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Protection of Conscience Project

Service, not Servitude
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January-March, 2008


27 March, 2008
Scots MP seeks assisted suicide

Independent MSP Margo MacDonald has asked for the legalization of assisted suicide. MacDonald suffers from Parkinson's Disease. [Scotsman, 27 March]

25 March, 2008
Wisconsin court demands referral by objector

A three-judge panel of Wisconsin's Barron County Circuit Court has acknowledged that pharmacists may refuse to dispense medications for reasons of conscience, but found that pharmacist Neil Noesen had "abandoned even the necessary steps necessary to perform in a minimally competent manner under any standard of care." It also ruled that objecting pharmacists are obliged to refer patients elsewhere. The decision was made in an appeal of punishment imposed by a disciplinary tribunal. Noeson had refused to dispense birth control pills and also refused to transfer her prescription elsewhere. [AP story] [CitizenLink] [See Referral: A False Compromise]

19 March, 2008
California judge dismisses case against protective law

A judge of the U.S. District Court in northern California has dismissed a suite brought by the state against the federal Hyde-Weldon Amendment. The Amendment protects freedom of conscience for health care workers by denying federal funds to states that discriminate against a health care providers or institutions that refuse to offer abortions or refer patients for abortions. The judge ruled that the case could not proceed because the state had failed to demonstrate that the federal law had caused any harm to the state.

18 March, 2008
Protection of conscience measure fails in Indiana

Senate Bill 3, which passed the Indiana Senate, has been defeated in the state's House of Representatives. The bill would have enacted statutory protection for pharmacists who object to dispensing a medication for reasons of conscience.

17 March, 2008
Pending Colorado bills threaten freedom of conscience in health care

Three bills pending in Colorado threaten the independence of health care institutions, especially those operated by religious denominations that object to some procedures that are legal, but which they consider immoral. LifeSite News asserts that the bills were introduced because of plans by a Catholic health care system to purchase controlling interest in two hospitals. HB1173 would allow courts to direct charitable institutions, including hospitals, how to spend their money. HB1203 would prohibit arrangements between hospitals that would restrict access to abortion and sterilization. SB182 would require hospitals to provide whatever services the state deemed "essential." The result could be that Catholic hospitals would be forced to close if they failed to operate in ways the state thought appropriate. [See Catholic archbishop opposes repressive legislation]

British physicians directed to disclose publicly objections in advance

The General Medical Council has issued a guideline, Personal Beliefs and Medical Practice, in which British physicians are told that they must disclose to patients if there are any procedures that are not prohibited by law, but which they will not provide for reasons of conscience. The patient must also be told that he has the right to see another doctor [The Times]. This is not problematic within the context of the exercise of freedom of conscience. However, the guideline goes on to state that an objecting physician must ensure that the patient has enough information to be able to exercise that right, and puts the onus on the physician to make arrangements for someone else to take over when that it not practical. What constitutes "enough information" is left unclear, and, elsewhere, this tack is being taken by those attempting to force physicians to facilitate procedures that they find objectionable. This kind of strategy may be what lies behind the claim that the objecting physician must find someone, presumably with a different view, if the patient cannot do so himself. This is unacceptable, as is the demand that physicians act against their conscientious convictions in unspecified circumstances.

ACOG attack on freedom of conscience challenged by US Health Secretary

In a letter to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, US Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt has challenged the ACOG ethics committee report (The Limits of Conscience Refusal in Reproductive Medicine), pointing out that it appears to put the certification of physicians in jeopardy if they are unwilling to perform or refer for abortion or other "objectionable actions." Leavitt reminded the ACOG of protective legislation at the federal level, suggesting that enforcement of the ACOG committee report would have adverse consequences not only for the objecting physicians, but for entities that depend upon federal funding.

14 March, 2008
Objecting parents fined and threatened with jail in Belgium

Parents in two Belgian families have been fined€4,100 and sentenced to five months in prison because they have refused to allow their children to be vaccinated against polio. As a result of privacy laws, the reason for their refusal has not been disclosed. Elsewhere, parents who have refused vaccinations for their children have been motivated either by concerns about possible side-effects, or by objections to the use of vaccines obtained from deliberately aborted infants.

10 March, 2008
Objecting Montana pharmacist cleared of complaints

Complaints filed against John Lane of Broadus, Montana, have been dismissed by the state's regulatory authority. For reasons of conscience, Broadus had refused to sell the morning after pill. When his position became public, complaints were filed against him. [News Release]

British Medical Association and assisted suicide

Delegates to the annual conference of the British Medical Association voted 65% to 35% to maintain the Association's formal opposition to physician assisted suicide, and also voted against the legalization of euthanasia in Britain. The vote illustrates the need for robust and comprehensive protection of conscience measures should such procedures ever be legalized. [Sky News]

6 March, 2008
Catholic hospital succumbs to litigation

The Seton Medical Center in Daly City, California, has agreed to provide breast implantation surgery for a man seeking a sex-change. A memo issued in 2006 stated that the hospital would not provide sex-change procedures because they are contrary to Catholic teaching. The hospital refused to provide breast implant surgery to a man in 2006, as a result of which he sued the hospital. In a confusing about-face, apparently caused by the civil suit, Seton has stated that the man and his physician are welcome at the Center. At the same time, the Center purports to prohibit "sex reversal" surgery.

Oregon announces regulations on morning-after pill

The Oregon Department of Human Services has established regulations to enforce a law that requires all hospitals to inform patients about the morning after pill and about their right to receive it upon request. Hospitals operated by religious denominations opposed to contraception or embryocide are generally unwilling to offer the drug to women. Catholic hospitals make exceptions for rape complainants when it is morally certain that the drug will not prevent implantation of an existing embryo.

4 March, 2008
Catholic hospital sued to force it to perform eugenic abortion

A Jesuit hospital in Bogota, Columbia, has been sued by a woman demanding that it abort her child, now in the sixth month of gestation. The infant is reported to be seriously deformed, but the San Ignacio University Hospital 's position is that the abnormalities are not lethal, and that it would be contrary to Catholic teaching to provide an abortion. The Colombian Supreme Court has authorized abortion in the the case of fetal deformity.


28 February, 2008
Freedom of conscience threatened in Spain

If elected, the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party plans to limit protection of conscience measures that now protect medical professionals who do not wish to provide or facilitate procedures to which they object for reasons of conscience. [CW News]

27 February, 2008
Catholic archbishop opposes repressive legislation

Catholic Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver, Colorado, is speaking out against state legislation intended to suppress freedom of conscience in health care. The bills were put forward was a result of the plans of the [Catholic] Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System to buy two Denver hospitals, which would then be bound by Catholic ethical directives that prohibit abortion and contraception. "The Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth got into the healthcare business because of the Gospel; because of their Catholic vocation to serve the sick, poor and suffering. They can't compromise their Catholic beliefs without undermining their whole mission."
[Catholic News Agency]

22 February, 2008
Resignation of hospital board to preserve Catholicity of institution

Cormac Cardinal Murphy O'Connor has asked for the resignation of the board of directors of St. John's and St. Elizabeth's Catholic Hospital in London to ensure that implementation of a Catholic code of ethics, thus ensuring that the hospital would cease facilitation of abortion, contraception and artificial reproduction. The Cardinal has no legal power to dismiss the board. His decision has been questioned by a group that has been working to restore the institution's Catholicity.

20 February, 2008
Euthanasia bill passes in Luxembourg

A bill to legalize euthanasia has passed first reading in the Luxembourg parliament. Passage of the bill would make Luxembourg the third the third European nation to legalize the procedure and could adversely affect health care professionals opposed to it for reasons of conscience.

Pro-Life OB-GYN association defends freedom of conscience

The American Association of ProLife Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) has rejected the claim by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology that objecting physicians are ethically obliged to refer for abortion. Dr. Joe DeCook of AAPLOG notes that ACOG has also revised certification standards for doctors, tying them to compliance with the ACOG demands. "This is a raw power play to cripple, and ultimately eliminate from practice, those doctors who hold a conscience conviction on the sanctity of human life."[]

19 February, 2008
New York bill may force abortion on Catholic hospitals

The Governor of the State of New York is urging the state legislature to make abortion a positive "right" by passing the Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act (RHPPA). The government states that the act would ensure that a woman has a right to an abortion at any point prior to viability or when necessary to preserve her life or health. The Catholic bishops in New York are opposing the measure. Among their concerns is the belief that establishing abortion as a legal "right" will ultimately result in the suppression of conscientious objection and the refusal to license hospitals that refuse to facilitiate abortion.

18 February, 2008
Missouri bill seeks protection for pharmacists

Missouri House Bill 1625 offers protection for pharmacies in the state that refuse to dispense drugs or devices that are abortifacients, and identifies not only RU486 (Mifepristone), but the morning after pill (Plan B) as abortifacient. The bill appears to be a response to HB 1720, which would suppress freedom of conscience by requiring pharmacies to dispense drugs like Plan B without delay. The key question about whether or not the morning after pill can cause the death of a embryo by preventing implantation tends to be obscured when opposing parties focus on whether or not the drug ought to be classified as an abortifacient.

15 February, 2008
Washington court decision protects pharmacists

A Washington judge who granted an injunction against state rules suppressing freedom of conscience for pharmacists has refused the state's petition to confine the application of the injunction to the case of the two pharmacists who took the state to court on the issue. The judge commented that it appeared that the issue is being driven by the mutual antagonism of the parties to the case, not by desire for sound health care policy. [KOMO]

13 February, 2008
More pressure likely to fall on objectors in South Africa

The Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill has been passed by a special session of the South African National Assembly. The new law allows abortion without parental consent for girls as young as 12, lays the groundwork for 24 hour abortion facilities, eliminates requirements for approval of the procedure and authorizes nurses and midwives to perform abortions. The bill was originally passed in 2004, but was struck down in 2006 by the Constitutional Court as a result of a case brought by Doctors for Life International. DFL International successfully argued that the public had not been adequately consulted and that the act did not provide for accommodation of conscientious objection by medical personnel. Legalization of abortion in South Africa has caused problems for health care workers opposed to the procedure for reasons of conscience. [See South Africa Changes Abortion Law; No Place for Abortion in African Traditional Life - Some Reflections; South African nurse denied position]

11 February, 2008
Indiana protection of conscience bill moves to House

Senate Bill 3, a protection of conscience measure for pharmacists, has passed the state Senate and must now be approved by the House of Representatives to become law. []

7 February, 2008
Repressive measure fails in South Dakota

South Dakota Senate Bill 164, which would have abolished the current protection of conscience law for pharmacists, has been defeated. Current state law protects pharmacists who refuse to sell a drug that may cause the death of an embryo. [Dakota Voice]

6 February, 2008
Conscientious objection claimed illegal in Italy

The president of the Italian medical association is reported to have said that there is no legal basis for conscientious objection by physicians in Italy, apart from "abortion and a few in-vitro fertilization techniques." [CWNews]


15 January, 2008
Canadian abortion activist recognizes freedom of conscience for physicians

Henry Morgantaler, the Canadian physician who defied the law and was eventually successful in having all restrictions on abortion in Canada removed, was interviewed by the National Review of Medicine to mark the 20th anniversary of his Supreme Court victory. When asked, "Should doctors be allowed to conscientiously object to performing an abortion?" he said, "Yes. One fundamental reason is that doctors should not be obliged to do things which they don't approve of themselves, and secondly, a more practical reason, a doctor who doesn't believe in it is more likely not to do a good job." [National Review of Medicine]

4 January, 2008
Lawsuit filed to stop compulsory vaccination

Lieutenant Commander Joseph J. Healy has filed suite against the U.S. Coast Guard. Due to his opposition to abortion and Catholic faith, he asked for exemption from an order requiring all active-duty personnel to be vaccinated against Hepatitis A with a vaccine derived from a child electively aborted at 14 weeks gestation. His request was rejected by a Coast Guard officer who decided that the immunizations were not contrary to Catholic teaching. [ADF News Release]