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Protection of Conscience Project

Service, not Servitude

Update 2013-11-01

1 November, 2013

Covering the period from 1 September, 2013 to 31 October, 2013

1.  By Region/Country

Developments relevant to freedom of conscience.

2.  News Items

Links to news summaries.

3.  Recent Postings

Links to resources added to Project site.

4.  Action Items

Support protection of conscience initiatives near you.

5.  Conferences/Papers

Seminars, conferences and workshops relevant to conscience advocacy.

6.  Publications of Interest

Relevant to freedom of conscience issues.

1.  By Region/Country
Visit the Project News/Blog for details.

M. Berer argues in a paper in Reproductive Health Matters that Catholic health professionals and/or hospitals refusing to provide abortions in an emergency should not be allowed to provide maternity services, even if they are the main or only providers.  She asserts that governments should refuse them funding, or replace them with non-religious services or force them to provide non-religious staff at all times to provide abortions.


Belgian politicians are debating a bill proposed by the governing Socialist party to legalize euthanasia for children (with parental consent).  The bill would also abolish the current 5 year limitation on advance directives for euthanasia in order to make the procedure available to persons with dementia.  


Legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide continue to dominate the news in Canada.  The B.C. Court of Appeal overturned a lower court decision that would have legalized physician assisted suicide.  The judgement will almost certainly be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.   During hearings into the euthanasia bill proposed by the government of Quebec, it became evident that the official medico-legal establishment of the province supports euthanasia, despite the opposition of most palliative care physicians.  Very little has appeared in the English language media because virtually all of the oral and written submissions were made in French.  Rough parallel French/English translations have been posted on the Project site.

European Union

By a narrow margin (351/319) the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe rejected a Report on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights put forward by Edite Estrela of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality.   The report complained of what it called "the abuse of conscientious objection" and "the unregulated use of conscientious objection."


The controversy surrounding Ireland’s new abortion law has been further inflamed by a false story by Irish Times Health reporter Paul Cullen.  The Times was forced to remove the article from its website, but has offered no explanation to account for the fabrication of the story and the failure of editorial oversight that permitted its publication.  A priest has  resigned from the board of the Mater Hospital in Dublin following its public statement that it would comply with the new Irish abortion law, which has not yet come into effect.


On average, about 11 people a day were killed by Dutch physicians following euthanasia protocols in 2012.  The total (4,188) represents an increase of 13% over the previous year.  Some researchers believe that the increase is the result of greater acceptance of the procedure by physicians and the public.  80% of the patients were killed in their homes

United States

The Becket Fund reports that there are 79 court cases involving 200 plaintiffs now moving through the U.S. courts, challenging the federal regulation requiring employers with over 50 employees to provide health insurance for birth control and surgical sterilization.  Of the 40 lawsuits filed by for-profit corporations, 32 have been granted injunctions against the law, and only six refused.

100 American professors of obstetrics and gynaecology have signed a statement statement expressing frustration that abortion policies and laws envisioned by 100 predecessors who signed a 1972 letter have not materialized.  Notably, the statement reiterates the demand of the original letter that objecting physicians should be compelled to refer for abortion, something many objectors find unacceptable, and insists that all hospitals that admit women should be forced to admit women for abortions – and, presumably, provide them. 

2.  News Items

You can search news items by date, country and topic in the Project News/Blog. 

3.  Recent Postings

Activist complains that Catholic hospitals won’t facilitate assisted suicide

American OB/Gyn professors demand compulsory referral by objecting physicians

Arguments for the Protection of Conscience (video)

Irish Times publishes false "abortion" story

Embryos abandoned by parents present ethical, legal quandary

Artificial reproduction unregulated in Ireland

Science: the religion that must not be questioned

Euthanasia statistics in the Netherlands

Irish hospital agrees to comply with abortion law

Lost in Translation: The Failure of the International Reproductive Rights Norm

Priest resigns after Mater Hospital agrees to comply with Irish abortion law

Obamacare and religious liberty: A corporate conscience?

Doctor risks his career after refusing abortion referral

B.C. Court of appeal overturns assisted suicide judgement

European parliament narrowly rejects report attacking freedom of conscience

Belgium considering euthanasia for children

Update on American HHS controversy

 Cuando la conscienca molesta a la ley

Quebec's Charter of Values:
Euthanasia hearing transcripts (Quebec)


4.  Action Items

None noted.

5.  Conferences/Papers

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

Berer M.  Termination of pregnancy as emergency obstetric care: the interpretation of Catholic health policy and the consequences for pregnant women.  An analysis of the death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland and similar cases.  Reproductive Health Matters 2013;21(41):9–17

Fitzgerald, C. (2013) A Neglected Aspect of Conscience: Awareness of Implicit Attitudes. Bioethics. doi: 10.1111/bioe.12058

Fourie C. (2013), Moral Distress and Moral Conflict in Clinical Ethics. Bioethics. doi: 10.1111/bioe.12064

Heino  A, Gissler M, Apter D, Fiala C.  Conscientious objection and induced abortion in Europe.  The European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care, 2013; 18: 231–233

Kantymir L, McLeod, C. (2013), Justification for Conscience Exemptions in Health Care. Bioethics. doi: 10.1111/bioe.12055

Kolers A. (2013) Am I My Profession's Keeper? Bioethics. doi: 10.1111/bioe.12056

Shaw J,  Downie J. (2013) Welcome to the Wild, Wild North: Conscientious Objection Policies Governing Canada's Medical, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Dental Professions. Bioethics. doi: 10.1111/bioe.12057

Sepper E.  Contraception and the Birth of Corporate Conscience. Washington University in Saint Louis - School of Law. July 8, 2013

Weinstock D. (2013) Conscientious Refusal and Health Professionals: Does Religion Make a Difference? Bioethics. doi: 10.1111/bioe.12059



7.  Video


8.  Audio