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Protection of Conscience Project

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July-September, 2001


29 September, 2001
California Supreme Court to review mandatory contraception ruling

The California Supreme Court on Wednesday will review the appeal court decision in Catholic Charities v. Superior Court S099822. The appeal court ruling would force a Catholic charity to abide by a state law requiring employers to include contraception in health plans that cover prescription drugs. [News item]

28 September, 2001
New eugenic screening test

In England, a new genetic screening service known as quantitative fluorescence polymerase chain reaction (QF-PCR) is reported to be able to detect 80 percent of foetal anomalies within two days of the test. The availability of the test will likely increase the incidence of eugenic screening, with adverse consequences for those who do not wish to participate. [Discovery Health] (See Eugenic screening expected by French courts; Supreme Court of Canada to hear 'wrongful birth' case; No Christian gynaecologists and neonatologists in Netherlands ; Catholics and Pro-lifers Being Forced Out of Ob/Gyn Profession; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists requires eugenic screening; Doctor sued for birth of Down Syndrome child)

22 September, 2001
Minnesota Medical Association split on freedom of conscience

An AP report from St. Cloud Minnesota, reports that members of the Minnesota Medical Association were unable to agree that doctors should be forced to provide sexual assault victims with the 'morning-after-pill', or refer patients to someone who will. Instead, they sent the measure to their Board of Trustees for more study. The 'morning-after-pill' is the popular name for drugs that are given after sexual intercourse to prevent birth. Based on concerns that such drugs may have an abortifacient effect, some health care professionals refuse to prescribe or dispense the drug. Referring to the motion, one participant said, "If this passes, I would resign my membership . . . If it is put into law, I would disobey it."

Kansas Pharmacists Association supports freedom of conscience

Following a survey in the summer of 2001 that showed about 85% of Kansas pharmacists support legislation to protect their freedom of conscience, the Kansas Pharmacists Association met on 22 September and approved a resolution that would protect pharmacists who object to providing drugs or services for reasons of conscience.

14 September, 2001
Teachers' group focuses on ethics, freedom of conscience in education

Teachers' PREP (Professionalism, Representation, Ethics, Priorities) was formed in Surrey, British Columbia, last year. The group held a forum on November 10, 2000: "Protection of Conscience: Issues in Education". See their website for further information.

New York Bishops' Conference protection of conscience campaign

Visit the website of the New York State Catholic Conference to see an example of a campaign being waged against laws that would suppress freedom of conscience in health care. The site includes:

  • Bishops' statement on the Women's Health and Wellness Act
  • Press release on the Women's Health and Wellness Act
  • Conscience protection in context
  • Sample letter to State Senators
  • Sample letter to Members of the Assembly
  • Press release on Catholic Conference ad campaign
  • Catholic Conference newspaper ad
  • Catholic Conference Post Card campaign
  • Parish bulletin insert
12 September, 2001
British government plans to accelerate provision of abortions

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service plans to make legal abortions available within three weeks by 2005, and is planning a "radical overhaul of abortion methods" to achieve this goal. The United Kingdom's Abortion Act provides some protection for conscientious objectors, but the BPAS plans bear watching to ensure that they do not result in coercion of those who do not want to be involved with abortion. [BBC]

Euthanasia in Switzerland

While euthanasia is illegal under Swiss national law, the BBC reports that it is tolerated in some Swiss cantons, provided strict rules are followed. It is apparently not regarded as a crime if a doctor assists in suicide by dispensing lethal drugs to a person close to a painful death for his own use.

11 September, 2001
NARAL Pennsylvania seeks mandatory contraceptive coverage

The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League of Pennsylvania is seeking mandatory insurance coverage for contraceptive chemicals and devices.

2 September, 2001
Pro-life nurse fired

Jill Stanek, a pro-life nurse who exposed the "live birth abortion" policy at Christ Hospital and Medical Center in the Chicago suburb of Oak Lawn, Illinois, has been fired. The hospital denies that she was dismissed for having pro-life views, and the circumstances are rather involved. Stanek was once suspended for leaking confidential papers, and twice put on "final warning" probation after breaking an unspecified rule in her contract. She was also admonished by a hospital Board of Review because it was alleged that her pro-life activism had, "contributed to a negative working environment" . Stanek testified before the U.S. House Judiciary in favour of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act in July, and her pro-life activism received media attention about two weeks before she was fired.

Stanek explained that her "final warning" was given because she had encouraged the picketing of the home of a doctor who performed abortions.

Although Stanek has been clearly motivated by conscientious conviction, the case does not involve conscientious objection or refusal, since it does not appear that the hospital dismissed her for refusing to participate in abortions. Rather, the issue appears to be an alleged limitation on an employee's freedom of speech. [Chicago Tribune, Daily Southtown]

1 September, 2001
Disabled North Carolina woman deprived of food, fluids, and antibiotics

In November, 2001, Diane Arnder consented to have her daughter, Tina Cartrette, removed from life support. Cartrette, suffering from cerebral palsy, had suffered seizures since infancy and had been institutionalised at the age of five. She had never walked, talked or fed herself, and in the last months of her life had frequently been admitted to hospital for infections, fever and dehydration. In the two months preceding her death she had curled into a fetal position, her fists tightly closed.

When her respirator was removed, Cartrette began breathing on her own. At that point, apparently because it was clear that she was not going to die from respiratory failure, her feeding tubes, hydration and antibiotics were cut off. A disabled rights group obtained a court order restoring life support three days later, but her mother appealed, and Cartrette was eventually taken off life support a second time. She died several days later. It is not clear from the news report whether her death was the result of respiratory failure or dehydration, starvation, and deprivation of antibiotics. [Raleigh (NC) News & Observer; September 1, 2001]

The critical issue in this type of case is the distinction between treatment and care. Health care workers who do not object to the withdrawal of artificial respirators may object to the withdrawal of food, fluids and ordinary medical treatment as a form of euthanasia.


31 August, 2001
English woman argues for right to assisted suicide

A woman from Luton, southern England, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (motor neuron or Lou Gehrig's disease), has secured a High Court ruling that allows her to challenge the refusal of the director of public prosecutions to offer immunity to her husband if he helps her to commit suicide. She argued that assisted suicide could be justified by a right to privacy and a right to freedom from inhumane or degrading treatment. If a court accepts this reasoning, health care workers might well be confronted by demands that they participate in assisted suicide or euthanasia in order to respect the rights of their patients (for example, see Re: Rodriguez). [BBC]

More forced abortions reported in Washington, D.C.

A union official asserts that three more women in the Washington D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services have disclosed that they had abortions because they feared the loss of their jobs, bringing to four the number of women thus affected. Senior administrators and Mayor Anthony A. Williams are reported to be taking the allegations very seriously. It is being suggested that there has been an unwritten policy of discouraging pregnancies for years.
More DC Medics Say They Were Forced to Have Abortions

30 August, 2001
Washington, D.C. woman coerced into abortion

A union official and other sources have accused a senior senior administrator of the Washington, D.C. fire department's Emergency Medical Service of forcing an employee to have an abortion by threatening her with dismissal. It is alleged that about eight new medics were told that they could not become pregnant because they are on probation for a year and have no job benefits.

The administrator is said to have told one of the medics, who was pregnant, that she should get an abortion if she wanted to keep her job. The 21 year old woman, a Roman Catholic, was sufficiently intimidated by the threat that she had an abortion. She is reported to have suffered medical problems since the abortion, and has been described as "distraught . . . scared and ashamed."

Investigation of the incident by the union has been hampered because new employees fear retaliation and are hesitant to provide written statements. One source alleges that the victim herself has been harassed by supervisors. [ Washington Times]

24 August, 2001
Pressure increasing in favour of embryonic experimentation

It is reported that Harvard University will obtain human embryos from a Boston in vitro fertilization clinic and use private funds to experiment on human embryos, and that the American Jewish Congress considers it "imperative" to allow public funding of embryonic stem cell research.

Conscientious objection respected at University of Florida

Responding to criticism of alleged lack of abortion training at the University of Florida's College of Medicine, Dr. W. Patrick Duff, professor of obstetrics and gynecology and residency program director, insisted that sufficient training is provided. He added, "We don't require that any resident perform an abortion if that would violate their religious or personal moral convictions." He estimated that 80 percent of graduates provide abortions in their private practice. [Gainsville Sun]

23 August, 2001
Washington state demands compulsory contraceptive coverage

Washington state will require all insurance companies to provide coverage for all birth control beginning in September, 2001.[Link]

22 August, 2001
Man-animal hybrid embryos reported to have been formed

A journalist writing in the National Post (Canada) reports that animal-human hybrids have been created, lived and have been permitted to develop till the 32-cell stage. He noted that such experiments come to public attention only when applications are made for patents. [National Post]

Compromise proposed in hospital reorganization

A separate, licensed hospital will operate on the fifth floor of Brackenridge Hospital in Austin, Texas to supply contraceptives and other procedures or services (other than abortion) that are contrary to Catholic doctrine. The formation of the new facility within the existing hospital is proposed as a response to Church directives that Catholic-run hospitals will no longer be allowed to offer sterilizations and other contraceptive services. Seton Healthcare Network, a Catholic organization, has operated the hospital since 1995. Transition to the new arrangement may take two years, during which it appears that Brackenridge will continue to provide sterilization and contraceptives under the existing policy. An outside contractor performs sterilizations, and contraceptive counselling is provided by city employees.

Costs for remodelling the fifth floor, which Seton will bear, are estimated at five million dollars. Bishop Gregory Aymond, head of the Catholic Diocese of Austin, states that the plan is acceptable to the Vatican, on the understanding that the facility will be owned and operated by a different entity and that there will be no co-operation in what is done in the "hospital within a hospital". [American-Statesman]

Australian court case illustrates dynamic of expectation

The Australian state of Victoria was ordered by the Federal Court last year to provide in vitro fertilization to any woman who wished it. Previous to the ruling, IVF was made available only to women in stable heterosexual relationships. The Court ruled that the Sex Discrimination Act made it unlawful to withhold medical goods and services on the grounds of sex or marital status. The Federal Court ruling illustrates the dynamic of expectation that drives demand for morally controversial procedures once they have been legalized, increasing the likelihood of conflicts of conscience among those required to provide the services. The High Court is to hear arguments against the Federal Court decision from the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference. The Conference is opposed by the Women's Electoral Lobby. [Radio National].

20 August, 2001
British woman seeks assisted suicide

Arguing that laws against assisted suicide contravene the Human Rights Act, Dianne Pretty, a 47-year-old British woman suffering from motor neurone disease, will ask a court in the United Kingdom to allow her husband to assist her with suicide. She claims that existing law subjects her to inhuman and degrading treatment. If the court rules in her favour, it is likely that the precedent will be cited in other cases, and that health care workers and others will eventually be expected to assist. The Pretty case is not unlike that of Canadian Sue Rodriguez, who, after losing a 1993 case in the Supreme Court of Canada, was killed by lethal injection in British Columbia by an unidentified physician. The Canadian Chief Justice, ruling in Re: Rodriguez, stated that he was prepared to order that someone else perform the act that would directly cause the death of Rodriguez. (See UK Woman loses right-to-die case)

19 August, 2001
Wrongful birth, wrongful life suits

It is reported that 24 American states allow parents to sue doctors for "wrongful life" and three permit children to sue for "wrongful birth." Such suits are brought against doctors who have allegedly failed to warn parents about possible congenital abnormalities, thus depriving them of the opportunity to seek an abortion. The threat of such suits can be used to coerce physicians who do not wish to participate in eugenic screening and selection. [News item] (See Eugenic screening expected by French courts; Supreme Court of Canada to hear 'wrongful birth' case; No Christian gynaecologists and neonatologists in Netherlands ; Catholics and Pro-lifers Being Forced Out of Ob/Gyn Profession; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists requires eugenic screening; Doctor sued for birth of Down Syndrome child)

Planned Parenthood intervenes against conscientious objector in civil suit

Karen Brauer, a pharmacist who is suing K-Mart for wrongful dismissal on the grounds that she was fired because she would not fill prescriptions for abortifacient pills, reports that Planned Parenthood is intervening against her in the case. She was recently interviewed on True North.

16 August, 2001
Court orders feeding tubes withdrawn

On August 8, 2001, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge George Greer ruled that, unless a higher court intervenes, feeding tubes will be removed from Terri Schindler-Schiavo, a disabled woman who is neither terminally ill, nor in a 'persistently vegetative state'. It is reported that her parents of were not allowed to present witnesses or expert testimony on her behalf. The ruling appears consistent with legal precedents that define nutrition and hydration as treatment rather than care, thus legalizing the process of starving and dehydrating patients under the rubric of withdrawing, refusing or withholding treatment. The ruling illustrates the kind of pressures that may be brought to bear on health care workers and others, who may be asked to assist in executing such orders.

Alberta freedom of conscience advocate to speak at Ontario conference

Campaign Life Coalition, Ontario has organized a provincial conference for Saturday, October 13, 2001 that will feature guest speakers Wesley Smith and Julius Yankowsky. Mr. Yankowsky is a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta who has put forward a protection of conscience bill.

15 August, 2001
Insurance coverage for contraception in the United States

Nine of sixteen American states that require insurance plans to cover contraceptive drugs and devices include some form of limited protection of conscience provision for religious employers. The remaining seven - Georgia, Indiana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont - do not. Planned Parenthood and other organizations continue to push for mandatory coverage, without provision for freedom of conscience.

13 August, 2001
Belgian proposal for euthanasia

A draft euthanasia law is to be presented in the Belgian Senate this fall. It is not known if the bill will include protection for conscientious objectors.

10 August, 2001
American College of Physicians rejects assisted suicide

The second-largest American medical association has officially taken a position against physician assisted suicide in a paper published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It suggested that more appropriate alternatives to assisted suicide include better pain management, more aggressive treatment of depression and increased access to hospice care. The statement included strong support for a patient's right to refuse or halt treatment. The fact that these major organizations have come out against physician assisted suicide can be cited to indicate that refusal to participate in such procedures is not an eccentric or unreasonable position. [Newsday]

California court prevents starvation of patient

An attempt to starve to death a patient who was conscious and not terminally ill has been frustrated by the California Supreme Court. The New York Times reported that the Court ruled "that families have no right to stop life support for conscious patients who are not terminally ill, and who have not left explicit instructions allowing them to do so or formally appointed anyone to make health care decisions in the event of incapacity."

The patient had been brain-damaged after an auto accident in 1993. In 1995 his wife asked the doctors to remove his feeding tubes, but the man's mother and sister challenged the request. Note that the court might well have ruled in favour of the wife had he previously appointed her his agent for making health care decisions. The case illustrates the precarious position of health care workers who do not want to be involved with euthanasia by withdrawal of food and fluids.

7 August, 2001
United Nations supports compulsory abortion in China

After a census disclosed that the average family in China's impoverished Huaiji county has five or more children, family planning officials in Guangdong ordered the county to perform 20,000 abortions and sterilizations by the end of the year. 15,000 county employees will have their $100/month salaries cut in half to pay for ultrasound equipment to detect unauthorized pregnancies, and doctors have been ordered to sterilize women as soon as they give birth. Sven Burmester, the United Nations Population Fund representative in Beijing, praised China's family planning program. "For all the bad press, China has achieved the impossible. The country has solved its population problem," he said. [The Telegraph].

United Nations agencies have been implicated in coercive practices elsewhere, and have also criticized freedom of conscience among health care workers.

Canadian health minister advised to demand payment for private abortions

Federal Health Minister Allan Rock was advised early this year by his deputy minister to threaten to fine the province of New Brunswick if it continued to refuse to pay for abortions at a private clinic run by Dr. Henry Morgentaler. New Brunswick pays for abortions in hospital if they have been approved by a family doctor and performed by a gynaecologist with the assistance of an anaesthesiologist. About 600 abortions are performed annually in New Brunswick hospitals, while the Morgantaler facility performs abortions for fees ranging from $475 to $725.

Two points are of interest in this dispute. First: pressure has been applied to the province despite the fact that Health Canada had no evidence to support its claims that abortions were "medically necessary". Second: the federal health minister has repeatedly condemned provincial government proposals to pay fees to private clinics offering other medical services. Given the example set by Mr. Rock and his officials in the national government, it is not surprising to encounter others in the state health care system who believe that health care workers may be forced to participate in abortion.

August 06, 2001
Legalization of euthanasia feared in United Kingdom

Following a consultation process that was criticized for allegedly excluding those with pro-life opinions, the General Medical Council of the United Kingdom has issued guidelines for withdrawing and withholding treatment from patients with little chance of recovery but who are not dying. Citing British case law, the guidelines define artificial nutrition and hydration as forms of medical treatment that a patient or his proxy can refuse, or that can be withdrawn by a physician in the patient's "best interests".

When patients are unable to consent, doctors are advised to seek a second medical opinion, consult with the patient's family and take into account advanced medical directives ('living wills'). Court approval is required only if a patient is in a persistent vegetative state, or if a family refuses to permit starvation and dehydration.

James Bogle, a London barrister who specialises in medical law, criticized the guidelines.

"If the GMC guidance permits the withdrawing and withholding of tube fluids to non-dying patients so as to cause their death then it will have endorsed intentional killing of the non-dying."

"At present that is an illegal homicide and is largely indistinguishable, legally, from the criminal homicides of Dr Harold Shipman, save that his method was quicker and pain-free."

The British Medical Association, which issued similar ethical guidance in 1999, welcomed the proposals. ( David Derbyshire, Medical Correspondent, The Telegraph)

3 August, 2001
Hospital petitions to treat burn patient

72 year old Rosemary Frost suffered third-degree burns over 54 percent of her body after her nightgown caught fire when she was trying to light a cigarette. After two weeks in intensive care, she was unable to communicate and near death, and her family has asked doctors to stop treating her so that she could die. Hospital lawyers responded with a petition in Hillsborough court, seeking permission to administer emergency medical treatment, because doctors believe that her life can be saved. It is not clear from the report whether the proposed treatment is ordinary or extraordinary, or if what is at issue is the withdrawal of food and fluids. The failure to recognize these distinctions is a not infrequent weakness in media reports, and obscures the reasons behind conflicts of conscience in such situations.

1 August, 2001
Japan expected to approve embryo experimentation

Human embryos created for reproductive purposes will be available for experimentation and destructive research if guidelines proposed by a Japanese Cabinet panel on science and technology are finally approved later this month. It does not appear that any thought has been given to the impact of this policy on those who object to embryo experimentation.


31 July, 2001
Withholding food and fluids in the United Kingdom

A letter from British doctors, published in the Daily Telegraph, questioned the legality of guidelines from the General Medical Council (GMC) on "Withholding and Withdrawing Life-Prolonging Treatments". They also complained that many who had applied to attend were excluded from the consultation, while the subsequent consultation period was too short, and poorly advertised. ( BBC coverage) (The Daily Telegraph)

25 July, 2001
British high school ethics course

After a report suggested that too much science-teaching was value-free, the British government is considering putting scientific ethics on the school curriculum. The Wellcome Trust commissioned the Institute of Education, who found that three-fifths of teachers in 300 schools thought more time should be spent on social issues when teaching about medicine. [The Times, 16 July] The suggestion that state schools ought to teach presumably state-mandated 'scientific ethics' could have a significant impact on freedom of conscience. (See Ethical Issues)

Pope warns against "coarsening of conscience" in embryonic research, etc.

In an address to U.S. President George Bush, Pope John Paul II said, "Experience is already showing how a tragic coarsening of consciences accompanies the assault on innocent human life in the womb, leading to accommodation and acquiescence in the face of other related evils, such as euthanasia, infanticide, and more recently, proposals for the creation for research purposes of human embryos, destined to destruction in the process." [White House news release]

French Minister of Health contributes to normalization of euthanasia

In an interview with the Dutch weekly magazine, Vrij Nederland, French Health Minister, Dr. Bernard Kouchner said that during the wars in Lebanon and Vietnam he "helped" people die with morphine injections when he believed they were suffering too much. It is not clear that any of those 'helped' had requested his assistance.

"Euthanasia contradicts medical ethics," said Kouchner. "Doctors exist to protect life, not to end it. But if someone says he wants to die, society has to take that into account."

What this might mean for those who do not want to participate in euthanasia was not explored in the interview.

While Dr. Kouchner has no plans to introduce pro-euthanasia legislation, he claimed that 'passive euthanasia' occurs frequently in France. The minister incorrectly equated withdrawal of treatment per se as euthanasia, failing to distinguish between ordinary and extraordinary treatment, and failing to define the term 'treatment' itself.

Dr. Kouchner cannot believe that euthanasia contradicts medical ethics, since he does not appear to believe that in giving lethal injections he did anything that was unethical. [BBC News]

24 July, 2001
Irish High Court rejects review of Medical Council decision

The Irish High Court has refused an application by seven pro-life members of the Irish Medical Council for a judicial review of the council's manipulation of ethical guidelines on abortion so as to allow abortion in certain circumstances. The doctors said the council's actions violated Irish law. Testimony before the All-Party Committee on the Constitution last year indicated that most obstetricians and gynaecologists would refuse to perform abortions for reasons of conscience, so the decision of the Medical Council indicates the potential for increasing conflict within the medical profession, and the likelihood of increasing pressure being brought to bear on nurses and others who are expected to assist physicians or carry out their instructions. [News Item] (See previous report)

20 July, 2001
New Catholic bioethics institute launched in Canada

After two years of planning, and with another year of planning and policy development ahead, the creation of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute has been announced. The Institute will be based at St. Michael's College at the University of Toronto. The founding director is Dr. Bill Sullivan, a family doctor at St. Michael's hospital who holds a PhD in the philosophical writings of Father Bernard Lonergan, a Jesuit theologian. Dr. Sullivan has stated that the Institute will be "faithful to the magisterium", though the Institute will not speak for all Catholic bioethicists in Canada, nor make definitive bioethical decisions for all Catholics in Canada. "Magisterium" is the term for the teaching office of the Catholic hierarchy (pope and bishops in union with him) through which members of the Catholic Church are instructed in matters of faith and morals.

Columbian bishops call for conscientious objection

Roman Catholic bishops in Colombia have released a letter calling upon doctors, medical practitioners and judges to practice conscientious objection and refuse to participate in the "abominable crime of abortion." Those who participate in procuring abortion may face excommunication. The letter may be a response to a ruling by the Columbian Supreme Court ruled that abortion could be allowed in cases of rape or forced artificial insemination.

The bishops stated: "Believers can legally and conscientiously object with validity. That means that women, doctors and even judges can excuse themselves from participating in this type of crime, because their beliefs do not permit it."

New terminology for cloned embryos

Those who want to clone human embryos for stem cell research have begun to deny that the clones will be embryos. Their claims are based on the fact that the clones will not produced by fertilization and are intended for research, not implantation. Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), which plans mass-production of human clones, insists that they will not be human embryos, but human "entities". Dartmouth University professor Ronald Green is reported to have taken the same position.

Eugenic screening expected by French courts

French doctors have been ordered to pay compensation to three families with physically deformed children. The families had argued that the children would have been aborted had doctors detected their disabilities in utero. The order for compensation was made by Judges at the Cour de Cassation, France's highest court of appeal. They followed the precedent set by the Perruche case, which last year awarded damages to a mentally retarded boy damages because he had not been aborted.

The court ordered the doctors to pay the children's parents because the doctors did not screen the unborn babies for deformities and counsel the parents on abortion. In its ruling, the court wrote that "a child born handicapped may request financial compensation for prejudice resulting from his or her handicap if the handicap is in direct causal relationship with faults committed by the doctor in executing the contract formed with the mother and which prohibited the mother from exercising her choice to terminate the pregnancy."

Critics of the ruling argued that the court ruling amounts to a judicial decision that the handicapped have no place in French society. The Collective to Stop Discrimination Against the Disabled fears that parents who give birth to handicapped children will be deemed "irresponsible", and it is reported that doctors are now feeling pressured to recommend abortion if there is any indication of the slightest disability. While not acknowledged in news reports, the ruling is likely to have a serious impact on physicians who object to abortion for reasons of conscience, or who have moral or ethical objections to eugenic screening. [BBC News] [Le Monde] (See Supreme Court of Canada to hear 'wrongful birth' case; No Christian gynaecologists and neonatologists in Netherlands ; Catholics and Pro-lifers Being Forced Out of Ob/Gyn Profession; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists requires eugenic screening; Doctor sued for birth of Down Syndrome child )

11 July, 2001
Compulsory vaccination programmes

Children of God for Life, an American organization, has received reports of discrimination from many people with religious objections to vaccinations. Their objections frequently arise from concerns about the source of the vaccines.

Parents writing to the organization have reported denial of religious exemption from vaccination programmes, threats of legal action for child abuse and expulsion of their children from school. Liberty Counsel, a group of American lawyers, is willing to pursue civil actions against any American state that denies or challenges religiously motivated requests for exemption from vaccinations. Liberty Counsel attorneys are said to have been successful in the State of New York, and are involved in a similar suit against the State of Arkansas. A notice to this effect, with contact information, has been posted on the Project website.

5 July, 2001
France forces abortion upon overseas territories

A new French law that forces French Polynesia to publicly fund abortions has been imposed by the French senate and constitutional council over the objections of the Polynesian government, which had protested the law because it was contrary to the territory's religious traditions. Experience elsewhere suggests that institutions and individuals morally opposed to abortion who receive public funds will be pressured to provide abortions under threat that their funding will be cut off. [ABC]

4 July, 2001
California Court of Appeal rules Catholic Church must pay for contraception

Catholic Charities' challenge to California's mandatory prescription contraceptive coverage statutes has been rejected by the California Court of Appeal. The text of the judgement is available at

Nurse testifies in U.S. Senate hearing, formally cautioned by employer

Nurse Jill Stanek is reported to have revealed that Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois, uses live-birth abortion. The procedure involves inducing premature labour and dilating the cervix to cause premature delivery. An infant born alive in this manner is left to die. The nature of the procedure has been confirmed by the hospital (See A New Low in Heartlessness).

Nurse Stanek testified last year before the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and is to testify again on July 12, 2001, in Washington, D.C. Her employer is reported to have formally cautioned her a second time concerning her activism on the issue; there is a possibility that the employer might move to dismiss her. Stanek denies the allegations and accuses her employer to be engaging in harassment. There are other unusual aspects to the case.

1 July, 2001
President of the Ontario Nurses Association favours conscience legislation

According to a report in The Ottawa Citizen, Barb Wahl, president of the Ontario Nurses Association, believes that protection of conscience legislation for health care workers "would be a good thing." The Association's approach to conscientious objection is somewhat different from that of the College of Nurses of Ontario, which is the disciplinary authority. The Association maintains that it is the employer's obligation to accommodate nurses by changing assignments or other means, while the College places the onus on the nurse to find a substitute. College policy is the equivalent of "mandatory referral" for abortion by physicians, which is contrary to the policy of the Canadian Medical Association. The College of Nurses guidelines actually suggest that nurses may have to give up their jobs if they are unwilling to do what they deem to be immoral. The guidelines were cited against conscientious objectors in a controversy in Thunder Bay, Ontario. [The Ottawa Citizen Story] [Project Letter to the Editor]