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Protection of Conscience Project

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April-June, 2001


26 June, 2001
Employee threatened with dismissal for refusing to officiate at homosexual wedding

In what may presage increasing attacks on freedom of conscience outside health care, Dutch civil servant Nynke Eringa-Boomgaardt has been threatened with dismissal by Leuwaarden city council because she refused to officiate in a homosexual wedding. Holland legalized homosexual weddings in April, 2001. Eringa-Boomgaardt must sign a contract agreeing to wed same-sex couples at city hall if she wants to save her job. "This is about the battle between equality and my right to have conscientious objections," Eringa-Boomgaardt said. [News Item 1] [News Item 2]

American Civil Liberties Union opposes freedom of conscience

An article in the June/July 2001 issue of Ms. Magazine suggests that several American organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, plan to attack freedom of conscience in health care by rejecting all protection of conscience provisions in legislation. It is unclear whether or not they also intend to push for coercive legislation that would effectively drive health care workers from their professions and eliminate denominational health care in the United States. In addition to the ACLU, those opposed to freedom of conscience in health care include Catholics for a Free Choice (which is not affiliated with the Catholic Church), the ProChoice Resource Center, Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) and a group formed by Connecticut Pharmacist Robert Tendler, Pharmacists for Choice. It seems that these groups, which identify themselves by name and/or policy as "pro-choice", are prepared to deny freedom of choice to anyone who does not share their moral viewpoint.

19 June, 2001
Protection of conscience law proposed for Italian pharmacists

Agence France Presse reports that a draft law submitted to Parliament by Christian Democrat legislators would allow pharmacists to refuse sales of the abortifacient Mifepristone (RU-486) which was approved for distribution in Italy late last year.

18 June, 2001
Pope notes need for conscientious objection

In an address to the International Congress of Catholic Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Pope John Paul II noted that demands for contraceptive and abortifacient drugs and developing reproductive technology threaten the traditional harmony between Christian morality and medical ethics. He supported the practice of conscientious objection, noting that "it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil."

The pope spoke of conscientious objection as the "middle path which opens up before Catholic health workers who are faithful to their conscience", asserting that conscientious objection "ought to be respected by all, especially legislators. "

16 June, 2001
American Catholic hospitals instructed to abide by Church teaching on sterilization

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that a new instruction issued by the American Catholic bishops will put an end to contraceptive tubal ligations and vasectomies in Catholic hospitals. Backed by an overwhelming majority of 209-7, their directive removes policy 'loopholes' that had previously been used to justify accommodation of the procedures in some Catholic hospitals. The bishops' affirmation that the procedures are "intrinsically evil" contrasts sharply with popular opinion. The unfavourable reaction to the instruction in some quarters suggests the kind of pressures that may be experienced by conscientious objectors employed in a state health care system. It also reveals varying degrees of antagonism to the concept of religious freedom in practical matters. (Bishops' Directive)

10 June, 2001
Professor notes society 'very confused' on conscience

Canadian professor of philosophy Don DeMarco has urged conscientious pharmacists to refuse to dispense the abortifacient morning-after pill. Professor DeMarco, from St Jerome's university, Ontario, told a pro-life conference in Nova Scotia that pharmacists across North America had been reprimanded or even dismissed because of their religious and moral beliefs. He observed: "Our society is very confused. It wants conscientious people, but not people with conscience."
(The Daily News, Halifax)

8 June, 200
Website tracks relationship between corporations, researchers

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has launched a new website to provide information about financial ties between scientists and industry. The site also provides information about some of the corporate support received by dozens of professional, health, and non-profit organizations, such as the International Life Sciences Institute, American Council on Science and Health, and American Dietetic Association.

CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson said: "Corporations increasingly are funding academic scientists to conduct research, speak at press conferences, and provide advice. Too frequently, neither the scientists nor the corporations disclose that funding. Today, we have begun to lift that veil of secrecy by providing journalists, activists, policy makers, and the public with information about the links between more than 1,100 scientists and industry. The list will be expanded in the coming months."

7 June, 2001
Planned Parenthood misrepresents ethical obligations

During a CTV News interview on 2 June, Melanie Anderson, executive director of Planned Parenthood in Calgary, claimed that physicians who object to abortion for reasons of conscience are ethically obliged to refer patients for abortion. Her comments were in response to a report that a number of conscientious objectors among Alberta pharmacists will refuse to dispense the drug because it sometimes acts as an abortifacient.

The Administrator has written to Anderson, requesting that she explain the basis for her statement, which is contradicted by the policy of the Canadian Medical Association. A news release from Physicians for Life describes her statement as "an erroneous allegation", quoting correspondence from the Registrar of the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons to the effect that physicians are not ethically obliged to refer for abortion.

Conscientious objectors in Ireland face increasing threat

Testimony given last May before a committee studying Ireland's abortion law indicated that a "vast majority" of Irish gynaecologists would refuse to participate in abortion. Despite this, the Irish Medical Council introduced two proposals favouring abortion at a private meeting dealing with other business. Seven members of the Council walked out in protest, and are considering legal action.

Echoing the testimony given last year, Professor John Bonnar, chairman of the Irish Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, warned that the new guidelines would be "at variance with the position of the overwhelming majority of the medical profession in Ireland." [Unison] []

6 June, 2001
Attempt to impose mandatory contraceptive coverage

The Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) reports that a bill to force private health-insurance policies to pay for contraceptive pills has been stopped in committee.

2 June, 2001
World's first faculty of bioethics announced

The first Faculty of Bioethics will begin offering courses at the bachelor, masters and doctorate levels in the fall of 2001. (See news release)


21 May, 2001
Royal Pharmaceutical Society hostile to freedom of conscience

In the United Kingdom, the Daily Telegraph reports concerns that the code of ethics for British pharmacists has been amended to remove protection for conscientious objectors, substituting a clause that would encourage discrimination against them by employers. The code had stated that a pharmacist "may object on grounds of conscience to the dispensing of certain medicinal products for the control of fertility, conception or termination of pregnancy."

This clause was replaced at the annual meeting of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society with the statement, "... before accepting employment pharmacists must disclose any factors which may affect their ability to provide services." The revised code makes no allowance for conscientious objection. Pharmacists for Life International member Caroline Hubert said: "This would effectively render pharmacists who have a conscientious objection unemployable."

Spanish government official attacks freedom of conscience

MADRID, Spain, MAY 20, 2001 (From report by ( Andalucian health counsellor Francisco Vallejo has ordered pharmacies to stock the morning-after pill, and is attempting to unilaterally suppress pharmacists' freedom of conscience by denying exemptions for conscientious objectors. The order was criticized by Catholic bishops in southern Spain. Bishop Antonio Dorado Soto of Málaga-Melilla called the order unjust and "an offense against pharmacists' [right to] conscientious objection."

The order to stock the drug, which some pharmacists object to because it can act as an abortifacient, is effective this week.

4 May, 2001
Catholics and Pro-lifers Being Forced Out of Ob/Gyn Profession

Dr. Robert Walley, Founder of MaterCare International and professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland, expressed concern that "there is discrimination against Catholic and pro-life doctors in many countries who wish to specialize but who refuse to participate in abortion or birth control."

The comments appeared in an interview published yesterday by Zenit News promoting the June 17-20 conference entitled "The Future of Obstetrics and Gynecology: The Fundamental Human Right to Be Trained According to Conscience."

Archbishop Calls on Catholics to Disobey New Law

A report from Buenos Aires states that the president of the Argentine bishops' conference, Archbishop Estanislao Karlic, has said that Argentines are not bound by a new birth control law passed in the House of Representatives and awaiting approval by the Senate.

The new law would force public hospitals and the Social Security agency to provide non-permanent birth control to all women, including minors without their parents' consent. "If the law goes directly against true values, then it is not a law, since an unjust law just ceases to exist," said Archbishop Karlic. He added that he was not calling for rebellion, but "for the natural disobedience paid to a law that is no such thing."


27 April, 2001
Pharmacists Conscience Clause Given Stamp of Approval

The Wisconsin Assembly Family Law Committee has approved Bill 307, 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. The measure now moves to the Wisconsin Assembly for approval. (See news release).

22 April, 2001
Comprehensive protection proposed in Arizona

House Bill 2564 in the Arizona legislature would provide comprehensive protection for health care providers, institutions and health maintenance organizations, insurance companies, management services organizations and employers. Civil, criminal and administrative immunity is assured, and the bill provides for civil actions for damages and legal costs, and injunctive relief. The bill is not procedure-specific, though it mentions abortion, artificial insemination, assisted reproduction, artificial birth control, cloning, human stem cell and fetal experimentation, withdrawal of nutrition and hydration, physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia.

20 April, 2001
Louisiana Senate narrowly rejects coercive bill

The Louisiana Senate has voted to reject SB 211- the "Pill Bill" - which would have forced every insurance policy in Louisiana to cover all FDA-approved birth control drugs.

South Korean medical association at odds with law

Conscientious objectors in South Korea are fortunate that the government has reaffirmed its support of the criminal law by criticizing new guidelines issued by the country's medical association. The guidelines would allow doctors to withhold life-sustaining treatment from terminally ill patients, something that would be morally objectionable to at least some health care workers. The government pointed out that the guidelines contravene criminal law. [EWTN]

French minister considers euthanasia, neglects conscience

French health minister Bernard Kouchner, who believes that French public opinion is swinging in favour of euthanasia, is planning a fact-finding mission to the Netherlands. The absence of reference to the possibility of conscientious objection to euthanasia by health care workers is troubling. [ABC News] [Zenit]

18 April, 2001
Wisconsin health care workers & pharmacists getting support

Wisconsin Assembly Bill 168, a promising proposal, has been approved by the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. The bill is a forward-looking statute that could serve as a model for other jurisdictions struggling to balance claims of conscience against uncontrolled expansion of modern medical and reproductive technologies. It is an example of 'procedure-specific' legislation that includes protection from civil action and provisions for injunctive relief.

Assembly Bill 307 concerns only pharmacists and would apply in the case of drugs used for abortion, euthanasia, and assisted suicide.

17 April, 2001
Pharmacist survey on 'conscience clause'

A new survey suggests significant support among American pharmacists for protection of conscience policies or laws. A majority of the 719 pharmacists surveyed favoured such protection (388-54%). 40 per cent of the respondents (289) disagreed, and 6 per cent (41) were undecided. The recent poll was conducted by Pharmacy One Source, a national professional web site for members only.

It is reported that previous surveys of American pharmacists by organizations like the American Pharmacists Association also disclosed widespread support for pharmacy conscience clauses. In Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal, many pharmacist have indicated a desire for 'conscience clauses' with respect to participation in that practice.

10 April, 2001
Mandatory abortion training suggested in New York

The New York Times reports that the executive director of the New York affiliate of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, Ms. Kelli Conlin, said she wanted to be sure that all of New York's mayoralty candidates are "committed to ensuring that medical residents at city hospitals were trained in abortion procedures." [NY Times]

No Christian gynaecologists and neonatologists in Netherlands

A news release from the Dutch group Cry for Life (Schreeuw om Leven) notes that a Professor Schuurman of the Christenunie had stated that gynaecologists and neonatologists of a Christian background can no longer be found in the Netherlands "because of problems with their conscience." Minister of Health Mrs. E. Borst-Eilers is reported to have commented that she could "very well imagine that."

B.C. Government wants criticism of abortionists made 'hate crime'

The government of British Columbia, Canada, which will soon be calling an election, has used its majority to pass a formal motion in the provincial legislature that calls for abortion providers to be designated "a protected group under current hate provisions" of the Criminal Code. Such an amendment would make it a criminal offence to "promote hatred" against them. Such a law might criminalize the publication of material that explains the basis for conscientious objection to abortion - some of which is posted on this site. The same government has refused to amend its "bubble zone" law to ensure that it is not used against conscientious objectors in health care (See Report 2000-01).

Of greater concern is government Bill 21-2001, which would empower the government to force any hospital in the province to provide abortions. Although a government spokesman has said that Catholic hospitals would not be forced to do so, no protection of conscience provision has been included in the bill for individuals or institutions.

6 April, 2001
Problematic Illinois bills

Two bills in the Illinois legislature concern freedom of conscience with respect to the 'morning after pill'. Senate Bill 114 requires all hospitals to provide what it terms "emergency contraception". This bill has passed the Senate and is now in Committee in the House of Representatives. House Bill 430 is intended to provide protection of conscience for physicians who would otherwise be victimized by Senate Bill 114, but the proposed protection is quite limited, and makes referral a mandatory condition of exemption. Neither bill has been posted on the Project site, as the former would suppress conscientious objection, and the latter does not appear to be sufficiently supportive of the principle. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the Senate is prepared to exempt Catholic hospitals from the requirement to refer.

3 April, 2001
Ugandan bishops support conscientious objection

In a statement about the 'morning after pill', Ugandan bishops noted that moral responsibility extends to those who promote its use, and call for health care workers to object to participation in MAP programmes.