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Protection of Conscience Project

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October-December, 2004


31 December, 2004
Center for Reproductive Rights demands in vitro fertilization

The Center For Reproductive Rights (CRR) is assisting in the attack against the Costa Rican ban on in vitro fertilization launched by ten infertile Costa Rican couples. The case will be heard by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which can issue recommendations. The case may move to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights if the recommendations are not followed. (CFAM Friday Fax, December 31, 2004, Volume 8, Number 2)[See also Secret Memos Reveal Worldwide Pro-Abortion Legal Strategy ; CRR Secret Strategy] The notion that countries or institutions ought to be compelled to provide procedures that they deem morally objectionable appears to be a fundamental tenet of this so-called 'pro-choice' organization.

24 December, 2004
UN asks Poland to "track" conscientious objectors

The UN Human Rights Committee has not only suggested that Poland ought to liberalize its abortion laws, but has told the country that it should "track" doctors who refuse to perform abortions, as if they are guilty of some sort of crime or misconduct that warrants state surveillance. (CFAM, Friday Fax, Vol. 8, No. 1) [UN Report] [Report Extract)

Irish doctor advocates eugenic screening

Dr. Stephen Carrol of Ireland's National Maternity Hospital has asked for universal screening of pregnant women to identify infants in utero who have Down's syndrome. Such screening is normally done only for the purpose of aborting the affected infants, something that would be problematic in Ireland, where abortion is illegal. Further, evidence before a parliamentary committee in 2000 indicated that most obstetricians in the country would refuse to participate in abortion (Conscientious Objection in Ireland (May, 2000)). Dr. Carrol's suggestion does not appear to have taken the issue of conscientious objection into account.

23 December, 2004
ACLJ files brief to support protection of conscience law

The American Center for Law and Justice has filed a legal brief requesting permission to file an amici curiae brief in the civil suit launched to overthrow the Hyde-Weldon amendment, a recently enacted protection of conscience measure. [See Pro-choice' groups attack freedom to choose; Attack on freedom of conscience in US House of Representatives]

21 December, 2004
'Wrongful life' lawsuit rejected

The Supreme Court of South Carolina has dismissed a lawsuit brought by a woman who claimed that she would have aborted her son had she been made aware that most of his brain was missing. Associate Justice E.C. Burnett commented that it is impossible to compare being born with a handicap to not being born at all; "It is simply beyond the human experience." 27 American states do not recognize "wrongful life" suits. The issue is of concern to health care workers who do not wish to participate in eugenic screening to identify and kill the handicapped in utero.

Guidelines sought to regularize illegal killing of infants

Dr Eduard Verhagen of Groningen Hospital and Dr Louis Kollée of Radboud University Medical Centre in the Netherlands want the government to regularize the killing of handicapped newborn babies by providing guidelines that will protect physicians from murder charges. [The Guardian, 21 December. 2004] Admissions that the killing of handicapped infants is being practised even though it is illegal suggests the probability that some health care workers may face conflicts of conscience if required to participate or facilitate the procedure.

15 December, 2004
Mental Capacity Bill passes

The House of Commons has passed the government's Mental Capacity Bill despite concerns that it will permit euthanasia by withdrawal of necessary treatment or food and fluids. The bill does not include protection of conscience provisions.

Euthanasia of infants said to be widespread

Dr. Eduard Verhagen, speaking for the Groningen Academic Hospital in the Netherlands, has asserted that euthanasia of infants is occurring wordlwide, and that the country's eight teaching hospitals support the request for a panel to consider guidelines for euthanasia for people with "no free will." The statement indicates that health care professionals who object to the practice will face conflicts of conscience, and suggests the need for protection of conscience legislation.

9 December, 2004
Lawsuits launched to suppress freedom of conscience measure

California Attorney general Bill Lockyer is going to court to ensure that California can continue to force health care workers and organizations to participate in procedures to which they object for reasons of conscience. At issue is the Hyde-Weldon amendment, signed by President Bush on 8 December, 2004. The new law discourages discrimination against health care providers who do not wish to provide or facilitate abortion. Campaign for Children and Families, a leading West Coast pro-family organization, is protesting the lawsuit. The group pointed out the California would not lose any federal funds if it stopped forcing doctors and nurses to participate in abortions. [News Release]

Dissension among professional associations over euthanasia

In contrast to the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Royal College of General Practitioners, the General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing and the head of science and ethics for the British Medical Association have warned that legalizing assisted suicide or euthanasia will threaten the relationship between health care workers and patients. [The Guardian, 9 December, 2004][Assisted suicide bill in UK no longer opposed by physicians' groups] The differences among the professional associations in Britain illustrate the importance of protection of conscience legislation should the procedures be legalized.

8 December, 2004
Case of South African nurse to go to Labour Court

The Vereeniging Equality Court decided that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case of a nurse who is suing for constructive dismissal because she was discriminated against after declining to participate in abortions. The case is to be referred to the Labour Court in January, 2005. [Business Day]

6 December, 2004
Pope notes urgent need for instruction on proper formation of conscience

Citing documents of the Second Vatican Council, Pope John Paul II told US bishops that "no human activity . . . can be withdrawn from God's dominion," a point that sharply contrasts with the popular secularist view that religious beliefs cannot be permitted to influence public behaviour. The Pope also emphasized that properly instructed Catholics are bound, in conscience, by the "authoritative teaching" of the Church. [Text]

5 December, 2004
Suicide in Switzerland renews calls for legalization of assisted suicide in the UK

A woman from Chesire, England, went to Switzerland for assisted suicide at the Dignitas facility. She is now dead, and her case is being cited as another reason for legalizing assisted suicide in Britain. A British court that revoked an order preventing her husband from taking her there noted that criminal justice authorities could consider prosecuting him for assisting in her suicide should he do so. [The Times of London, Scotland on Sunday, 5 December, 2004] [Husband may take wife to Switzerland for suicide]

3 December, 2004
Guidelines sought on euthanasia of incompetent patients

Current Dutch law permits euthanasia only when a competent patient who is in intractable pain freely and persistently asks to be killed. The Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) is now seeking guidelines on providing euthanasia for people unable to make this kind of decision, such as infants or those with severe disabilities. It has asked the Netherlands Ministry of Health to form a panel to consider the matter. The request follow disclosure that Groningen Academic Hospital has been practising infant euthanasia for some time.[ Read the complete story.]

1 December, 2004
Four babies killed in Dutch hospital

Groningen Academic Hospital in the Netherlands has admitted that doctors there have performed euthanasia on four babies with severe disabilities. Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Executive Director, Alex Schadenberg, commented that the babies were killed "not because they are going to die, but because they are going to live." [The Guardian, 1 December, 2004] [AP] []. The practice suggests the likelihood that conflicts of conscience will occur among health care workers, especially when it is first introduced.


30 November, 2004
Withdrawal of treatment in France

A law passed by 551 to 548 in France will allow doctors to withdraw lifesaving medical treatment if requested to do so by patients. Although this is being called the legalization of 'passive euthanasia,' the withdrawal of extraordinary medical treatment is not generally considered to constitute euthanasia. The withdrawal of ordinary treatment, or of nourishment and hydration, would be considered euthanasia or assisted suicide by many conscientious objectors. It appears that the new law does not make this distinction, as it allows health care workers to cause death by refusing or withdrawing food and fluids. The sole issue for the law being the will of the patient. [News item] [[British Medical Journal, 4 December, 2004]

Husband may take wife to Switzerland for suicide

A woman suffering from an incurable brain disease has secured a court ruling that allows her husband to take her to Switzerland for assisted suicide. The High Court of London appears to have decided that she should not be prevented from going to Switzerland for that purpose, but that if her husband assists her he may face criminal prosecution. The case is likely to generate more sympathy for the legalization of assisted suicide, with adverse consequences for objecting health care workers.[News item]

Protection of conscience bill introduced in Texas

The firing of conscientious objectors by an Eckerd drug store has led to the introduction of a bill in the state legislature to prevent further attacks on freedom of conscience among pharmacists. [Star-Telegram]

26 November, 2004
Queen's University students succeed in human rights complaint

The Queen's University Human Rights Office has ruled that students who object to abortion for religious reasons can re-direct the .85 cents of their student fees used to support abortion-related campus services to other recipients. The Office overruled the university's Judicial Committee. (Kingston, Ontario, Canada)

25 November, 2004
UK pharmacist defended by employer

Lloyds, a large pharmacy chain in the United Kingdom, acknowledges that pharmacists can refuse to sell medications on moral or religious grounds, though it claims that the pharmacist must refer the patient to another pharmacy. The comment was in response to a complaint from a "furious" woman who was directed elsewhere after a Lloyds pharmacist declined to sell her the potentially abortifacient morning-after pill on religious grounds. The woman obtained the drug at a National Health Service walk-in-clinic. Despite the reference to referral by the objecting pharmacist, it appears that the referral was made by non-objecting staff, who spoke at length with the woman and her partner.

24 November, 2004
Florida judge rules life support may be withdrawn

Over the objections of his wife, life support will be withdrawn from a military veteran who signed a 'living will' stating that he would prefer death to remaining on life support during terminal illness or incapacitation. His wife testified that he had been watching football and learning sign language four days earlier, but Orlando Regional Healthcare insisted that his 'living will' must be followed, and the judge agreed. His wife said that would be like killing him, illustrating the kind of conflict that can arise not only between family and medical staff, but among health care workers involved in a case.

'Pro-choice' groups continue attack on freedom of choice for health care workers

The National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), National Organization for Women (NOW) and Planned Parenthood have issued news releases condemning the passage of the Hyde-Weldon amendment. The amendment will discourage state and local authorities from forcing health care workers to provide or facilitate abortion. [See Pro-choice' groups attack freedom to choose]

California senator plans attack on anti-discrimination amendment

Senator Barbara Boxer of California and other pro-abortion senators will attempt to repeal the Hyde-Weldon amendment that will prevent agencies from receiving federal funds if they force objecting health care providers to perform, pay for or provide insurance coverage for abortions. The amendment, originally the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA), passed the House of Representatives but had not received a Senate vote. It was added to a Congressional spending bill. It is believed that Boxer and her supporters will not succeed, either because their bill will not pass or will not be signed by the President. [News item]
22 November, 2004
Referrals for torture criticized

A controversial section of the 9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act was deleted before the bill passed. Critics charged that it would have authorized US immigration authorities to send terrorist suspects to countries believed to practise torture. Canadian Maher Arar, now the subject of a formal inquiry in Canada, alleges he was sent to Syria by US officials, where he was interrogated, tortured and imprisoned for a year. He has launched a lawsuit against the U.S. government. The opposition to the practice, described as "outsourcing torture" by one congressional critic, demonstrates that people understand the principle of vicarious moral responsibility, which, for many objectors, precludes referral for what they consider to be morally abhorrent procedures. [Statement]

New law will discourage attacks on freedom of conscience

Congressman Henry Hyde (R-Il.) and Congressman Dave Weldon (R-Fl.) amended a Congressional spending bill by adding a provision that will deny federal funding to state and local authorities that force objecting health care providers to provide, pay for, insure or refer for abortions. The amendment was originally a stand-alone bill called the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) that had passed the US House of Representatives but had not come to a vote in the Senate. The spending bill has passed, and the protective amendment will come into force when the bill is signed by the President. Ironically, organizations that purport to be "pro-choice" are attacking the legislation because it will safeguard freedom of choice among health care workers. See Attack on freedom of conscience in US House of Representatives

18 November, 2004
Canadian Justice Minister suggests Commons debate assisted suicide

A suggestion that the House of Commons debate the legalization of assisted suicide has been made by the Canadian Justice Minister, Irwin Cotler. He stated that the debate would be a discussion that would not lead to a vote. His suggestion follows the acquittal of a woman charged for assisted suicide. Legalization of the procedure would probably have a significant impact on conscientious objectors in health care.

Medical Federation of Ecuador denounces morning-after pill

Luis Sanchez, President of the Medical Federation of Ecuador, said that the morning after pill must be considered an abortifacient because it can impede implantation of the early embryo, causing a "micro-abortion." The Federation has announced that it supports calls for the withdrawal of the drug. The announcement illustrates the potential for conflicts of conscience among health care workers, which have already occurred in other jurisdictions.[EWTN]

16 November, 2004
Majority of South Africans oppose abortion

According to a survey by the Human Sciences Research Council, 70% of South Africans oppose abortion for financial reasons and 56% oppose it for eugenic reasons. This suggests that the failure of the government to include protection of conscience provisions in its abortion legislation, recently liberalized, is likely to lead to further problems for health care workers. [All Africa, 15 November, 2004][See Abortion law amendment likely to impact South African nurses ]

Kenyan abortion controversy continues

Catholic, Anglican and Muslim leaders in Kenya issued a joint statement against legalization of abortion, calling it "murder and a grave moral offence." Supporters of the statement include 29 members of the Kenyan Catholic Bishops' Conference, Sheikh Hamad Kassim, a Muslim leader, and Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi. The strength of the opposition indicates that significant conflicts of conscience would occur among health care workers were the procedure to be legalized. [All Africa] [South African nurse denied position]

11 November, 2004
Abortion law amendment likely to impact South African nurses

There are public and private health care systems in South Africa, the private systems serving those who have health insurance or who can afford the fees for service. DENOSA, the Nurses Union in South Africa, is concerned that a new law may unreasonably burden nurses and drive them from the public to the private system. Two thirds of its members are reported to be opposed to abortion [No Place for Abortion in African Traditional Life - Some Reflections (2002)]. The new law, passed without debate by the South African National Assembly, liberalizes the current abortion law (Choice on Termination of Pregnancy [TOP] Act) by allowing nurses to perform abortions and delegating regulation of the procedure to provincial health ministers. Calls for protection of conscience provisions were ignored. The TOP Act was passed without consideration of the fact that a large majority of South African health care workers object to abortion for reasons of conscience. A number of problems have arisen as a result [South African nurse denied position], and there is now grave concern that health care who object to abortion will face increasing pressure and discrimination.

Abortion justified on grounds of freedom of conscience

Nairobi gynaecologist-obstetrician, Dr. John Nyamu, charged with 15 counts of murder following the discovery of the bodies of aborted babies on the Uhuru Highway, asserts that the prosecution is contrary to his constitutional rights to freedom of conscience and freedom of thought. Nurses Marion Kibathi and Mercy Mathai are co-accused. Nyamu's supporters include the chairman of the Kenya Medical Association, Dr Stephen Ochiel. It is reported that Ochiel issued an order to medical professionals to support Dr. Nyamu, which would appear to be inconsistent with his appeal to freedom of conscience. The Kenya Medical Association has become active in favour of legalized abortion. [Kenyan medical association wants abortion legalized The case has been delayed because the prosecution was not ready to proceed. [All Africa, 11 November, 2004]

United Nations orders Morocco to decriminalize abortion

Current Moroccan law reflects the Islamic beliefs of its population and prohibits abortion except to save the life of the mother. The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) has ordered Morocco to legalize abortion on the grounds that the current law is contrary to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Other UN groups have attacked freedom of conscience in health care, so it appears that compliance with the UNHRC directive will eventually lead to problems for many health care workers.

9 November, 2004
Ability to choose Catholic insurance plan angers 'pro-choice' groups

'Catholics' for a Free Choice, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, the Illinois chapter of American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood, which are fond of justifying morally controversial activities on the grounds that everyone should be able to "choose," are angry that federal workers in 27 counties in Illinois will be able to choose a Catholic health insurance plan that does not cover contraceptives, sterilization, fertility treatment, or abortion. Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis offer the plan through OSF Health Plans.

8 November, 2004
Canadian MP-physician supports legalization of euthanasia

Apparently in response to the recent acquittal of a woman accused of assisting suicide (Canadian woman acquitted of assisting in suicides), Liberal MP Keith Martin, a physician, has suggested that the Canadian public needs and wants the legalization of euthanasia, calling for a "national debate on end-of-life issues."

7 November, 2004
Re-examination of euthanasia suggested by Church of Scotland

Dr Alison Elliot, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, asserts that the issue of euthanasia needs to be re-examined in light of the belief that God does not want people to suffer unbearably. The suggestion was welcomed by Member of the Scots Parliament Jeremy Purvis, who plans to introduce a bill to legalize euthanasia next year and other pro-euthanasia activists. [The Sunday Herald, 7 November]

Kenyan medical association wants abortion legalized

The Kenya Medical Association has become active in advocating legalization of abortion in the country. It organized a pro-abortion workshop attended by politicians, religious leaders and non-governmental organizations that issued a call for the law to be changed. Among the proponents of the change is a former Kenyan attorney general. There is significant opposition to abortion among the Christian and Muslim populations. [No Place for Abortion in African Traditional Life - Some Reflections (2002)] Failure to take that into account in changing the law will cause conflicts of conscience for many health care workers and lead to the kind of problems that are now occurring in South Africa. [News item] [South African nurse denied position]

5 November, 2004
Canadian woman acquitted of assisting in suicides

73 year old Evelyn Martens, a euthanasia advocate has been acquitted of assisting in the suicides of two British Columbian women. The jury verdict appears to reflect the fact that the Crown could not establish beyond reasonable doubt whether or not Martens actually did anything to assist the women. Although the case turned on the facts and the evidence, Martens' supporters responded to the acquittal by calling for legalization of assisted suicide in Canada. Legalization of the procedure would cause the same problems for conscientious objectors in Canada that they have experienced with abortion and contraception. Canada has no protection of conscience legislation, apart from general guarantees of freedom of conscience and religion in its Charter of Rights.

2 November, 2004
Irish woman using European court to force abortion on Ireland

A woman who travelled to the United Kingdom for 'selective reduction' - the abortion of one of two twins who was reported to be 'abnormal' - is suing the Irish government on the grounds that the Irish ban on abortion violates provisions in the European Union convention on torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and respect for private and family life. The case is unlikely to be heard within the next year. [Times on Line] Legalization of abortion in Ireland would have a grave impact on many health care professionals. Most Irish obstetricians are believed to be unwilling to perform abortions. [See Conscientious Objection in Ireland (May, 2000)]


19 October, 2004
KwaZulu-Natal Parliament rejects protection of conscience provision

Mrs Joanne Downs of the African Christian Democratic Party, supported by Margaret Ambler-Moore of the DA, proposed an amendment to the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill to prevent health care workers from being "compelled or pressured" to participate in abortions. The amendment was rejected. [No Place for Abortion in African Traditional Life - Some Reflections (2002)] [South African nurse denied position] [Are State Doctors in the Western Cape willing to implement the Choice of Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1996? An opinion survey conducted in the Western Cape in November 1997.] [South Africa Changes Abortion Law (1996-97)]

18 October, 2004
Ethics of the bottom line

Cristina Alarcon, representing BC Pharmacists for Conscience, has pointed out that the regulatory establishment allows pharmacists to decline to provide services because they don't make enough money, but rejects the idea that they should be free to decline services that they find morally objectionable. [News Release] [Project Report 2001-01]

17 October, 2004
Opposition to South African bill to liberalize abortion

The organization Christians for Truth is mounting protests against a bill that will liberalize the country's abortion law by making it possible for nurses to perform abortions. The organization asserts that there has been little opportunity for the public to make submissions, despite polls showing that a majority of citizens were opposed to abortion, responses indicating a range of opposition from 57% (among whites) to 74% of black South Africans [See also No Place for Abortion in African Traditional Life - Some Reflections (2002)]. This suggests that more health care workers will face conflicts of conscience, a problem that began when the government legalized abortion without taking into account the fact that a majority of physicians and nurses were morally opposed to the procedure [South African nurse denied position]. The proposed bill does not include protection of conscience provisions, because, according to the Parliamentary Monitoring Group, it is aimed at "protecting citizens rather than the personal interests of medical practitioners." The statement implies that medical practitioners are not citizens, and that freedom of conscience is a purely 'personal' interest that does not warrant protection by the state. [Are State Doctors in the Western Cape willing to implement the Choice of Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1996? An opinion survey conducted in the Western Cape in November 1997.] [South Africa Changes Abortion Law (1996-97)]

Assisted suicide bill in UK no longer opposed by physicians' groups

The Royal College of General Practitioners and the Royal College of Physicians no longer oppose Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill. The two groups state that they are 'neutral' with respect to the proposal, though the RCGP said that more 'clarity' was needed. The bill is still opposed by the British Medical Association. Although the official position of the two groups is one of 'neutrality,' it clearly indicates that neither group has principled objections to euthanasia. An RCGP spokesman suggested that many GP's had moved to an 'agnostic' stance with respect to assisted suicide. He also wondered "what type of doctor will be expected to carry out these assisted suicides (emphasis added)." Conscientious objectors will be subjected to considerable pressure as a result of this kind of 'expectation,' particularly when health care is delivered by the state as a perceived entitlement. [BBC]

13 October, 2004
South African nurse denied position

Sister Wilhelmien Magdalena Charles, Chief Professional Nurse at the Vereeniging Hospital, now the Kopanong Hospital, advised the hospital after she became a Jehovah's Witness that she did not wish to participate in abortions. She was compelled to do so despite her protests until Doctors for Life in South Africa came to her assistance. After returning from maternity leave in May, 2004, she was not placed on the surgical theatre roster. The hospital ignored requests from Sister Charles and Doctors for Life to reinstate her or to give written reasons to justify its position. As a result of the affronts to her dignity and emotional and psychological suffering inflicted upon her, Sister Charles finally submitted her resignation on 30 July, 2004. She has launched a civil suit against the hospital.has launched a civil action against the hospital and other authorities. [Details - South African nurse denied position] [See also No Place for Abortion in African Traditional Life - Some Reflections (2002)] [Are State Doctors in the Western Cape willing to implement the Choice of Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1996? An opinion survey conducted in the Western Cape in November 1997.] [South Africa Changes Abortion Law (1996-97)]

11 October, 2004
Wisconsin pharmacist at hearing for professional misconduct

Pharmacist Neil Noesen is facing a charge of professional misconduct for refusing to fill a prescription for contraceptives at a K-Mart in Menomonie, Wisconsin in 2002. [Wisconsin pharmacist faces charges for following his conscience]

7 October, 2004
US Supreme Court rejects appeal of repressive ruling

The US Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from a ruling by the California Supreme Court that Catholic Charities of Sacramento must include prescription contraceptives in its employee health insurance plan. The court ruled that it is not a "religious organization," despite the fact that it is the instrument used by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of California for charitable work. The Conference had objected to the passage of California's Women's Contraceptive Equity Act (WCEA) in 2000 because the Act's definition of 'religious employer' was too narrow to protect Catholic hospitals and universities. The Act required that an organization exist to inculcate religious values, primarily employ Catholics, primarily serve Catholics and be a non-profit organization. The California Supreme Court ruled that Catholic Charities did not meet any of these criteria.

5 October, 2004
UK group wants more involved with abortion

The Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV is recommending that family doctors, nurses and family planning consultants be able to provide pharmaceutical and surgical abortions up to10 weeks' gestation. Increasing the number of health care workers involved the the procedures will increase the likelihood of conflicts of conscience in the professions.