1 May, 2013
Covering the period from 1 March, 2013 to 30 April, 2013
1. By Region/Country
Visit the Project News/Blog for details.
In the state of Victoria, a former health services commissioner who was among those behind the
passage of a
controversial abortion law is complaining that
the law is "being thwarted at the service provision level" because
most physicians seem unwilling to provide abortions from 16 through
24 weeks gestation and beyond, especially for "psychosocial reasons."
Meanwhile, Dr. Mark Hobart, a physician in Melbourne, refused to refer a
couple for an abortion at 19 weeks gestation for a psychosocial reason.
The couple wanted the abortion because they had learned that the woman was
carrying a girl. They wanted a boy, not a girl. He may face charges of
professional misconduct for refusing to refer.
In Tasmania, a proposed bill threatens objecting professionals and
counsellors with $65,000 fines if they refuse to faciliate aboriton by
An appeal against the judgement of the BC Supreme Court in Carter v.
Canada (which found in favour of physician assisted suicide and the judge
ordered Canada to change the law to permit it) is now underway. Oral
links to the factums filed by the parties and intervenors are available at
Columbia Court of Appeal live stream
A resolution passed by the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly is
being lauded as an important - although limited - recognition of
religious and conscience rights in the public sphere.
The UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment has provided the U.N. Human
Rights Commission with a report that claims that lack of "access" to
abortion is legally equivalent to torture. The report demonstrates ongoing
efforts among "reproductive rights" activists to make it appear that
conscientious objection to abortion and other morally contested services are
violations of human rights law.
A coroner's inquest was held in Galway into the death of Savita
Halappanavar, a 31 year old woman. She was 17 weeks pregnant when she
presented at the University Hospital, Galway, with a miscarriage. She
spontaneously delivered a stillborn daughterthree days later, and died from
sepsis early on 28 October. The circumstances of her death generated a
hurricane of controversy in Ireland and around the world about Irish
abortion law. This resulted in the classification of Savita's death as
In response, the Irish government promised to introduce legislation and
regulations concerning abortion. Meanwhile, the Irish Medical Organisation
(IMO) has rejected motions seeking its approval of regulations for
circumstances in which there is a "real and substantial risk to the mother,"
abortion in the case of rape or incest, and abortion when a foetus is
diagnosed to have a fatal abnormality. Moreover, one third of Irish
psychiatrists who treat adults have rejected a draft government proposal
that psychiatrists should assess women seeking an abortion who
are threatening suicide. All of these developments suggest that the
issue of freedom of conscience in healthcare is liable to come more to the
fore in Ireland.
Conscientious objection to abortion among Italian
obstetrician-gynaecologists is reported to be the majority position, reaching 80 or 90
percent in some parts of the country. Most of the objectors are
younger practitioners, so it would seem that the situation is unlikely to
change. An Italian group called Gynecologists for the Application of
Law 194/78 (LAIGA) is demanding "regulation" of conscientious objection in
response, by which it obviously means the use of some regulatory mechanism
to suppress or restrict freedom of conscience.
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has accused Malta
of violating the Convention Against Torture and other alleged
obligations because Maltese law prohibits abortion. The
ICJ describes itself as "60 eminent judges and lawyers from all
regions of the world. "
The New Zealand Health Care Professionals Alliance Te Hononga MÃ£tanga
Haurora O Aortearoa has launched a
website highlighting the interest of the Alliance in freedom of
conscience in health care. The new site features a Best Practice
Guide, Patient Support and Resources, and an introduction to
the Alliance's Mentorship Programme.
The Alliance is a non-denominational organization that welcomes members
from all health care professions, including nurses & midwives,
doctors, radiographers, pharmacists, laboratory technologists, anaesthetic
technicians, and radiation therapists. Hospital chaplains may also
join. Membership is open to professionals in training, practice and
retirement who support the
purposes of the organization.
The Philippines Department of Health signed the Implementing
Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 10354, otherwise known as the "Responsible
Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law of 2012" (RPRH Act of 2012).
The regulations would have had an immediate impact on the exercise of freedom
of conscience by health care workers. However, the Philippines Supreme
Court has temporarily suspended the operation of the law pending a hearing
into the constitutionality of the law that will be held in June.
The Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe (FAFCE) has
lodged a collective complaint against Sweden for violation of the
European Social Charter. The complaint alleges that
Sweden lacks respect both for the fundamental freedom of conscience laid
down by the European Convention on Human Rights and for the democratic
proceedings of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
The complaint is based on the fact that the Swedish parliament repudiated a
motion by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe supporting
freedom of conscience in health care.
The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), the state regulator of the
profession of pharmacy in the United Kingdom, will be reviewing its
standards of conduct, ethics and performance, "including Standard 3.4 which
sets out what pharmacy professionals must do if their religious or moral
beliefs prevent them from providing a service." Preliminary work is to be done in 2013, and there will be public
consultation and engagement in 2014/2015. Those concerned about freedom of
conscience among pharmacists in the United Kingdom should follow and
participate in the review.
A panel of judges of the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Scotland, has
ruled in favour of two midwives appealing a 2012 decision by a judge of the
same court. Lady Dorrian, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon and Lord
McEwan have ruled that the midwifery sisters, Mary Doogan, and Concepta
Wood, cannot be compelled to supervise the provison of abortion by the
National Health Services of Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
There are now 59 court cases involving over 190 plaintiffs who are suing
to prevent the U.S. federal government from imposing
controversial birth control regulation on objecting businesses and religious
employers. 25 of 30 businesses have obtained protective injunctions.
Most of the 30 cases filed by non-profit groups have been dismissed on the
grounds that the regulation has not yet been finalized. [Becket
Fund HHS Information Central]
The Arkansas Legislature is considering
98, the Health Care Freedom of Conscience Act, which provides protection
for freedom of conscience for individuals and institutions with respect
to artificial birth control, assisted reproductive technologies,
human embryonic stem-cell research; and contraceptive sterilization.
Meanwhile, Dr. Pegge Bell, Director of the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing at
the University of Arkansas, opposes the exercise of freedom of conscience as
a violation of the principles of healthcare.
Senate Bill 136 has been approved by the Michigan
Senate Health Policy Committee and will move to a vote in the state senate.
The bill provides protection for health care payers, purchasers, providers,
The Missouri House of Representatives passed
HB 457. A second vote is required before the bill can move to the state
senate for consideration. The bill provides protection for individuals and
institutions with respect to abortion, sterilization that is not medically
necessary, embryonic stem cell research, assisted reproduction and
A former president of the Nebraska Psychological
Association, has criticized the proposed
Health Care Freedom of Conscience Act because it does not force health
care workers to refer for services or procedures to which they object for
reasons of conscience. The bill requires an objector to disclose that
moral or religious beliefs prevent him from providing treatment so that the
patient can seek assistance elsewhere, but does not force them to assist
patients to find someone willing to provide the contested service.
2. News Items
You can search news items by date, country and topic in the
3. Recent Postings
Protection of conscience initiative launched by New Zealand
health care professionals
Should medical staff be able to opt out on grounds of
Global Charter of Conscience: A Global Covenant Concerning
Faiths and Freedom of Conscience
Appeal succeeds in Scotland: freedom of conscience upheld for
Rights of conscience must be preserved
Conscience vs. Religion
Protect rights for health workers
Religion: A Public or a Private Right?
Claims of Conscience
New book questions preferential treatment of religious liberty
Australian physician threatened with discipline for refusing to
refer for sex-selective abortion
Can Atheists and Muslims Support Freedom of Conscience Together?
Health Care Conscience Rights Act
Conscience and Conviction: The Case for Civil Disobedience
Religious Liberty and Conscience Protection Act
Missouri House Bill 457 (2013)
Sweden discriminates against conscientious objection
Victims of President Obama's HHS Mandate Speak Out
Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Act (Arkansas)
Testimony of Anna R. Franzonello | . . .I
have thoroughly reviewed LB 564, which provides protection-and
an adequate enforcement mechanism-for healthcare providers'
freedom of conscience. I am testifying in this proceeding
as an expert in constitutional law and as an expert on laws
respecting the freedom of conscience. I appreciate this
opportunity to testify as to the constitutionality of LB 564 and
the necessity of protecting the freedom of conscience of
healthcare providers. . .
Testimony of Clyde R. Meckel, MD |
Thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of LB564-
the Health Care Freedom of Conscience Act. The purpose of
this bill is to respect and protect the fundamental right of
conscience of licensed individuals who provide health care. This
is a critical matter of protecting one of our most fundamental
Council of Europe Hailed for Religious-Freedom Resolution
UN Human Rights Council equates lack of access to abortion with
4. Action Items
The Project will post notices of conferences
that are explore and support the principle freedom of conscience, including the
legitimate role of moral or religious conviction in shaping law and public
policy in pluralist states or societies.
6. Publications of Interest
Conscience and Conviction: The Case for Civil Disobedience.
Oxford University Press, 2012, 260pp., (hbk), ISBN
Why Tolerate Religion?
Princeton University Press, 2012, 192 pp. ISBN: 9780691153612