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Protection of Conscience Project

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October-December, 2007


21 December, 2007
US Catholic Health Association accused of defying Vatican direction

Bioethicists John J. Hardt and Fr. Kevin D. O'Rourke, O.P. claim that the direction from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith about the obligation to provide nutrition and hydration refers only to patients in "persistent vegetative states" in the United States, can only be applied in a limited number of cases, and is in some respects erroneous in stating Catholic teaching. Their comment, posted on the website of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, has been criticized by canonist Edward N. Peters for its reasoning and its claims about Canon Law. Other critics have accused CHAUSA of "openly defying" the Vatican directive [LifeSite], though CHAUSA disclaims responsibility for the opinions of authors whose work is posted on the site. The controversy indicates the problems that can be faced by conscientious objectors working in denominational health care who may be confronted by conflicting claims within their own organizations.

19 December, 2007
Bishop concerned about effects of bill

Robert C. Morlino, Catholic Bishop of Madison, Wisconsin, has written to Wisconsin legislators asking them to oppose Assembly Bill 377, which would require all hospitals in the state to dispense the morning after pill to rape complainants. The bill states that hospitals are not obliged to dispense the pill after a negative pregnancy test, but the sufficiency of a pregnancy test is disputed by many conscientious objectors on the grounds that a pregnancy test cannot detect the presence of an embryo before implantation. Bishop Morlino's letter appears to have been sparked, in part, by the defeat of protection of conscience amendments to the bill, and by concern that the neutrality of the Wisconsin Catholic [Bishops'] Conference has been misconstrued.

12 December, 2007
Family goes to court to stop withdrawal of life support

A Jewish family in Winnipeg, Manitoba, has gone to court to prevent doctors from withdrawing food and fluids and a ventilator from an 84-year-old Orthodox Jewish man. The case illustrates two issues that must be considered in the formation of conscientious conviction concerning medical procedures, as well as differences that can arise in such deliberations. The family believes that withdrawing the ventilator and feeding tube will hasten the man's death. An affidavit from local Rabbi Y. Charytan states that Orthodox Jews believe "life must be extended as long as possible and we are not allowed to hasten death." It does not appear that a distinction is made between the ventilator and the feeding tube. On the other hand, the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition supports the family, but specifically associates its support to a moral obligation to continue providing nutrition and hydration, making no reference to the ventilator. [LifeSite]

Wisconsin bill on morning after pill

A bill that would require hospitals in Wisconsin to dispense the morning after pill to rape complainants includes an exemption that specifies that the drug need not be dispensed if a pregnancy test is positive. Supporters of freedom of conscience for health care workers attempted to amend the bill to include protection of conscience provisions. [Badger Herald] There has been some controversy among conscientious objectors about the acceptability of dispensing the drug on the basis of a negative pregnancy test. [See Connecticut controversy on Catholic hospitals and the morning after pill]

11 December. 2007
Italian professors consider dropping Hippocratic Oath

Arguing that provisions of the Hippocratic Oath have become irrelevant and cannot be respected by doctors, Giorgio Iannetti, a professor of surgery at Rome University, asserts that the oath should no longer be required of graduating medical students. Some other professors have expressed similar views. The concern appears to be with those parts of the oath forbidding abortion and euthanasia. [The Times]

Christian Medical Association challenges attack on freedom of conscience

The Christian Medical Association has challenged the opinion of the ethics committee of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, stating that the opinion "suggests a profound misunderstanding of the nature and exercise of conscience, an underlying bias against persons of faith and an apparent attempt to disenfranchise physicians who oppose ACOG's political activism on abortion." CMA Executive Vice President Gene Rudd, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist, has withdrawn his ACOG membership as a result of the document. [CMA news release]

7 December, 2007
Directors resign to protest new code of ethics

Dr Martin Scurr and Lord Fitzalan-Howard have resigned from the board of St. John's and St. Elizabeth's Catholic Hospital in London in protest over the acceptance of a new code of ethics that reflects Catholic teaching. Sex-change operations, contraceptives, abortion referrals and IVF treatment will not be provided by the hospital. S Scurr stated that the Catholic Church should withdraw from health care. [The Guardian]

4 December, 2007
Repressive measure fails in Pennsylvania

A Pennsylvania representative has withdrawn a bill that would have compelled hospitals to dispense the morning after pill to rape complainants. A compromise version of the bill that would have offered some protection for conscientious objectors had been prepared. According to and American Civil Liberties Union spokesman, the bill would have been ineffective if hospitals invoked the state's Religious Freedom Protection Act. [Morning Call]

3 December, 2007
Question raised about conduct of chairman and management of London Catholic hospital

It has been revealed that St. John's and St. Elizabeth's Catholic Hospital in London, which had agreed to abide by a revised Code of Ethics prohibiting referral for abortion, has signed a contract that would override the Code of Ethics. The result is that the hospital will either have to renege on the contract, perhaps incurring civil liability, or dispense with the Code of Ethics. The Chairman, Lord Bridgeman, who was responsible for the problem, has suggested that the hospital abandon its Catholic identity and become involved in the procedures now prohibited by the Code of Ethics. [LifeSite]


30 November, 2007
Tissue trafficking

Cybercast News Service reports that American scientists are using tissue from aborted babies in research. Scientists involved in the work at the National Institutes of Health refused to be interviewed on the subject, and NIH has told CNS to seek information it wants through an access to information request. The report quotes articles from professional journals that refer to the use of tissue from aborted fetuses from 16 to 24 weeks gestation. As noted by the executive director for the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, those who object to abortion may also object to participation in such research because "it makes one feel complicit with the decision to abort the fetus, or to destroy an embryo for those sources." [CNS]

Euthanasia bill introduced in India

A Communist Part member has introduced a bill to legalize euthanasia. The Euthanasia Permission and Regulation Bill would permit euthanasia of incurable patients who are bedridden and anyone else unable to perform daily chores unassisted.

Freedom of conscience a "hot topic" for 2007

A posting at Bioethics International identifies freedom of conscience in healthcare as "a hot bioethical topic in 2007" and expects that it "will remain in the spotlight for 2008." [Bioethics International]

28 November, 2007
Portuguese doctors continue resistance

Over 700 Portuguese doctors are reported to have signed a petition directed to the official spokesman for the Portuguese Medical Association. The petition asks him to continue "resisting the deformation of its Code of Ethics imposed from outside." The petition follows threats by the Portuguese Health Minister to prosecute the Association because it will not remove the prohibition of abortion from its code of ethics [LifeSite] [Petition in Portuguese]

Claims of patient autonomy and science urged against prospective hospital purchase

Exempla Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, and the Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center in Lafayette, Colordado, may be sold to a Catholic religious order based in Kansas, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth. Doctors and patients are reported to be anxious to prevent the sales because the hospitals would not provide surgical sterilizations, contraception or abortion if governed by Catholic health care directives. The Sisters of Charity assert that the procedures no longer provided would amount to less than one percent of the services provided at the hospitals, and could be provided elsewhere. The president of the medical staff at the Lafayette institution said that the hospital provided 378 tubal ligations, four abortions and seven vasectomies in 2006. She said that the community expects that the hospital "will provide whatever services the community needs based on advances in medical science ... and not directed by any outside religious factors." [Rocky Mountain News] The comment fails to recognize that scientific advances may have ethical or moral dimensions, and that the hospital (to judge from its name) is now operating within a religious framework.

25 November, 2007
Irish crisis pregnancy service permitted conscientious objection

After having been threatened with loss of funding because it refuses to refer clients for abortion, Cura, Irish Catholic Church's crisis pregnancy charity, will receive 2.2 million Euro over the next two years. The new service agreement permits conscientious objection to the provision of information about obtaining abortions outside the country, though "an appropriate referral must be made." However, it is not clear that there is agreement about what constitutes "an appropriate referral," since Cura will not distribute a "Positive Options" leaflet, which includes contact information for all agencies and their services. [Sunday Business Post]

24 November, 2007
"Celebrity hospital" in UK to cease abortion referrals

St John and St Elizabeth Hospital, a north London Catholic hospital frequented by celebrities, has adopted a code of ethics that prohibits referral for abortion and prescription of contraceptives. The implementation of the new code is at the direction of Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, who learned that doctors at the hospital were providing the morning-after pill and referring patients for abortions. He appointed an auxiliary bishop to the hospital's ethics committee to ensure that the revised code would uphold Catholic teaching. [Daily Telegraph] [See Catholic hospital in Britain ordered to stop abortion referrals, contraceptive practices and IVF; Staff at Catholic hospital reported in rebellion against church teaching; Celebrity hospital at odds with Cardinal]

22 November, 2007
Portuguese government plans to force abortion approval on medical profession

The Portuguese Medical Association, which has refused a government demand to remove a prohibition of abortion from its code of ethics, has stated that it will not proceed against physicians who perform abortions now permitted by law in the country. However, it sees the present code as providing protection for the exercise of freedom of conscience by physicians who object to abortion. While it is possible that the code of ethics could be revised during an annual general meeting in 2008, the Portuguese government is now moving against the Association. Correia de Campos, Portuguese Health Minister, asserts that it is unacceptable for collective codes of ethics to "go against the general law of the country." He said that the Attorney General plans "a special administrative action" against the the Association to force it to change its code [LifeSite]

16 November, 2007
Candidates in Washington State differ on freedom of conscience for pharmacists

Incumbent Washington State Governor Gregoire, who took action to suppress freedom of conscience among pharmacists, claims that an injunction issued to protect objectors "interferes with a woman's right to choose, it also allows any patient to be denied their medication for no apparent reason." A spokesman for her opponent in an upcoming election, Dino Rossi, says that Rossi supports freedom of conscience. However, Rossi refused to be interviewed about the issue. A journalist covering the political beat commented, "I hope that as the campaign goes on, we don't get to talk to Rossi only about issues he chooses to campaign on. The governor doesn't always give straight answers, but at her regular media availabilities at least we get to ask." [Postman on Politics]

15 November, 2007
Portuguese physicians stand up to bullying by government

Representing 35,000 members of the Portuguese Medical Association, Pedro Nunes has rejected the demand made by the minister of health that the Association remove the prohibition of abortion from its code of ethics. "Having an opinion and ethical principles is what separates rational beings from a flock of sheep," he said. [Reuters]

13 November, 2007
Chilean government crushes conscientious objection

Two of the three largest pharmacy chains in Chile, Cruz Verde and Ahumada, have agreed to sell the morning after pill as a result of fines and threats that the government would shut down their companies completely. A third, Salcobrand, has refused even to meet with the government and continues to refuse to carry the drug. As a result of the potential embryocidal effect of the drug, the company objects to it for reasons of conscience. [LifeSite] [See Chilean bishops support pharmacists agains government ; Chilean government moves aggressively against freedom of conscience in pharmacy]

11 November, 2007
Objecting physician investigated for alleged breach of ethics

Dr. Tammie Downes, a physician practising near Helston, Cornwall, is being investigated by Britain's General Medical Council as a result of a complaint lodged against her by someone believed to be a physician who is an abortion supporter. The complaint was made as a result of statements made by Downes in an article in the Daily Mail. In that article, Downes, who refuses to facilitate abortion for reasons of conscience, noted that numerous patients had decided not to have abortions after discussion with her. She explained how she asked exploratory questions to assist the patients in examining their own reasons for seeking an abortion. It was also clear from the interview that other patients had gone on to obtain abortions. Dr. Evan Harris, a member of parliament and a member of the British Medical Association's ethics committee, lodged a complained about Downes with the Public Health Minister. [The Guardian]

9 November, 2007
Proposed legalization of controversial procedures

The British government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill will allow the creation of "hybrid" and "chimera" embryos for research purposes, abolish a requirement that a child's need for a father be considered in artificial reproduction, allow anyone who assists conception through gamete or embryo donation to be registered as a parent on birth certificates, and permit the conception and selection of embryos to provide tissue to treat diseases or conditions of other family member [Daily Mail]. The proposed changes illustrate the potential for conflicts of conscience arising among those who may be expected to provide the legalized services.

8 November, 2007
Preliminary injunction issued against state of Washington

A federal court judge in Tacoma, Washington, has issued a preliminary injunction against the state of Washington to prevent it from enforcing a regulation that requires them to dispense drugs to which they object for reasons of conscience. The plaintiffs, two pharmacists and a pharmacy, Stormans Inc., were willing to refer customers to another pharmacy to obtain the drug, but the pharmacy regulatory authority took the position that "the rule does not allow a pharmacy to refer a patient to another pharmacy to avoid filling the prescription due to moral or ethical objections." The judge ruled that there was no evidence that there was any difficulty accessing the morning after pill in the state, nor that anyone had not been able to obtain the drug within the purported 72 hour window of effectiveness. He also noted that the CEO of the Washington State Pharmacy Association "touted the wide-spread accessibility of Plan B throughout Washington." [Ruling]

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists attacks freedom of conscience

The Committee on Ethics of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has issued an opinion that conscientious objectors are ethically obliged to refer patients for abortion, contraception and other "reproductive health services." [ACOG Committee Opinion No. 385] [ACOG continues attacks on freedom of conscience (2008)]

7 November, 2007
New Jersey law attacks freedom of conscience

A new law passed in New Jersey suppresses freedom of conscience to facilitate access to prescription drugs or devices. The law imposes an obligation on pharmacy practices to dispense even drugs that are morally controversial "without delay." The law does not directly impose this duty on individual pharmacists, so it may be possible for pharmacists to work out a system of accommodation with the pharmacy owner. However, the effect of the law is to deprive pharmacy owners of freedom of conscience, something likely to be of more practical concern to small businesses than large chains. The law would also apply to the provision of lethal drugs in the event of the legalization of euthanasia or assisted suicide. [P.L. 2007, Chapter 199]

2 November, 2007
Nurse settles lawsuit against employer

A suit filed by school nurse Maria T. Sulewskiagainst the Erie County General Health District and three of its officials has been settled out of court. She had been reassigned after refusing, for reasons of conscience, to teach a sex education class. The County claimed that the reassignment was a form of accommodation, but, after she sued, she was dismissed as a school health nurse and told to report as a home health nurse. Under the terms of the settlement, Sulewski was awarded a total of $12,500.00 and given back her job. [The Morning Journal] [Lifesite] [SeeObjecting nurse files lawsuit against Ohio County]

Chilean bishops support pharmacists agains government

Following the announcement of fines to be levied against pharmacy companies (Chilean government moves aggressively against freedom of conscience in pharmacy), the president and general secretary of the Chilean Bishop's Conference, Bishop Alejandro Goic of Rancagua, spoke in support of the objecting companies. He asserted that pharmacists are entitled to exercise freedom of conscience through conscientious objection, and that it was improper for the government to be intolerant of the exercise of that freedom. [CNA]

UK secularist group opposes freedom of conscience

An editorial from Britain's National Secular Society asserts that Pope Benedict "insidiously instructed" pharmacists to preach to their customers (See Pope encourages discussion of conscientious objection among pharmacists), defended their right to conscientious objection, and encouraged them to "pass these authoritarian notions on" to those entering the profession. The editorial asserts that physicians who refuse to perform abortions "are obliged to refer their patient on" and complains that there are some who refuse to do so. Announcing that the "whole question of 'religious conscience' is getting out of hand," it suggests that the government should tell objectors, "if you don't want to do the job in its entirety, then find another one."

31 October, 2007
Politicians and others attack Pope's support for freedom of conscience

Italian Health Minister Livia Turco has stated that people should ignore Pope Benedict's plea support for freedom of conscience for pharmacists (See Pope encourages discussion of conscientious objection among pharmacists). The head of Italy's professional pharmacists' association (Federfarma) said that Italian law prohibits the exercise of freedom of conscience by pharmacists. Senator Lidia Menapace of the Italian Communist Refoundation Party described the Pope's statement as "a very heavy interference in politics and Italian life." [Reuters]

Chilean government moves aggressively against freedom of conscience in pharmacy

The Chilean government intends to fine the three largest pharmacy chains in the country 34 million pesos (US $69,000.00) each for refusing to stock or sell the morning after pill. The companies are Salcobrand, Farmacias Ahumada, and Cruz Verde. Salcobrand has posted signs that state, ""selling the morning after pill goes against our conscience and violates our rights and freedom as a company." Health Minister Soledad Barria has stated, "It is a matter of what takes precedence - the conscience of the consumer or the conscience of the pharmacy owners." She added, "The pill has already been established as indispensable for public health, and the pharmacies, like all private entities, are obligated to fulfill their promise to the public."[Santiago Times]

30 October, 2007
Chilean government threatens objecting companies

Chilean Deputy Health Minister Lidia Amarales has threatened that pharmacies that refuse to sell the morning after pill will be closed by the government. One of the pharmacy chains, Salcobrand, has protested the threat as a violation of freedom of conscience. The company is reported to be concerned about the potential embryocidal effects of the drug. [BBC]

29 October, 2007
Pope encourages discussion of conscientious objection among pharmacists

In an Address to the International Congress of Catholic Pharmacists in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI stated, "[I]t is not possible to anaesthetize consciences, for example, concerning the effects of particles whose purpose is to prevent an embryo's implantation or to shorten a person's life. . . In the moral domain, your Federation is invited to address the issue of conscientious objection, which is a right your profession must recognize, permitting you not to collaborate either directly or indirectly by supplying products for the purpose of decisions that are clearly immoral such as, for example, abortion or euthanasia."

Conscientious objection in Mexico City

It is reported that abortions are being performed in only six of 14 public hospitals in Mexico City six months after the procedure was legalized in the the capital district. Medical personnel in five hospitals have refused to be involved with the procedure, and few abortions are being performed in three hospitals because of conscientious objection by doctors and nurses [California Catholic Daily]. The situation illustrates the problems that can arise for all concerned when morally controversial procedures laws are legalized without sufficient account being taken of the need to accommodate those who object for reasons of conscience.

22 October, 2007
Connecticut controversy on Catholic hospitals and the morning after pill

Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner STD, a theologian who has taught in Franciscan universities and seminaries in the USA and Italy, states that Catholic hospitals may not provide contraceptives to rape complainants under any circumstances, even when it is clear that the effect will be contraceptive rather than embryocidal. His statements are included in a commentary on the controversy over the Connecticut Catholic Conference's approval of the use of the morning after pill by sexual assault complainants after a negative pregnancy test [Part 1; Part 2]. While his comments are described by LifeSite News as "a possibly decisive blow" in the controversy, it should be noted that even accredited theologians like Fr. Fehlner do not speak for the Catholic Church. (See Connecticut Catholic bishops conditionally approve morning after pill; Connecticut Bishop's Conference spokesman on morning after pill and emergency contraception; Controversy erupts over Connecticut Catholic Conference decision on morning after pill; Controversy continues about Connecticut Catholic Conference and morning after pill)

21 October, 2007
Eugenic and late term abortions a concern for some in United Kingdom

The Telegraph reports that 54 babies were aborted in south-west England between 2002 and 2005 because of deformities like club feet or webbed fingers or toes. At the same time, evidence taken by a Commons Committee from gynaecologist Vincent Argent, indicated that the public is becoming uneasy about eugenic and late term abortions for such minor problems. In addition, he noted that National Health Service facilities frequently set an arbitrary 12 to 16 week upper limit for abortions "because colleagues are unwilling to participate ion later abortions because of partial conscientious objection or, more often, because they just do not wish to get involved or have no interest in such practice." [Evidence] The news illustrates the importance of protection of conscience legislation. One would expect opinions among health care workers to reflect popular opinion to some extent, and it is also clear that the frequency of conscientious objection to abortion can vary according to the reasons for which it is sought.

18 October, 2007
Portuguese government demands physicians drop objections to abortion

Following the legalization of abortion in Portugal, the Portuguese Health Minister, supported by the country's Attorney General, has ordered the Portuguese Medical Association to remove the prohibition of abortion from its code of ethics. Both the Portuguese Bar Association and a former head of the Ethical Commission of the Portuguese Medical Association have denounced the order.[LifeSite]

Parents refusing to vaccinate children

An Associated Press story asserts that an increasing number of parents are refusing to vaccinate their children, and that many are falsely claiming religious exemptions because they are concerned about side effects but do not, in fact, have religious or conscientious objections to vaccination. The report emphasizes the dangers caused to others by even small numbers of people who refuse vaccinations. Dr. Paul Offit, head of infectious diseases at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia, is quoted as describing resistance to vaccination as "an irrational, fear-based decision." The report elicited a defense of parental freedom of conscience from the CEO of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations.

17 October, 2007
Assisted suicide proposed in Czech Republic

Boris Šťastný, a Civic Democratic Party (ODS) deputy in the Czech Republic, is planning to introduce a bill to legalize assisted suicide. He argues that this would be "another way of increasing people's freedom." Surveys are reported to show support for such measures in the country. [Prague Post]It does not appear that the issue of conscientious objection among health care professionals is being considered at the moment.

Priest criticizes bishops' conference decisions on morning after pill

Speaking in Wisconsin, where the Catholic bishops' conference agreed in September that Catholic hospitals can provide contraception to rape complainants if tests establish that the complainant is not pregnant[Testimony, Sept. 2007], Father Christopher Kubat, M.D., has stated that the policy is mistaken because there are no tests that can establish with certainty that conception has not occurred. He insisted that it is morally certain that "the risk of an abortion using these drugs is significant based on the scientific data presented." [The Catholic Beat] [Note: the reference to "abortion" concerns the potential embryocidal effect of the drug by preventing implantation.] By implication, the criticism can be extended to other bishops' conferences that have given qualified approval to the use of the morning after pill by rape complainants.

Progress in protection for Illinois pharmacists

The American Center for Law and Justice issued a media release to announce that the state of Illinois has agreed that the state Governor's rule requiring pharmacies to carry and dispense the morning after pill "does not apply to individual pharmacists, and that the state will never apply it to individual pharmacists." The agreement is expected to be helpful in the cases pending against Walgreens and Walmart. [See Objecting Illinois pharmacists can proceed against Wal Mart]

15 October, 2007
Wrongful death lawsuit in organ harvesting case

The Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center has agreed to pay $250,000.00 in damages to a woman whose disabled son died at the facility in 2006. The payment is the result of an out of court settlement reached in the wrong death suit filed by the woman. The suit alleged that her son was given drug overdoses to hasten his death in order to facilitate removal of his organs. Criminal charges against the physician involved are still pending. [See Transplant surgeon charged in death of patient; Wrongful death claim made in organ transplant case]

14 October, 2007
Royal College of Nurses recommends nurses perform abortions

Britain's Royal College of Nurses has asked that nurses and midwives be trained to do surgical abortions during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, and to be allowed to prescribe abortifacients like mifepristone. The RCN request is supported by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG). A spokesman for the RCOG noted that one reason for its support was "the declining number of doctors prepared to carry out abortions." [The Observer] At the same time, the RCN stated that it aknowledges and respects "nurses who have a conscientious objection to providing abortion care." [Evidence]

12 October, 2007
Queensland parliament approves human cloning

Parliament in Queensland, Australia, has voted to legalize human cloning for research purposes. The final debate on the bill included numerous references by MP's to the importance of voting in accordance with their consciences. The Research Involving Human Embryos and Prohibition of Human Cloning Act 2003, however, includes no protection of conscience provisions for health care workers, nor did the amending bill.

11 October, 2007
Illinois pharmacist lawsuit settled

A lawsuit by pharmacists against the state of Illinois will be dropped as part of a settlement reached among conscientious objectors, Walgreens Pharmacy and the state. The state has agreed not to charge Walgreens for violating a rule imposed by the Governor that would have forced pharmacists to dispense medications to which they objected for reasons of conscience. Under the terms of the settlement, the state will rescind the rule by 3 March, 2008. The new policy, to which parties to the action agreed, takes effect immediately. It makes clear that the pharmacy owner or another employee, not an objecting pharmacist, is responsible for dispensing the morning after pill or contraceptives "without delay." An objecting pharmacist's suit against Walmart for violating the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act is still going forward. [Chicago Tribune] The settlement clearly does not address freedom of conscience for pharmacy owners, which, in this case, was not in issue.

10 October, 2007
Controversy continues about Connecticut Catholic Conference and morning after pill

The Catholic Media Coalition has asked the Connecticut Catholic Conference to rescind their conditional approval of the morning after pill for complainants of sexual assault [CMC letter], while LifeSite News interviewed Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs, whose position on the issue differs from that of the Connecticut bishops [LifeSite News]

5 October, 2007
Controversy erupts over Connecticut Catholic Conference decision on morning after pill

The American Life League has attacked the Connecticut Conference Conference's conditional approval of the use of the morning after pill, describing its position as "an outrage and a crime." Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer, President, Human Life International, criticizes the statement as having been based upon errors of fact and errors of judgement, asserts that it contradicts the position of the Catholic Church (as set out in Statement on the So-Called Morning After Pill from the Pontifical Academy for Life) on the and has asked the bishops to withdraw it [Plan A: Keep "Plan B" Out of Catholic Hospitals]. In a blog entry, Matt Bowman, of the Alliance Defence Fund, asserts that the position of the Catholic Health Association on the drug is "seriously flawed," claiming that it supports the use of the morning after pill even after a positive ovulation test, citing a CHAUSA document to that effect. [Note: 2008-03-31 - The blog entry has since been deleted, though the relevant extract from it remains on LifeSite News. The cited CHAUSA document is not longer posted, and a CHAUSA statement on Emergency Contraception and Sexual Assault does not support Bowman's claims.] (See Connecticut Catholic bishops conditionally approve morning after pill; Connecticut Bishop's Conference spokesman on morning after pill and emergency contraception)

4 October, 2007
Celebrity hospital at odds with Cardinal

Cormac Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor has instructed St. John and St. Elizabeth's Hospital, an ostensibly Catholic institution founded in 1858, to revise its code of ethics to conform to Catholic teaching against contraception, abortion, and other procedures deemed immoral by the Church. The hospital has become prominent as an institution serving celebrities. Medical staff are reported to be willing to defy the direction. Should the hospital refuse to conform to the teaching of the Church, the Cardinal could declare that it is no longer a Catholic institution. for effective monitoring and enforcement for the code. [CNA]

3 October, 2007
US Supreme Court refuses review of New York judgement against freedom of conscience

New York's Women's Health and Wellness Act of 2002 demands that artificial contraception be subsidized by employers who offer employee drug plans, even if the employer objects to contraception for reasons of conscience. The law included a limited exemption for religious institutions that mainly serve their own adherents, but the exemption is too narrow to apply to many Catholic entities. Catholic Charities of New York and jother religious groups challenged the law, but their case was rejected by the New York Court of Appeals. The US Supreme Court has now refused to hear an appeal of that ruling. It appears that groups opposed to contraception will have to cancel employee drug plans completely if they do not want to fund it.

2 October, 2007
Washington State pharmacists seek injunction to protect freedom of conscience

Two Christian pharmacists and a pharmacy owner in Washington who are suing the Washington State Pharmacy Board and the state's Human Rights Commission are seeking an injunction to protect them in the exercise of their freedom of conscience pending trial. The suit against the Board and Commission was launched after the Board made regulations that would force the plaintiffs to dispense drugs to which they object for reasons of conscience, and the Commission wrote a statement claiming that the exercise of freedom of conscience by pharmacists who object to the morning after pill was 'gender discrimination'. [One News Now]

Connecticut Bishop's Conference spokesman on morning after pill and emergency contraception

Barry Feldman, identified as the Senior Vice Presidents and General Counsel for Hartford's St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Connecticut, and the spokesman for the Connecticut Catholic Conference (CCC), is reported to have denied that "Plan B", the morning-after pill and emergency contraception all refer to the same drug. He is quoted in an interview by LifeSite News to the effect. According to the report, he said, "The morning after pill is an abortion pill. Plan B is an emergency contraception pill. And although there may be some likenesses in regard to the (sic) some of the ingredients within the pills, they are really two totally separate mechanisms, totally separate medications." [LifeSite] It appears that he may have confused mifepristone (RU486) with the morning after pill, which has a different mechanism of action. Such comments cause problems not only for conscientious objectors but for others interested in understanding the issues in the controversy. (See Connecticut Catholic bishops conditionally approve morning after pill)

Irish bishop calls for legalization of abortion

During a sermon at a service celebrating the opening of a new law term, Church of Ireland Bishop Michael Burrows has criticized the "systemic spinelessness" of the Irish politicians because they have not legalized abortion. [The Irish Times] Legalization of the procedure would have significant implications for conscientious objectors, who, in 2000, were said to form the majority of the country's medical profession. [Conscientious Objection in Ireland]

1 October, 2007
Objectors may be prosecuted in England and Wales

Under the Mental Capacity Act, which comes into force in England and Wales today, doctors or nurses who are not prepared to cause the death of patients by withdrawing food and fluids may be disciplined or prosecuted criminally. [The Telegraph]

Wait for abortions in Ottawa blamed on funding shortage

Articles in Canada's Globe and Mail and Ottawa Citizen have described long waits for abortion in the Ottawa area, up to six weeks in the summer. However, both articles attribute the delay to a lack of funding for the procedure and a shortage of available nurses, doctors and operating rooms, not to conscientious objection by health care workers. The Globe article stated explicitly that doctors were willing to provide the service. The explanation is interesting in light of continual claims by pro-abortion advocates that freedom of conscience threatens to compromise access to abortion.