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Protection of Conscience Project

www.consciencelaws.org

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News Releases: 2001

Draft Bill Lacks Conscience Protection, Erodes Trial by Jury

Protection of Conscience Project

20 December, 2001
For Immediate Release

The Canadian government's proposed Assisted Human Reproduction Act lacks protection for health care workers and others who do not want to participate in morally controversial procedures, and erodes the customary right to trial by jury, according to a letter sent earlier this month to Allan Rock, Canadian Minister of Health.

Project Administrator Sean Murphy noted that, beyond the procedures allowed in the draft text, the bill provides for ad hoc legalization of activities by Orders in Council, which do not require parliamentary scrutiny or approval.

Murphy suggested that the bill would establish an expectation of entitlement to legalized procedures, and cautioned that problems will arise for conscientious objectors, especially if provision of the "controlled activities" were made a condition for federal health care grants or transfer payments.

"Experience in Canada and elsewhere suggests that conscientious objectors will . . . be subjected to coercion and discrimination" or "forced into expensive litigation before human rights tribunals or courts . . . to buy the freedom that ought to have been their birthright."

The letter requests that the bill be amended to include protection of conscience provisions.

Murphy also expressed alarm that the bill erodes the right to trial by jury for serious offences. He argued that it would be more consistent with Canadian legal traditions to reduce the bill's summary conviction penalties to bring them into line with those now customary in criminal law.


Appeal to Muslim Physicians

Protection of Conscience Project

For Immediate Release
12 September, 2001

Dr. Shahid Athar, an advisor to the Protection of Conscience Project and President of the Islamic Medical Association of North America, has issued the following appeal in the wake of yesterday's tragic attacks on American cities:

Re : The Disaster Relief Work

I direct and request Muslim Physicians in New York, Washington D.C. in particular and Muslim physicians elsewhere to do the following: 

1. Help and organize local blood donation drives in Muslim communities and direct them to proper hospitals in the area.

2. Offer emergency relief work in the affected areas through your mosque as focal point

3. Offer social and psychological support for the families of the victims.

4. Have a local spokesperson who should be in touch with me and the national Muslim leadership.

5. Denounce all acts of terrorism and uphold the sanctity of human life.

6. Pray for the innocent lives lost and the injured and their relatives.

7. Report to the authorities and C.A.I.R. in your area any incidents of harassment or threat against any Muslim, or Muslim organization.

8. Protect yourself, your family, your mosque, fellow Muslims and fellow Americans.  Allah is the best of all protectors.

Shahid Athar,MD  317-872-5159   SATHAR3624@AOL.COM


Canadian Physicians for Life corrects Planned Parenthood Alberta

Canadian Physicians for Life

June 5, 2001

RE:  "Even doctors ethically must make referrals for abortion services, whether they morally support that or not."  Melanie Anderson - Planned Parenthood Alberta  (CTV News and Current Affairs Sat 02 Jun 2001)

The erroneous allegation that physicians who object to abortion for reasons of conscience are obliged to refer patients for the procedure continues to be promulgated in Alberta.

Our correspondence with Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons registrar, Dr. Ohlhauser, states clearly that physicians do not have a professional obligation to refer a patient for an abortion.  The College requires, as does the Code of Ethics of the Canadian Medical Association, that physicians "inform a patient when their personal morality would influence the recommendation or practice of any medical procedure that the patient needs or wants."

A pro-life physician should declare her personal views to a pregnant patient considering an abortion, in order to place her subsequent discussion in context.  The doctor then has every right, indeed, a responsibility, to outline the potential mental and physical risks of abortion just as she would before prescribing a drug or weighing the merits of surgery.

A number of studies report a close correlation between abortion, especially of a first pregnancy, and breast cancer. Are Alberta physicians telling abortion seekers of this threat to their health? Are women being informed of the risk of post-abortion emotional trauma? Are patients being warned that some physicians' ardent pro-abortion beliefs bias the "counselling" process?

A physician's duty of care extends to two patients in the case of a pregnant woman - the woman and her unborn child.  For a woman to make a truly "informed decision" she must be presented with the facts of human embryology of her unborn child so that she will know that what she is aborting is a human being, not just a clump of cells or a piece of her own tissues.  Withholding basic information shows disrespect for women and is both dishonest and patronizing, since it implies that women are too weak to know the truth.

The suggestion that morally troublesome issues need only be referred to a colleague is oblivious to the principled objections of pro-life physicians. Increasingly exotic reproductive technologies may eventually offend even the most laissez-faire physicians.  There may come a day where no physician feels free from coercion to violate his or her conscience.

Will Johnston, MD
President - Canadian Physicians for Life

Contact: 
Canadian Physicians for Life
10150 Gillanders Road; Chilliwack, BC  V2P 6H4
Phone:  604-794-3772  Fax:  604-794-3960
Email:  info@physiciansforlife.ca
Visit us at:  www.physiciansforlife.ca
World's First Faculty of Bioethics Announced

Protection of Conscience Project

For Immediate Release
2 June, 2001

The world's first faculty of bioethics will begin offering first year Bachelor, Master and Doctorate courses in October, 2001.

A two year (four semester) bachelor's degree will offer basic interdisciplinary preparation courses and seminars in five areas: bioethics, medicine, law, philosophy and theology. The master's degree requires two more years (four semesters) of study, concluding with a comprehensive final examination..

The Bioethics Faculty is an initiative of the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, a Catholic ecclesiastical university centre. The faculty is assisted by an international Scientific Council of 23 experts from 11 countries. Among them is Dr. John Fleming, Director of the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute, and a member of the Protection of Conscience Project Advisory Board.

Sean Murphy, Administrator of the non_denominational Protection of Conscience Project, welcomed the initiative.

"One of the criticisms of bioethics, as it is too often practised in North America, is that it is an expression of the hidden faith of secularism," said Murphy. "The unexamined beliefs of the establishment elite are often the root of their intolerance of conscientious objectors."

"By working explicitly within a philosophical tradition and faith perspective," he explained, "the new faculty will illustrate that different beliefs about the nature of the human person lead to different ethical conclusions."

"Once that becomes clear," he concluded, "we may hope to see more meaningful and productive discourse about pluralism and freedom of conscience ."


Pharmacists Conscience Clause Given Stamp of Approval

Pro-Life Wisconsin

For immediate release
April 27, 2001

Madison--A stamp of approval was given to Assembly Bill 307 (late Thursday),
legislation that will provide much needed job security for pharmacists who conscientiously object to dispensing drugs or devices that can cause death through abortion, euthanasia or physician assisted suicide.

In response to compelling testimony from several Wisconsin pharmacists, the Assembly Family Law Committee in a 4-2 vote sent this measure on for expected full approval of the Wisconsin Assembly.  Pro-Life Wisconsin applauds the support of committee chair Rep. Carol Owens (R-Oshkosh), who authored the bill, as well as committee members Rep. Steve Kestell (R-Elkhart Lake), Rep. Don Friske (R-Merrill) and Rep. Joan Wade (R-Montello).  The dissenting votes came from pro-abortion legislative leader Rep. Terese Berceua (D-Madison) and Rep. Peggy Krusick (D-Milwaukee), who in the past has claimed to be pro-life.

"New abortion techniques focusing on chemical means to end the lives of a preborn babies have received FDA approval or have become more readily available," explained Mary Matuska, Pro-Life Wisconsin legislative director. 

"While abortion was formerly relegated to a clinical setting, it is now possible to receive life-ending drugs in a pharmacy, forcing pharmacists to be party to abortion."

Opposing testimony used the scare tactic that this bill would ban birth control.  "This is not true," stated Mary Matuska.  "This bill will not make drugs such as the morning-after pill and the birth control pill unavailable.  It simply recognizes that employers cannot force pharmacists to be directly involved in abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia.  It recognizes that pharmacists, like doctors and nurses, are valued health care professionals who should not be forced to choose between their consciences and their livelihoods."

AB 307 is modelled after legislation which was enacted into law in March, 1998, in the state of South Dakota.  Legislatures in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and a few other states are currently considering legislation that would recognize the rights of pharmacists not to engage in procedures that violate their consciences.

"People who call themselves "pro-choice" should especially understand the intent of this bill," stated Peggy Hamill, Pro-Life Wisconsin state director.

 "Pharmacists should have the right to choose not to be complicit in the taking of innocent human life."

Contact:   Peggy Hamill, State Director, or Katherine Ribnek, Communications Director   (262) 796-1111 (daytime phone) or (414) 416-0489 (cell phone)
Report Faults Pharmacists' Ethics Committee

Protection of Conscience Project

For immediate release
29 March, 2001

A report released on Monday criticizes the Ethics Advisory Committee of the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia for publishing a prejudicial and unjustified attack on the integrity of conscientious objectors within the profession. The report identifies 'ethical nepotism' in the committee as a factor contributing to misunderstanding and intolerance.

At issue are statements made last year by the Ethics Advisory Committee in the College newsletter, the Bulletin, which were expanded upon and amplified in a later Journal article, written by a member of the Committee. Repeated requests that the allegations be substantiated or withdrawn were ignored.

An access to information request filed under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act resulted in the production of over 240 pages of documents, but no evidence to support the claims made in the published statements. Despite this, the Registrar of the College of Pharmacists refused to withdraw the statements or apologize.

The report makes a number of recommendations to the Council of the College of Pharmacists, among them the formulation of a policy to govern the Committee. At present, there is no policy on the selection of its members, who lack formal qualifications in ethics, philosophy, or related disciplines.

See  report.


ACLJ Gets Legal Victory as Lawsuit Against K-Mart Involving Abortion Producing Drugs Moves Forward

American Center for Law and Justice

January 24, 2001

(Cincinnati, OH) -- The American Center for Law and Justice, an international public interest law firm, said today a federal court has cleared the way for its lawsuit against Kmart on behalf of a pharmacist who was fired for refusing to dispense abortion producing drugs to move forward. A federal judge in the case refused to dismiss the suit and said that a pharmacist may sue her employer under a state conscience law which protects persons who refuse to perform or participate in medical procedures which result in abortion.

"This is a major victory for the rights of conscience," said Francis J. Manion, Senior Counsel for the ACLJ who is suing Kmart on behalf of a pharmacist. "As long as abortion is legal in this country, there will be millions of citizens opposed to the practice on ethical and religious grounds. These people deserve legal protection to the fullest extent possible. No one should be forced to choose between their livelihood and their conscience. We look forward to moving forward with our case and the upcoming trial on this most critical issue."

The case began in 1996 when Kmart fired Karen Brauer, an Indiana pharmacist, after she refused to dispense a drug called Micronor. Micronor, a progestin-only contraceptive, works in a significant number of patients by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg. According to Brauer, this means Micronor and similar drugs, rather than preventing pregnancy; terminate a human life that has already begun. Brauer was fired from Kmart’s Hamilton, Ohio store when she refused to sign an agreement that she would dispense all lawfully prescribed medications regardless of her feelings or beliefs. The ACLJ filed suit against Kmart in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati in August 1999.

Kmart went to court in an effort to dismiss the suit. But in an opinion issued yesterday and released to the ACLJ today, U.S. District Court Judge Herman Weber disagreed with Kmart’s narrow reading of the state conscience statute ruling the statute "is obviously intended to allow an individual who morally or ethically opposes abortion . . . to follow the dictates of her conscience and refuse to participate in such procedures." The court likewise rejected Kmart’’s arguments that the legislature did not intend the conscience law to apply to the dispensing of a drug that sometimes prevents implantation. Judge Weber said: "What is critical . . . is the undisputed fact that Micronor does prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in some cases and plaintiff’s asserted belief that this process results in abortion and is morally wrong."

Manion says the court’s decision is an important step in protecting the rights of employees who hold religious beliefs. "This case has enormous implications for the growing practice of chemical or drug-induced abortions. So-called ‘emergency contraceptives’, ‘morning-after pills,’ and RU-486 all work - not by preventing pregnancy - but by ending a human life already in existence. With the court’s recognition of a pharmacist’s statutory exemption from participating in such procedures, pharmacists and others have gained the ability to protect themselves against recrimination for following the dictates of their consciences."

Manion said the court’s ruling now clears the way for trial to begin in May. The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages against Kmart and alleges that her firing violated both federal and state laws. At the same time, the suit contends that as a result of Brauer's termination, she "has sustained and continues to sustain substantial losses in earnings, retirement benefits, and other employment benefits, and has suffered and continues to suffer damage with regard to her professional standing."


The American Center for Law and Justice is an international public interest law firm that focuses on constitutional issues including pro-family and pro-life cases.