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” with respect to abortion in Ireland, Malta and Poland and other countries:
Conscientious objection’s practice has denied many women access to
reproductive health services, such as information about, access to, and purchase of contraception, prenatal testing, and lawful interruption of pregnancy. There are cases reported from Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Ireland and Italy where nearly 70% of all gynaecologists and 40% of all anaesthesiologists conscientiously object to providing abortion services.
It described conscientious objection to abortion as “widespread” and demanded that states should regulate and monitor the exercise of freedom of conscience – at least freedom of conscience exercised by “reproductive health care providers.” The authors also assert institutions (such as hospitals) should not be allowed to operate according to conscientious or religious convictions. In its complaints about “the unregulated use of conscientious objection,” the report repeated the complaint of a 2010 report that was also rejected by the Assembly.
However, a minority opinion by author Anna Zaborska stated:
This non-binding resolution violates the EU Treaty and cannot be used to introduce right to abortion. . .No international legally binding treaty nor the ECHR nor customary international law can accurately be cited as establishing or recognizing such right. All EU institutions, bodies and agencies must remain neutral on the issue of abortion. . . . The human right of conscientious objection together with the responsibility of the state to ensure that patients are able to access medical care in particular in cases of emergency prenatal and maternal health care must be upheld. No person, hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to practices which could cause the death of a human embryo.
- Project Submission to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Re: Women’s access to lawful medical care: the problem of unregulated use of conscientious objection. 6 October, 2010