-Journal. It was particularly noted that some patients are not referred for an abortion or do not receive advice on contraception from their doctors. This is followed by comments (not contained in the bulletin) from one physician in Saint John who doesn't have the same moral qualms, and by some remarks from the administrator of the Morgentaler abortion facility in Fredericton.

There is an underlying indignation present in the article more suitable to an opinion piece than to a news report. The writer goes back to Nov. 23 for this information which is given headline treatment on Feb. 9, breathlessly zeroing in on the roughly eight per cent of the text in the college bulletin that considers the case of patients whose doctors refuse to counsel abortion or contraception because of their moral principles.

Nothing about the other important matters the council deliberated upon and which were reported in the pages of the same bulletin. Nothing about the patient who died from a heart attack after being refused treatment for heart disease. Nothing about the instances where allegations of malpractice were lodged against doctors for a variety of reasons that resulted in loss of life or serious illness. Nothing about the extremely difficult choices physicians are faced with every day and the honest efforts the vast majority of them make to serve their patients with integrity and skill, but also with fallibility and occasional failure.

No, the focus, in a somewhat negative and disapproving fashion, on the good news that physicians are acting conscientiously in their professional lives. Indeed I was impressed and heartened by all that I read in the bulletin precisely because it revealed the conscientious manner in which the council of the CPSNB monitors and guides its members.

I doubt very much the CPSNB would wish to change its code of ethics so as to require physicians to disregard their consciences, especially today when there are factions promoting euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. While the code of ethics of the CPSNB does not allow the doctor to impose his moral views on the patient, it would be equally objectionable to insist that the patient be authorized to impose his or her moral outlook on the doctor. One hears of patients demanding a prescription for this or that drug; should the physician be obliged to comply? There is reference in the newspaper piece to the "morning after pill" that is not really a contraceptive but rather an abortifacient.

Pro-life doctors do not perform or cause abortions nor do they co-operate with others in procuring an abortion. They rightly consider that abortion is the taking of a human life at an early stage in its development.

In today's social and cultural climate, the opposition to contraception is not easily understood, let alone accepted. This is not surprising since the whole idea of any binding moral principles in the area of sexuality is widely rejected. According to the lax standards prevalent in our culture, no sexual behaviour is morally wrong - fornication, promiscuity, adultery, masturbation, homosexuality, bestiality, etc.

With the exception of child sexual abuse, the guiding rationale seems to be a light-hearted "different folks, different strokes!"

If a person adheres to this sexual libertinism, he or she is not likely to be persuaded by any amount of argumentation that artificial methods of contraception are wrong, nor will he or she be able or willing to grasp the distinction between them and natural family planning. He or she will not see that the warm embrace of contraception has led logically and historically to the widespread acceptance of abortion.

While the views of the administrator of the Morgentaler facility were completely predictable, she really demonstrates a lot of nerve in lecturing physicians about ethics. "I think it's very irresponsible of doctors not to be meeting patients' needs, regardless of their personal opinion or religious beliefs," she is quoted as saying. Now this judgment comes from someone who is managing a business devoted to the destruction of babies in the womb!

Talk about the moral high ground! Also, please observe the mentality revealed in this declaration. If the abortionists were in charge, they would require people to act against their conscience. These are the same folks that are always whining about pro-life people who, they say, wish to impose their morality on them. However, it's apparently all right for the pro-abortion people to impose their morality on the rest of us.

She is also reported complaining that "many" women who had been refused birth control pills by doctors were using other methods such as condoms and became pregnant. Was that a slip of the tongue? Doesn't she belong to the school that keeps insisting that condoms should be made available to teens and others so that they won't become pregnant or contract AIDS? What about all that propaganda about "safe sex?" It appears that she knows, as everyone should, that condoms do fail with the result that the woman becomes pregnant or the unaffected partner gets AIDS.

I salute physicians - no doubt the vast majority of practitioners - who refuse to ignore conscience and moral principle in the exercise of their calling. I honour physicians who do not derive their notions of what is right and wrong from popular magazines or from the superficial opinions of "celebrities" or from Hollywood script writers or from harangues by those who operate abortuaries.

Doctors have access to a long and solid tradition of medical ethics. It's encouraging to see that so many continue to draw on that wisdom in the practice of their profession and aren't easily swayed by the fog of moral indifference which covers so much of the world today.

Bishop Emeritus of Saint John

Letter to the Editor, BC Medical Journal
16 February, 2002

The cover of your January/February 2002 edition highlighting Dr. Roey M. Malleson's article on 'emergency contraception' was unexpected: a brawny, half-naked, Aryan warrior, eyes glinting murderously from under his horned helmet, wielding a copper IUD, crouched to spring and slaughter.

I would like permission to post the cover on the Project website, and would appreciate it if you would send me seven copies of the issue. The cover is a splendid illustration of the usual basis for conscientious objection to potentially abortifacient devices and drugs, and the article provides an excellent example of moral obfuscation masquerading as science.

Dr. Malleson clearly believes, as a matter of faith (for it cannot be science), that it is not immoral to destroy an early human embryo by preventing implantation. However, the article fails to explain why this belief should be forced upon those who do not share it. The Journal of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, cited to support Dr. Malleson's threatening accusation of negligence, is not widely acknowledged to be an infallible authority on faith and morals, nor is Dr. Malleson.

Finally, astute readers will recognize that the law is more complex than suggested by the article. Freedom of conscience is recognized as a fundamental freedom that must be accommodated. It is imprudent and unhelpful to publicly incite civil actions against colleagues in order to secure their submission to the moral outlook so aptly expressed by your cover.

Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project