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Protection of Conscience Project

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January-March, 2011


31 March, 2011
Idaho Senate passes amendment to protection of conscience law

An amendment to a protection of conscience law passed last year in Idaho has been approved by the state Senate and will now go to the state governor for his signature. The amendment requires physicians who object to provisions of advance directives for reasons to concience to adhere to the provisions of Idaho's exiting living will law. In effect, they will be required to refer patients for treatment that they find morally objectionable. Those opposed to freedom of conscience in these circumstances continue to be dissatisfied with the amendment and are urging the governor not to sign the bill. [Spokesman Review: editorial; article]

US Dept. of Health and Human Services misrepresents federal conscience laws

Update 26 May, 2011, courtesy Jonathon Imbody, Christian Medical Association:

". . . the HHS Office of Civil Rights (OCR) now includes links to three conscience laws. The explanation also includes a fuller detail of the law than . . . previously noted, with wording that reflects the Church amendment, part (d): "... coerced into performing procedures that you find religiously or morally objectionable..."

Update 25 August, 2011

The website now accurately states that the amendments were intended "to prohibit recipients of certain federal funds from discriminating against health care providers based on their refusal to participate in certain health care services they find religiously or morally objectionable."

The US Department of Health and Human Services is the agency that revoked much of a protection of conscience regulation enacted by the previous administration, and is "designated to receive complaints of discrimination based on the Federal Health Care Conscience Protection Statutes." It is also supposed to undertake public education and outreach on freedom of conscience in health care. However, its website misrepresents the Church Amendments, stating that they "were enacted . . . to protect the conscience rights of individuals and entities that object to performing or assisting in the performance of abortion or sterilization procedures," while leaving out reference to other services and procedures contained in the Amendments. [Reconfirmed 11 April 2011].

The Department appears to have overlooked other relevant federal statutes, some of which refer to procedures other than abortion:

American activist group and UNFPA attack freedom of conscience

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), an American activist organization with multi-national connections, has joined the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in attacking freedom of conscience among health care workers who object to contracption for moral or ethical reasons. The two organizations have produced a briefing paper that asserts that access to contraception is a human right, a claim that the CRR has privately admitted is unsupported by international law [See Secret Memos]. They deny that freedom of conscience can be exercised by any group of people operating through an institution, demand that governments regulate the practice of conscientious objection, demand that objectors refer for the procedures to which they object, and demand other restrictions upon the exercise of freedom of conscience. A number of these demands have been rejected by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which reacted to them by affirming the importance of freedom of conscience [See Resolution 1763 and linked documents].

30 March, 2011
Freedom of Conscience Act passes South Carolina lower house

The House of Representatives in South Carolina has passed HB3408, the Freedom of Conscience Act. The bill provides protection for employees, health care institutions, health care providers, insurers and students who refuse, for reasons of conscience, to perform or otherwise facilitate procedures that involve embryo experimentation or destruction, that involve the use of tissue obtained by abortion, or that result in the death of an individual. Objectors are required to provide written notice of their objections. The bill now moves to the state Senate for consideration.

29 March, 2011
Manifesto suggests conflicts of conscience likely in Argentina

A public statement against proposed legalization of abortion has been signed by 78 obstetrician/gynaecologists in Argentina. The statement indicates that conflicts of conscience are likely to arise in the medical profession if the procedure is legalized.

28 March, 2011
Controversial Philippines bill still not passed

A controversial "reproductive health" and population management bill (commonly known as the "RH Bill") has failed to pass during the spring session of the Philippines House of Representatives, but is likely to be taken up again in May. The bill poses a significant threat to freedom of conscience [See " Philippines RH Bill: the shape of things to come?" ].

25 March, 2011
Health care bureaucrat warns professionals about public comments

Medical professionals in Alberta are being warned that they should not publicly express "personal" views about health care delivery in the province. The wanring came from Stephen Duckett, who is leaving his position as CEO of Alberta Health Services, the government agency that runs the province's public health care system. There have been reports that health care workers concerned about problems have been "muzzled" and "bullied" to prevent them from speaking out. [Canadian Health Care Network] The issue of freedom of expression may be related to that of freedom of conscience, since suppression of the former could be indicative of hostility to the latter.

Anglican bishop warns against threat to freedom of conscience

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, former Anglican Bishop of Rochester, England, has warned that aggressive secularism is leading to an "encroaching totalitarianism" that has become a threat to freedom of conscience. [The Christian Institute]

24 March, 2011
Technological innovations may facilitate accommodation

About 30% to 35% of Nova Scotia's general practitioners use some kind of electronic medical records system, and the province plans to double that number in three years. Using digitalized records and the internet it is possible to provide consultations, prescriptions and other services to patients. [Canadian Healthcare Network] The technological advances may make it easier to accommodate freedom of conscience in health care while providing patients with access to services.

23 March, 2011
Utah has new protection of conscience law

The Governor of Utah has signed House Bill 353, the Abortion Freedom of Conscience Act.

Secularism and freedom of conscience and religion

In a 15-2 ruling, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights reversed a lower court decision and affirmed that crucifixes may be displayed in public school classrooms in Italy. The majority judgement turned on what European jurisprudence refers to as the "margin of appreciation" - the extent to which member states of the European Union may be permitted to maintain cultural and national traditions within the context of legal obligations incurred by membership in the Union. However, concurring judgements filed by Judges Bonello and Power directly addressed the relationship between secularism and freedom of conscience and religion. Their observations and arguments are of particular interest because they challenged the frequent claim that only secular and not religious beliefs should be permitted to influence public conduct. [Case of Lautsi and Others vs. Italy]

18 March, 2011
Remote dispensing indicates possiblity of accommodation of pharmacists

Prescription medications in Ontario can now be provided through MedCentre, an automated pharmacy dispensing system designed and manufactured in the province. Pharmacists at the head office of Pharma Trust manage and staff the system and provide service in 11 languages around the clock. Patients access the service at kiosks, where they enter their prescriptions and confer with a pharmacist by videophone. The pharmacist reviews the prescription and can then authorize the system to release the drugs. [Canadian Healthcare Network] Systems of this kind could be used to accommodate pharmacists who object to dispensing a drug for reasons of conscience, while ensuring patient access to the drug.

17 March , 2011
Protection of conscience bill introduced in US House of Representatives

HR1179, Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011, has been introduced in the US House of Representatives. The purposes of the bill are "to ensure that health care stakeholders retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions, without fear of being penalized or discriminated against" and "to ensure that no requirement in PPACA creates new pressures to exclude those exercising such conscientious objection from health plans or other programs under PPACA." However, the bill includes provisions to protect individual health care workers.

16 March, 2011
Medical students and professionals protest weakening of conscience protection

American Medical Students for Life, Students for Life, representatives of the Christian Medical Association, Catholic Medical Association and the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists have written a letter to Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, to protest the weakening of a protection of conscience regulation. They are seeking a meeting with the Secretary to discuss their concerns. The letter is available on-line and readers can add their names to support it.

9 March, 2011
Amendment to protection of conscience law passes Idaho House

House Bill 187, an amendment to the Freedom of Conscience for Health Care Professionals Act, has passed the State House of Representatives. Critics of the Act believe that the bill does not go far enough, even though it would force objecting physicians facilitate what they consider to be morally objectionable conduct by referral. (KTRV TV)

Remote dispensing plan demonstrates possibility of accommodation

An idea that is being criticized by some pharmacists nonetheless demonstrates one method of accommodating of freedom of conscience in the profession. The Government of Nunavut, one of Canada's northern territories, is considering a plan to have health centre and hospital prescriptions handled electronically by clinical pharmacists in Ottawa. The scheme would use e-health telecommunications to connect patients to Ottawa General Hospital. [Canada Health Care Network] If access to prescriptions can be managed in this fashion, there seems no reason to believe that it could not be used as one way to accommodate of freedom of conscience among pharmacists while preserving patient access to drugs.

Study demonstrates difference between public, physician attitudes in UK

A 2007 British Social Attitudes survey found up to 80 percent of the British public supported voluntary euthanasia by physicians in cases of terminal illness, and up to 60 percent agreed with physician assisted suicide in the same circumstances. However, a new study has disclosed that the majority physicians in the United Kingdom have been consistently opposed to both practices for at least twenty years. [Medical News Today] [Attitudes of UK doctors towards euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide: A systematic literature review]. The findings demonstrate that legalization of the procedures would likely generate conflicts of conscience among many in the medical profession.

7 March, 2011
Indian Supreme Court rejects call to withdraw food and fluids

The Supreme Court has rejected an attempt by a journalist to have food and fluids withdrawn from a comatose patient in order to cause her death. The patient, Aruna Shanbaug, has been cared for in Mumbai's King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital for 37 years. The Court accepted what it called "passive euthanasia" if carried out under court supervision. By this is appears to mean the withdrawal of life support, but it is not clear whether or not this refers only to extraordinary or burdensome measures. The court ruled that journalist was not in a position to compel hospital staff to withdraw of food and fluids because the relationship of hospital staff caring for Shanbaug was closer than that of the journalist. [Indo-Asian News Service]

American Civil Liberties Union opposes freedom of conscience

The American Civil Liberties Union has expressed opposition to Alaskan Senate Bill 14, which would ensure respect for freedom of conscience of heatlh care employees who have notified employers of their objections to services or procedures. Other opponents of the bill are afraid that it might undermine a state Supreme Court ruling that forced a Catholic hospital in the state to permit abortion on its premises. [Fairbanks Daily News Miner]

Hostility to religious freedom evident in Europe

Speaking in Malta, Professor Roger Trigg, Academic Director of the Centre for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Kellogg College, Oxford, and an Advisor to the Protection of Conscience Project, addressed the theme "Free to Believe? A Religious Conscience in a Secular Society." The lecture drew on thoughts developed in the publication Freedom to Believe, published by Theos. Professor Trigg noted that religious viewpoints are frequently not respected or even accommodated, citing the threat by the Irish government to criminally prosecute marriage registrars unwiling to register 'marriages' by same-sex couples. He said that European authorities are inclined to see relgion as a threat that must be controlled. "What is developing is not neutrality but often hostility to religion, with an ideology of human rights taking its place," he said. [Times of Malta]

1 March, 2011
Amendment to protection of conscience law passes committee in Idaho

The Idaho House State Affairs Committee has approved what is termed a narrow amendment to the Freedom of Conscience for Health Care Professionals Act contained in House Bill 187. The bill will move to the full House for a vote.[Spokesman Review] The amendment states that in cases involving a living will or similar orders, a physician who objects to proceeding with the specified treatment for reasons of conscience must comply with section 39-4513(2), Idaho Code. This requires the objecting physician to help the patient find another physician willing to do what the patient wishes. In cases where the concern arises from a belief that what is wanted amounts to euthanasia, the objecting physician is, in effect, required to find another physician willing to provide the service. This would not be acceptable to some objecting physicians because of concern that they would be morally complicit in the act. The provision goes beyond what can be found in some existing euthanasia and assisted suicide statutes, which require only that an objecting physician cooperate in a patient-initiated transfer of care. Nonetheless, opponents of the Act are not satisfied even with this amendment. [AARP news release]


25 February, 2011
Freedom of conscience suppressed for Irish pharmacists

The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI) demands that pharmacists must dispense the morning-after pill or refer patients for the medication even if they object to doing so because of concerns that the drug may have an embryocidal effect. [Iona Institute][Irish Catholic]

23 February, 2011
Idaho legislators refuse to accept revision of protection of conscience law

Idaho's House State Affairs Committee has rejected one of three bills that would amend the state's Freedom of Conscience for Health Care Professionals Act. The bill was supported by the American Association of Retired People because of concerns that the state law will override living wills and advance directives. [AARP news release] One editorial held that health care workers who wish to practise according to their conscientious convictions should leave the state, but suggests that, at present, the Act should be amended. [Spokesman Review]

22 February, 2011
Controverial Philippines reproductive health bills consolidated

Six different reproductive health (RH) bills, all controversial, have been combined in the Philippines House of Representatives to produce House Bill 4244, "The Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2011." The single bill, which includes a number of passages that are problematic from the perspective of freedom of conscience, will now be considered by the House. [Philippines Star]

21 February, 2011
Controversy continues in Idaho over protection of conscience law

Three bills have been proposed to amend Idaho's Freedom of Conscience for Health Care Professionals Act. The bills are driven by concerns that the Act would permit health care workers to refuse to abide by advance directives. Rep. Tom Loertscher, chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, was a co-sponsor of the Act. He is reported to be refusing to hold hearings on the new bills because he believes hat they would undermine its provisions. He conceded that his concern was that patient-directed disconnection of ventilators or feeding tubes could be considered suicide. [Spokesman Review]

18 February, 2011
German Medical Association proposes change to approach to assisted suicide

The German Medical Association, which hitherto has considered physician involvement in suicide a violation of medical ethics, has proposed new guidelines that state that participation in assisted suicide is not a medical duty. This continues to afford protection to physicians who object to assisted suicide. The approach is being interpreted as a method of providing greater freedom of conscience within the profession. [De-World]

New American regulation generates protests

Americans United for Life has protested the revision of a federal protection of conscience regulation by the Obama administration. "The protection of the basic civil right to provide care without participating in life-destructive activities must not be dependent on the whims of an Administration that has made expanding abortion central to its mission." [AUL news release]

US Catholic bishops disappointed by weakening conscience protections

The announcement by the Obama administration of the revocation of important parts of a federal protection of conscience regulation has disappointed American Catholic bishops. However, spokesman for the bishops welcomed the administration's claim that it would work to increase awareness of protection of conscience laws and ensure compliance with them. [USCCB News Release][CNA]

Obama administration replaces conscience regulation

The Department of Health and Human Services has announced a new regulation to replace one enacted by the Bush administration to ensure protection of conscience in health care. The regulation will come into force in 30 days. The Department received over 300,000 comments on its proposal to revoke the Bush regulation, 187,000 of which (62%) were opposed to revocation. The Department states that it "seeks to strengthen existing health care provider conscience statutes by retaining that part of the 2008 Final Rule that established an enforcement process," while rescinding "those parts of the 2008 Final Rule that were unclear and potentially overbroad in scope." It insists that the "partial rescission . . . does not alter or affect the federal statutory health care provider conscience protections." [HHS Commentary] [CNS News] [Washington Post] [Christian Post]

16 February, 2011
Members of Congress write in defence of freedom of conscience

46 members of the US House of Representatives have written a letter to the Health and Human Services Secretary to defend protection of conscience regulations for health care workers. They cite recent cases involving attacks on freedom of conscience in health care and ask the Secretary to explain if the Department has complied with existing law by requiring certification of compliance by the institutions alleged to have violated federal statutes. [News release]

13 February, 2011
Opponent of freedom of conscience would impose eugenic obligation

Julian Salvulescu, a professor of ethics at Oxford University who is opposed to freedom of conscience for health care workers [BMJ, 2006], argues that society has a moral obligation to use in vitro fertilization and screen embryos to ensure that they will have a high IQ (Sunday Herald Sun). Presumably he would insist that health care workers be compelled to facilitate the process if it were adopted.

9 February, 2011
Policy change by Saskatchewan regulator generates confusion

The approval of a policy revision concerning abortion by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan is generating concern and confusion among some medical professionals and inaccurate claims in the media. The guideline, approved Friday, is titled "Guideline: Unplanned Pregnancy." News reports suggest or even assert that the guideline states that objecting physicians must refer patients for abortion [Star Phoenix, National Post, Edmonton Sun], but that is not the case.

Protection of conscience measures in assisted suicide bill

The Montana Senate Bill 167 (Montana Death with Dignity Act) includes some protection of conscience provisions that extend to all health care workers and institutions, including pharmacists. Referral is not required, but objecting individuals and institutions must transfer records upon request. However, objecting institutions cannot prevent referrals from their premises, and legal protection for objectors is more limited than that provided for participants.

American medical students launch tour to protect freedom of conscience

Medical Students for Life (Med SFLA) will tour 19 states in 14 days during February and March, giving presentations to students and the public at 22 medical schools to alert them to threats to freedom of conscience in health care posed by the current U.S. administration.

7 February, 2011
Nurses under increasing pressure to violate conscientious convictions

Marylee Meehan, president of the International Catholic Committee of Nurses and Medical-Social Assistants, or CICIAMS, notes that Catholic nurses worldwide are facing what she calls "a worldwide erosion of spiritual and moral standards in their profession." She states that nurses unwilling to participate in abortion may be denied employment, and other are afraid to speak out because they may be fired. [CNA/EWTN]

4 February, 2011
Attack on freedom of conscience in US healthcare said "imminent"

Bill Saunders of Americans United for Life is warning that an attack on protection of conscience laws in the United States is "imminent." He reminds readers that the Obama administration filed court documents indicating that the revocation of a protection of conscience regulation would take place between the end of January and the beginning of March, 2011. [LifeNews]

Philippines bishops raise prospect of civil disobedience

At least two Catholic bishops in the Philippines have warned that if the Reproductive Health bill (RH bill) passes in its current form they will not obey the law and will encourage civil disobedience. [GMA News] The warning indicates the probability of conflicts of conscience arising in health care professions if the bill becomes law. [See Philippines "RH Bill": the shape of things to come?]

3 February, 2011
Using new American health law to force free contraceptive coverage

The American health care reform law passed last year states that health insurance plans must provide "preventive health services" free of charge. The Obama administration is reported to be planning to use the law to force insurers to provide free contraceptives. It is clear that such a requirement would suppress freedom of conscience of employers and insurers who have moral or religious objections to contraception or abortifacient or embryocidal drugs or devices that are often marketed as contraceptives. [New York Times]

2 February, 2011
Health care workers resisting demand to end life of patient

Dr Sanjay Oak, dean, of King Edward Memorial hospital in Mumbai, India, has expressed his opposition to an attempt by a journalist and lawyer to end the life of Aruna Shanbaug, a patient in the hospital. [See Journalist seeks euthanasia for patient in India]. "We have no moral right to terminate her life. I am certainly against euthanasia for Shanbaug." [DNA]

1 February, 2011
Philippines President affirms support for freedom of conscience

Philippines Health Secretary Enrique Ona is reported to be drafting a Responsible Parenthood Bill that President Aquino will submit to Congress as an alternative to the consolidated bill now called An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population Development and for Other Purposes. (popularly, "the RH bill"). According to a presidential spokesman, Aquino supports freedom of conscience. "If there are provisions to that effect in the RH bill where one is compelled to do an act in violation of his conscience, then that is certainly a provision that is against the position of the President . . . In fact, the President is of the belief that there should be penal sanctions against those that seek to impose on someone to violate his own conscience." [Philippines Star] Meanwhile, a committee of the House of Representatives has consolidated six previous bills with a view to proceeding with the consolidated version. [Philippines Star] [See Philippines "RH Bills": the shape of things to come?]

Refusal of Idaho pharmacist criticized

Commentator Wesley J. Smith, who supports freedom of conscience in health care in principle, has commented that the Idaho Case of Pharmacist Refusal was not a legitimate exercise of freedom of conscience by the pharmacist. [See Investigation of Idaho pharmacist concluded]


31 January, 2011
Philippines reproductive health bills consolidated, opposed by Catholic Church

Several reproductive health bills before the Philippines House of Representatives Committee on Population and Family Relations have been consolidated into a single bill, An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population Development and for Other Purposes. The text of the new bill is apparently not yet available. The Catholic bishops of the country have issued a pastoral letter strongly stating their opposition to the bill, noting that the sanctions and penalties affecting freedom of conscience and conscientious objection "are one more reason for us to denounce it."[Philippine Star] [See Philippines "RH Bills": the shape of things to come?]

28 January, 2011
Slovak hospital policy confusion about abortion

Officials implementing "a new philosophy" in three gynaecological and obstetrical clinics associated with Bratislava University Hospital recently circulated a notice that the clinics would cease providing abortions on 1 February. It appears that some physicians among the 80 gynaecologists working in the clinics disagreed with the change and notified the media about what they called "a mysterious unofficial decision." As a result of the publicity, the policy was reversed and the clinics will continue providing abortions, although the practice is contrary to the "new philosophy." [TASR; Slovak Spectator - 26 January, 27 January, 28 January] It seems that the developments are related to conscientious objection to abortion by many physicians in the clinics.

25 January, 2011
Investigation of Idaho pharmacist concluded

The Idaho Board of Pharmacy has ruled that no action will be taken against an Idaho pharmacist who refused to fill a prescription for Methergrine, a drug that may be prescribed to control bleeding after an abortion. News reports indicate that the pharmacist wanted to know if that was the reason for the prescription, and was apparently motivated in refusing to fill the prescription by that possibility. The Board ruled that the state Pharmacy Act does not require pharmacists to fill prescriptions, that the patient had obtained the drug elsewhere and was thus not in grave danger, and, finally, that the pharmacist had been given no information "that would have reasonably led [him/her] to believe that any type of emergency existed." [Idaho Press-Tribune; Board of Pharmacy letter] It is impossible to see how the pharmacist could have reasonably concluded that filling the prescription would have implicated him/her in an abortion done previously, even if that were the cause of the bleeding. As a result, the incident has generated strident attacks on policies and laws that accommodate the conscientious convictions of pharmacists, and is being cited as a reason to deny pharmacists freedom of conscience. [See, for example, Sun Sentinel, RH Reality Check, Sexy Feminist]

Catholic health care group supports protection of conscience bills

The proposed federal protection of conscience bills [HR358 Protect Life Act, HR361 Abortion Non-Discrimination Act of 2011] are being supported by the Alliance of Catholic Health Care, which represents 53 California Catholic and community-based affiliated hospitals providing nearly 16 percent of all California in-patient acute care. [News release]

24 January, 2011
British physician proposes abortion law as model for assisted suicide

Dr. Ann McPherson, described as "one of the best known GPs in the country," is the leader of a group of British professionals who want to legalize assisted suicide. Formation of the group was announced in October, 2010, as "Health Care Professionals for Change." It has since been renamed "Health Care Professionals for Assisted Death." It includes "19 professors, 32 consultants and 145 doctors," among whom are some who are prominent in the medical profession and academe. Dr. McPherson insists that the official organizations representing the medical do no accurately reflect the views of their members on the subject, and that "[T]he profession is out of step with the public" on the subject. She believes that assisted suicide will eventually be legalized, and suggests that the British Abortion Act (which requires two physicians to approve an abortion) affords a model for the process. [The Independent] The group has not taken a position with respect to freedom of conscience for those who object to euthanasia and assisted suicide. This is an important point, since the protection of conscience provision in the Abortion Act has proved inadequate. [See, for example, Access to Appointments, Question of Conscience, Abortion Law Reform]

Catholic bishops in U.S. support proposed protection of conscience measures

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has expressed support for three bills currently before the U.S. House of Representatives, including two [HR358 Protect Life Act, HR361 Abortion Non-Discrimination Act of 2011] that include protection of conscience measures.[News release]

Journalist seeks euthanasia for patient in India

The Supreme Court of India has ordered physicians to examine the medical condition who has been paralyzed and considered brain dead since being strangled by a rapist in 1973. The order was made as a result of an application by a journalist who wants the court to order food and fluids stopped so that the woman will die. [BBC] The procedure has become common in other jurisdictions, but can give rise to conflicts of conscience among health care workers who object to euthanasia.

German health ministry and physicians oppose facilitation of executions

Health Minister Philipp Rösler and the German Medical Association have asked German firms to refuse to supply the United States with the barbiturate anaesthetic sodium thiopental because the drug is used in executions by lethal injection. Their position demonstrates that individuals and groups refuse to participate even indirectly in what they believe to be wrong, and that this is not considered unusual. Conscientious objectors in health care may have the same reaction to morally controversial practices. [The Local]

21 January, 2011
Pope warns against "reductive vision of conscience"

Speaking to officials from Police Headquarters in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI warned of that modern thinking presents a "grave risk" in its "reductive vision of conscience" that sees each person having "his own truth, his own morality." As a result, he said, "faith with its values and conduct is no longer to have a right and a place in public and civil life." The Pope said that "the true meaning of "conscience" is man's capacity to recognize the truth and, the possibility prevails again of hearing its claim, of seeking it and finding it." [Full text]

20 January, 2011
Idaho protection of conscience law under scrutiny

The Idaho branch of the American Association of Retired People (AARP) will "aggressively" lobby to have the state's protection of conscience law changed. AARP claims that the law allows health care workers to refuse to abide by advance directives or living wills. It wants the law changed to ensure that this cannot happen. [News Channel 7; AARP News Release] The law is also under attack because a Walgreens pharmacist refused to fill a prescription for Methergrine, a drug used to control bleeding, apparently because he/she could not be sure that the patient had not had an abortion [Sun Sentinel].

Protection of conscience bill introduced in Alaska

Senate Bill 14, which has been introduced in the Alaskan legislature, is drafted to afford protection of conscience for health care employees who have given an employer notice of their objections to a service or procedure. It obliges the employer to accommodate the objector unless it would cause undue hardship to the employer, or the employee is the only person able to assist in a life-threatening situation.

Protection of conscience measures introduced in U.S. Congress

Two bills that include measures intended to protect freedom of conscience in health care have been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the law enacting reforms in the American health care system. [See HR358 Protect Life Act, HR361 Abortion Non-Discrimination Act of 2011]

Protection of conscience resources in U.S.A.

Freedom2Care has made available a one-page summary of the threat to freedom of conscience in health care in the United States. The handout has a customizable box at the bottom that can be used to insert an organization's own name and message. [Freedom2Care Summary]

14 January, 2011
Protection of conscience bill introduced in Nebraska

Omaha Senator Pete Pirsch has introduced LB461, the Freedom of Conscience Act. The procedures addressed in the bill are abortion, embryonic and foetal experimentation, transplantation involving foetal tissue, and any act intended to cause the death of an individual. The bill extends protection to anyone who declines to participate in such procedures for reasons of conscience, including health care workers and institutions and religiously affiliated insurance plans.

12 January, 2011
American group voices concerns about freedom of conscience

Jeanne Monahan, Director of the Family Research Council's Center for Human Dignity, offered a number of criticisms of the health care reforms being enacted under new federal legislation in the United States. Among them, she expressed concern that the inclusion of abortion and contraception as forms of health care would "undermine the freedom of conscience for many in health care professions. [News Release]

10 January, 2011
Pope protests marginalization of religious believers in western societies

Speaking to members of the diplomatic corps, Pope Benedict XVI expressed concern about lack of religious freedom and the persecution of Christians in different parts of the world. With reference to the west, he said:

I think in the first place of countries which accord great importance to pluralism and tolerance, but where religion is increasingly being marginalized. There is a tendency to consider religion, all religion, as something insignificant, alien or even destabilizing to modern society, and to attempt by different means to prevent it from having any influence on the life of society. Christians are even required at times to act in the exercise of their profession with no reference to their religious and moral convictions, and even in opposition to them, as for example where laws are enforced limiting the right to conscientious objection on the part of health care or legal professionals.

In this context, one can only be gratified by the adoption by the Council of Europe last October of a resolution protecting the right to conscientious objection on the part of medical personnel vis-à-vis certain acts which gravely violate the right to life, such as abortion. . . [Full text]

8 January, 2011
Australian couple aborts twin boys, seeks girl by IVF

An Australian couple with three boys has aborted twin boys and gone to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to overturn the law that prevents sex selective in vitro fertilization. Both sex selective abortion and sex selective IVF are morally controversial even among those who do not otherwise object to the procedures. [Perth Now] The case demonstrates the potential for conflicts of conscience among health care workers in such circumstances.

6 January, 2011
Spaniards demand government respect freedom of conscience

Professionals for Ethics in Spain has announced that 3,000 e-mails have been sent by Spaniards to Minister of Health, Leire Pajin, demanding that she respect freedom of conscience of health care workers who object to abortion and euthanasia. The e-mail campaign follows the passage of Resolution 1763 by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that affirmed the importance of freedom of conscience in health care. [CNA]

Controversy over Reproductive Health bills escalates in the Philippines

In response to suggestions from the Philippines Catholic hierarchy that support for the proposed reproductive health bills could lead to excommunication, supporters of the bills held an 'Excommunication Party' under the slogan, "If Supporting the RH Bill Means Excommunication, Excommunicate Me!" The event was reported to have been sold out, though the number of attendees was not given. [IPS]

European abortion ruling continues to generate controversy in Ireland

Irish Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore insists that Ireland should legalize abortion in cases of a threat to the life or health of the mother in light of the A,B, & C v Ireland ruling in the European Court of Human Rights [Irish Times; European Court of Human Rights decision on Irish abortion law]. Others, opposed to abortion, are insisting that no change in the law is needed. The current Irish Medical Council guidelines note that current law permits abortion when there is a "real and substantial risk to the life (as distinct from the health) of the mother." The guidelines state that a physician must not allow his "personal moral standards" to influence his treatment of patients, and must make the names of other doctors available if he declines to provide a procedure for reasons of conscience. The former requirement could be problematic, inasmuch as physicians cannot practise at all without adhering to moral standards of some sort. Many physicians who object to abortion would also be unwilling to facilitate the procedure by providing the names of abortion providers. These points would likely come to the fore if abortion were legalized in Ireland. [See Conscientious Objection in Ireland (May, 2000)]

5 January, 2011
British bioethicist urges legalization of organ trade

John Harris, Director of the Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation at the University of Manchester, argues that the sale of organs should be legalized and regulated in order to relieve the current shortage of organs for transplant and eliminate the abuses caused by the current black market in organs. [The Independent]