In speaking to the protection of conscience bill he introduced in the Canadian House of Commons, Mr. Maurice Vellacott told the House about an encounter he had had with one of his constituents, a student who was under some duress to participate in abortion. [Full text]
Ottawa — Bill C-207, which would protect health care providers, particularly nurses, from being forced to participate, against their wills, in abortion procedures or acts of euthanasia, will be debated in the House of Commons this week. Debate is currently scheduled for Thursday November 18 at 5:30pm.
The bill summary for C-207 (formerly designated C-461 during the last session of parliament) reads as follows: “This enactment protects the rights of health care practitioners and other persons to refuse, without fear of reprisal or other discriminatory coercion, to participate in medical procedures that offend a tenet of their religion, or their belief that human life is inviolable.”
In recent years there have been many nurses either refused employment or dismissed because of their unwillingness to capitulate in the face of pressure to assist in abortions. Bill C-207 would remedy that situation. Unfortunately, after the bill is debated it will not be voted on, so that it has no chance of becoming law. This is because the Liberal-dominated sub-committee on Private Members Business chose not to make the bill votable.
The bill has now also been introduced in the Senate as Bill S-11 by Senator Raymond Perrault.
Canadian Physicians for Life
Canadian Physicians for Life calls on the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta to verify the alleged charges of women being bullied by pro-life physicians.
The tone of the statement from College Councillor Dr. Eugene Kretzul is patronizing and dismissive of the conscience rights of doctors. The “nudge-nudge, wink-wink” 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.
The “pro-choice” Alberta College apparently lacks tolerance for physicians’ choice to be pro-life. The Code of Ethics of the Canadian Medical Association requires physicians to “inform a patient when their personal morality would influence the recommendation or practice of any medical procedure that the patient needs or wants.” The Alberta College suggests pro-life doctors go further: usher abortion requesters into the abortion-on-demand system or face the charge of being unprofessional.
In Alberta, as elsewhere, it is often easier for women to obtain an abortion than support and counseling services. For a woman to make a truly “informed decision” she must be presented with the embryology of her unborn child so that she will know that she is aborting a human being, not just a clump of cells or a piece of her own tissues. She deserves more than the wave-through suggested by the College’s statement.
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?
And if abortion seekers have complained of being bullied, has the College conducted diligent enquiries into such serious accusations? What was the outcome? Or is polemical hearsay the College’s new standard of evidence when the target is pro-life doctors?
In plain English, independent medical professionals have no duty to refer anyone to anyone when the referral would violate the conscience and the medical good judgement of the professional. This elementary conscience protection impartially shields doctors who possess any convictions on any topic at all. Whether the request be for genital mutilation, the amputation of a healthy limb, or an abortion, the true professional will never be coerced into offending his or her basic principles. Canadian Physicians for Life calls on the Alberta College to retract and clarify its venture into professional conscience ethics.
Will Johnston, M.D.
For further information
Canadian Physicians for Life Administration
Phone (604) 794-3772; Fax (604) 794-3960
Agence France Presse in Canberra reported statements of a Chinese doctor before a committee of the Australian Senate. She testified to the effect that Chinese doctors who refuse to do abortions to enforce China’s ‘one child’ policy would go to jail.
Nurses At Foothills Hospital Rebel Over The Horrifying Results Of Late-Term ‘Genetic Terminations’
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Genetic terminations unquestionably constitute murder in the minds of the Foothills nurses who contacted this magazine after hospital administrators demanded they assist with abortions. The nurses are backed by a February 26 administrative memo obtained by this magazine which states that for Maternity Care Centre (MCC) staff, “not participating in terminations is not an option.”
At Calgary’s Foothills Hospital some premature infants are born alive, then routinely allowed to die. For instance, last August a doctor told a mother-to-be that her baby suffered from lethal genetic defects. The mother was persuaded to undergo a “genetic
termination,” and a regularly used procedure called an induction abortion was performed only five weeks before the baby was due. Chemically induced labour was followed by a live birth. But because the mother had decided her child should not live, nurses were forbidden to provide even such basics as food and fluids. [Full text]
After a difficult five year struggle, eight Ontario health care professionals win the right to choose.
Markham-Stoufville, Ontario, Canada
Staff with religious objections will not be required to provide primary nursing care to a patient admitted for an abortion, but could be required to provide post-abortion nursing care. They would not, however, have to in any way participate “in the administration, monitoring or documenting of the pregnancy termination process.”
They did it!
After a five year battle, eight Ontario nurses won the right to refuse to assist in abortions at the Markham-Stoufville Hospital, just outside Toronto. The nurses had taken their fight to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and one nurse, Ailene George, had filed a civil suit.
They hope their victory will be precedent-setting. “I want all nurses in the future to have the right to say, “No,” said Joanne Van Halteren, one of the eight. “This will have a ripple effect.”
The case was to be heard by the OHRC, but the sides reached a mediated settlement April 13 in which the hospital issued a policy respecting the nurses’ religious objections to performing abortions.
. . . The nurses’ battle took its toll. One nurse, Ann Mahon, died of cancer in May 1998. Others suffered stress-related illnesses. Una Clennon had a lump removed from her breast that her doctor believed was brought on by stress. [Full text]
Foothills Hospital Now Forces Nurses To Participate In Genetic Terminations
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
“The present mood is…chaotic, helpless, frustrated and highly emotional,” Sally wrote. In the past weeks, I have witnessed tears, breakdowns, illnesses, and stress such as never before…Sick calls have been high and experienced staff nearly impossible to recruit.”
Though the tiny infant had been condemned to die, distraught nurses at Calgary’s Foothills Hospital spent hours last August caring for it anyway.
“The mother didn’t want the baby, so we took turns rocking and holding it for 12 hours until it finally died,” says Foothills nurse “Catherine,” whose real name has been withheld to protect her job. “Nurses were only allowed to comfort the suffering infant, but this did not even include feedings.”
The rejected baby’s fate was sealed when it survived a “genetic termination,” an abortion performed only five weeks before the mother’s due date. Doctors had told her that her baby had lethal genetic defects. But Catherine could see only a baby. “I was sick for weeks,” she says. [Full text]
Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 66 (1999) 55-61
BM Dickens, RJ Cook
The potential and actual applications of reproductive technologies have been reviewed by many governmental committees, and laws have been enacted in several countries to accommodate, limit and regulate their use. Regulatory systems have nevertheless left some legal and ethical issues unresolved, and have caused other issues to arise. Issues that regulatory systems leave unresolved, or that systems have created, include disposal of embryos that remain after patients’ treatments are concluded, and multiple implantation and pregnancy. This may result in risks to maternal, embryonic and neonatal life and health, and the contentious relief that may be achieved by selective reduction of multiple pregnancies. A further concern arises when clinics must or choose to publicize their success rates, and they compete for favorable statistics by questionable patient selection criteria and treatment priorities. [Full Text]
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A
Karen L. Brauer M.S. R.Ph*
I was fired from my position as a pharmacist with the KMart Corporation for refusal to dispense Micronor, a progestin-only “minipill”, for the purpose of birth control.
. . . My name is Karen L. Brauer. My “alphabet soup” is M.S. R.Ph., and I am a practicing community pharmacist. Prior to this (my favorite) career, I had enjoyed a brief time in the field of medical research. On December 19, 1996, I was fired from my position as a pharmacist with the KMart Corporation for refusal to dispense Micronor, a progestin-only “minipill”, for the purpose of birth control.
My opinion of this form of birth control was formed 20 years ago, because that is when I became aware of its most prominent mechanism to prevent implantation (as distinguished from a primarily contraceptive mechanism). My instructors in dispensing lab at pharmacy school were made aware of my opinion of this type of birth control, as was the District Manager who hired me to work for KMart. For the seven years that I worked for KMart, I turned away prescriptions for progestin only birth control, more often than not, talking the women out of filling the prescription at all. The Greater Cincinnati Area is a very conservative part of the country, and “minipills” were never very hot sellers here. [Full Text]
Williard Johnston, M.D.*
Recently, a worried pre-med student called me. A year ago her interview had gone badly, partly because her pro-life views became known to her interviewer, a woman whose pro-choice sentiments have been expressed to me personally in the past. Back for another try, her interview somehow ended up on the same topic.
A few months ago I met a new colleague at my community hospital. He reminded me of a conversation we had had several years ago, when he had phoned me for advice after losing his position at a public health clinic. He had done well in the job, and was about to be hired permanently, when the non-physician office manager called him in for an “interview” and bluntly exposed his pro-life leanings. “It’s men like you who ruin the lives of young women,” was her tactful observation. He was informed that he would be given no further sessions at the publicly funded downtown clinic, and was more or less told to pack his bags. Now in private practice not far from me, he still wonders if he did the right thing by accepting this treatment silently.
However, there is a far more basic threat to the ability of physicians to hold pro-life views.[Full text]