News Commentary 2002
27 December, 2002
This response to your article Bacon, eggs and peace of mind:
Pharmacists, Planned Parenthood push for prescription-free morning-after
pill (17 November, 2002) has been delayed by the need to consult the
Nova Scotia College of Pharmacists.
With respect to the 'morning-after-pill', your article attributed the
following quote to Kelly Grover of Planned Parenthood: "Nobody is
forcing pharmacists to prescribe this. There is a code of ethics that
requires them to refer patients."
In fact, the College's Code of Ethics does not require
referral. A pharmacist who objects to providing a drug for reasons of
conscience is to advise an employer of that fact when being hired. It
then becomes the obligation of the employer, not the pharmacist,
to find an alternative means to deliver the drug.
The disclosure requirement in the Code of Ethics is intended to
ensure that the freedom of conscience of pharmacists is fully respected,
without preventing patients from getting drugs or services that they
want. Unscrupulous employers could misuse the disclosure requirement by
using it to identify conscientious objectors and deny them employment.
One hopes that the College will defend pharmacists against this form of
discrimination, as it would be a pity to see Nova Scotians forced to
leave home to seek employment in more tolerant environments.
Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project
Letter to the Editor,
New Brunswick/Saint John Telegraph Journal
12 November, 2002
Doctors at the hospital in Moncton have decided to perform only
abortions they believe necessary for maternal health, so that scarce
health care resources can be dedicated to reducing waiting lists for
surgery. Dr. Henry Morgentaler calls this "disgusting". He also accuses
his colleagues of unethical conduct because they appear to be imposing
their religious or moral views on patients. (Morgentaler calls
decision to halt abortions 'disgusting' 9 November, 2002)
It is remarkable that Dr. Morgentaler should be disgusted by
physicians who perform abortions for 'health' reasons, but not abortions
for which there is no medical justification. When he decided to break
the law against abortion, it was because he decided to follow something
he called his "medical conscience".1
His Moncton colleagues, while they will break no law, are doing the same
thing. Baseless diatribes about 'imposing moral beliefs' are unfair and
do nothing to improve health care in New Brunswick.
Dr. Morgentaler has also misrepresented the Code of Ethics of the
Canadian Medical Association by implying that it obliges doctors to
provide abortions. It does not, nor does it require physicians to refer
for abortions or other morally controversial procedures.
Finally, Dr. Morgentaler clearly applies his own moral views in his
own medical practice. Upon what basis would he deny his colleagues the
Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project
1. Pelrine, Eleanor Wright, Morgentaler: The Doctor Who
Couldn't Turn Away. Canada: Gage Publishing, 1975, p. 29
The National Review
Reproduced with permission
Katherine Jean Lopez
It's still legal to oppose abortion, isn't it?
You might think that any piece of legislation with the word
"non-discrimination" in it is just about automatically headed for easy
congressional passage. What politician wants to be on record as being in
favor of discrimination?
Well, it's just not so. At least if the issues involved are religion
The House of Representatives is set to take up the
Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) this week. The goal of the
bill is to protect Americans' right to not have to pay for or otherwise
participate in abortions. Specifically, ANDA seeks to protect religious
hospitals and other health-care providers (clinics, insurers, nurses,
doctors) who are opposed, in conscience, to abortion, from having to
have anything to do with them.
This has been one of the hottest "reproductive rights" issues over
the last few years. Very few statehouses haven't seen coercive bills
seeking to force religious - often Catholic-hospitals to provide the
whole gamut of so-called "reproductive health" services, including
abortion, all in the name of "access." Currently 49 states (the
exception is Vermont) have some kind of conscience protection for
health-care providers, though none of them are as comprehensive as the
proposed ANDA bill-which covers all health-care "entities."
In this regard, one of the favorite topics among abortion advocates
recently has been hospital mergers. Planned Parenthood argues, in an
action alert send out to supporters this week, that health-care
institutions, whatever their affiliation, "operate in a secular sphere,
and employ and serve people of diverse backgrounds and faiths. Thus,
their claimed right to refuse to provide these services imposes serious
burdens on people who do not share their religious views."
The ANDA bill, says PP, "would allow the 'conscience' of the entity to
trump the 'conscience' and needs of the women they serve. . . . This is
What is not wrong, however, in Planned Parenthood's estimation, is "the
entity" - i.e. actual private organizations and Americans - being forced
by law to provide services that the people who make up the organizations
believe to be morally prohibited. In fact, these hospitals often believe
the very essence of their work is founded on an opposition to the taking
of a human life. It's a principle that all of medicine - whether the
practitioners were religious, agnostic, or atheist - once considered at
its very core.
Even a nonsectarian hospital can get in legal trouble under the
current regime. In Alaska, Valley Hospital's (elected) board decided
that it did not want to continue letting a community OB/GYN use hospital
facilities to perform abortions. The board's decision meant that
abortion was no longer
available at the hospital except in cases of "rape, incest, and danger
to the life of the mother - exactly the same policy the federal
government has had in Medicaid and its other health programs for many
years," as board member
Karen Vosburgh told the House Energy and Commerce committee this
As Vosburgh told the committee, an Alaska court's subsequent decision
(upheld by the state supreme court) to prohibit Valley Hospital from
making such a decision "potentially places all hospitals in our state in
a 'Catch-22' situation. If you are a non-religious hospital you have no
First Amendment claim of religious freedom, so you must provide
abortions. If you are a religious hospital with a 'free exercise' claim,
respect for your right of conscience may be seen as showing favoritism
to religion, so you may still have to provide abortions."
It's just not Planned Parenthood and the overt abortion-advocacy groups
actively opposing ANDA. The American Civil Liberties Union's
Reproductive Freedom Project sent a representative to the Hill earlier
in the summer to argue that the bill would unfairly restrict women from
abortion, contraception, and even simple counseling.
The groups lobbying against ANDA have grabbed the talking points from
their anti-abortion folder without focusing on the actual legislation
they are so enthusiastically opposing. In fact, if this were not the
narrow clarification that ANDA is, pro-lifers would likely be debating
amongst themselves, some saying that the bill does not go far enough
into specifics, into the realm of abortifacient so-called contraception,
for instance. But these are battles for another day-having nothing to do
with this piece of legislation.
Simply put, this isn't a bill about abortion politics. It's a bill about
freedom. What abortion advocates have been arguing when it comes to
"access" is that they would see rather a hospital merger not go
through-and a hospital potentially shut down - than allow a hospital to
choose not to participate in what its employees and founders believe to
be murder of a human life. For them, this is not about freedom. Their
opposition to ANDA is a backdoor way to oppose any restrictions on women
getting abortions whenever, wherever. As Brigham Young University Law
Lynn Wardle has put it, "zealous abortion activists continue to try
to use the powers of government to compel participation in and payment
for and coverage of abortion. Specifically, they try to compel
hospitals, clinics, provider groups, and health-care insurers to provide
facilities for, personnel for, and funding for abortion."
In fact, despite the scare stories from those opposed to ANDA, federally
funded abortions would still be possible under ANDA. Nor is this a bill
that seeks to reverse Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that okayed
abortion. As a
fact sheet put out by the Catholic Bishops' pro-life department
notes, "States can ensure access to any abortions they fund without
forcing specific providers against their will to provide these
particular abortions. A requirement that a state will contract only with
a provider that offers absolutely every reimbursable service would be an
enormous barrier to patients' access to care, as few providers in any
state could meet such a test."
The case for the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act is a simple one,
despite the heated rhetoric. As Pennsylvania congressman Joe Pitts put
it at a hearing in July, "Abortion is an elective surgery. It is not
prenatal care. It is not basic health care, as some of our friends would
like us to believe. Private hospitals should be able to decide what
types of elective surgery they wish to offer. If they don't want to
provide abortions, they shouldn't have to."
That simplicity might give the bill a decent shot at passage. Tough
sells on pro-life issues, like Republicans Tom Davis and Fred Upton, are
cosponsoring ANDA. And some leading pro-life members - along with the
Catholic bishops, an important voice on this issue in particular, given
that there are over 600 Catholic hospitals in the U.S. (never mind other
Catholic health-care entities) - are willing to push for this as a top
priority for passage before the end of the year (likely as part of a
lame-duck session, after the election). Rep. Pitts tells NRO: "I think
there will be overwhelming support for the bill when it comes up for a
vote." In fact, as Pitts points out, even President Clinton signed a
less comprehensive conscience-clause bill in1996. Cases like the Alaska
one, however, make the need for ANDA clear.
In fact, for some members, ANDA is not at all different from what they
voted for in 1996. Senator Olympia Snowe said on the Senate floor in
1996: "[The amendment] does protect those institutions and those
individuals who do not want to get involved in the performance or
training of abortion when it is contrary to their beliefs . . . I do not
think anyone would disagree with the fact - and I am pro-choice on this
matter, but I do not think anybody would disagree with the fact that an
institution or an individual who does not want to perform an abortion
should do so contrary to their beliefs."
She didn't foresee how courts would interpret the law: as not
including hospitals, because they are "quasi-public" entities. Of
course, prospects in the Senate - as is so often the case - are murkier
than in the House.
As Lynn Wardle noted in his testimony this summer, ANDA "is a very
small, but very important, step in the right direction." Wardle tells
NRO, "The basic issue in the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act is forced
abortion. A forced abortion occurs not only when a woman is forced to
have an abortion she does not want, but also when a health-care provider
is forced to provide or participate in an abortion against her will.
Even the Supreme Court abortion cases are based on protecting voluntary
choice. The right of individuals and organizations of individuals to
choose in accord with their conscience to not have and to not
participate in abortion must be protected against extremists who are
trying to coerce others to provide abortion services that extremists
want but which others find morally repugnant. That is what ANDA is
about. It protects freedom of choice, the freedom not to be forced to
perform or support abortion against one's moral beliefs."
But then, for some, there are issues much more important than choice and
non-discrimination: like making sure abortion is anything but rare.
That's why National Organization for Women calls ANDA "one of the most
harmful bills yet proposed."
Reproduced with permission
Richard M. Doerflinger
Deputy Director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities,
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Once there were basically two
sides to the abortion debate.
One side said that, whatever the moral status of unborn life may be, a
woman and her physician must be free to make a choice about abortion.
The other side said that, whatever value the struggle for greater
freedom may have in other contexts, responsible freedom for women and
physicians must stop short of destroying the life of an innocent child.
Not surprisingly, these sides called themselves "pro-choice" and
Those were simpler times. For however useful these labels once were,
it's becoming ridiculous to refer to abortion advocacy groups as
This was already clear to anyone following the debate on U.S. funding of
the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) a few months ago. President Bush
ultimately decided not to give this group any funds this year, because
it helps the Chinese government implement a population program that uses
coerced abortion and involuntary sterilization. His decision was greeted
by howls of protest from pro-abortion groups, who ditched their
commitment to women's "reproductive freedom" to defend their allies in
the population control movement.
More recently the coerced-abortion agenda has come home to guide
domestic policy. When the House of Representatives debated a modest
measure called the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) last month,
the idea that each individual should have "freedom to choose" whether to
be involved in abortion was denounced as heresy by "pro-choice" groups.
ANDA builds on a law that Congress passed in 1996 to protect medical
residency programs from being forced by government bodies to provide
abortions or abortion training. It clarifies and extends that law to
make sure that this protection covers the full range of health care
providers, so everyone can make his or her own conscientious decision
whether to participate in abortions. But to hear pro-abortion
spokespersons talk, you would have thought that abortion was about to be
declared a capital crime. If women can only get abortions from those
actually willing to provide them, they seemed to say, there will be
almost no abortions - an interesting comment on how widely accepted
abortion is in the medical profession!
Pro-abortion groups opposed every aspect of this bill -- including its
effort to extend the conscience protection now enjoyed by doctors to
cover other health professionals, such as nurses, who are mostly female.
In opposing this modest step toward equal treatment, abortion advocates
managed to promote an agenda that was anti-life, "anti-choice," and
anti-woman all at the same time. Fortunately most House members ignored
their tirades and approved the bill, which now goes to the Senate.
One bumper sticker produced by pro-abortion groups says: "Against
abortion? Don't have one." That slogan always ignored the unborn child,
who has no opportunity to choose not to "have one." But now women and
doctors may join the child in having their choice disregarded, unless
pro-life legislators are vigilant.
Against abortion? If you're in China, have one anyway. If you're a
health professional in the U.S., perform one anyway. Oddly, that is now
what being "pro-choice" is all about.
25 September, 2002.
Reproduced with permission
[Dick Armey was the Majority Leader (Republican) in the U.S. House
of Representatives when the following opinion column was written.]
The vast majority of all hospitals - public and private - do not get
involved in abortion. In fact, 86 percent of all hospitals did not
perform a single abortion last year.
There is a reason for that. Most health care providers are interested
in protecting and saving human life, not taking it. Government shouldn't
force them to take part in actions - such as performing abortions -
against their beliefs, morals or religion.
In 1996, Congress enacted legislation ending state and federal
discrimination against health care providers that do not perform
abortions. In a series of court opinions and rulings, activist judges
are flouting the will of Congress and ordering hospitals, not to promote
life, but to end it. They are telling doctors and nurses to suspend
their most strongly held
beliefs and perform a practice so heinous that even progressive
hospitals have rejected.
So today, the House of Representatives will consider the
Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) and right the wrong
perpetrated by liberal courts. The bill signals Congress' intent in one
simple yet powerful message - no health care provider should ever be
forced to do something that violates their moral, ethical, or religious
While there is deep disagreement in America about whether abortion
should be legal, nearly all Americans would agree that no one should be
forced to have an abortion or to perform an abortion if they don't want
to. That, however, hasn't stopped some on the extreme fringe of this
issue from trying to force hospitals to provide abortions anyway.
Valley Hospital in Palmer, Alaska, is one such example. Located about 50
miles east of Anchorage, the hospital's board implemented a policy in
1990 barring abortion procedures except in cases of rape, incest and
danger to the life of the mother. The hospital was sued, and a judge
arbitrarily ruled that because Valley Hospital received some government
money, it was a "quasi-government entity" and had to provide abortions.
The hospital appealed the case to the Alaska Supreme Court, citing a
state law that protected its right of conscience. The Supreme Court
ruled against the hospital and, in one fell swoop, threw out the state's
Congress' conscience guarantees were also overturned in New Jersey.
When Rancocas Hospital in Willingboro, N.J., was purchased by Our Lady
of Lourdes Healthcare Services, a new policy was instituted against
performing abortions. Our Lady of Lourdes, as the name suggests, is a
Catholic agency, and the Catholic church believes abortion is wrong. The
American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey sued. It argued that if Our
Lady of Lourdes didn't want to allow abortions in its hospital, it
should provide a separate building on the hospital's campus for that
purpose. This, obviously, made no sense to the hospital. The ACLU also
argued that the hospital was duty-bound to provide abortions because its
statement called for "comprehensive" health care services. The ACLU
conveniently forgot that when the mission statement was written in 1961,
abortion was a felony.
So much is at stake in this bill. Without its passage, the viability
and integrity of our country's health care system are in jeopardy. In
this age of managed care and skyrocketing health care costs, hospitals
are merging in order to survive. If courts demand that pro-abortion
policies be a condition of merging - as a number already have - there
will be fewer of these cost-saving partnerships.
Many of these alliances involve denominational hospitals - hospitals
principally organized to serve the poor and needy. They have been and
will continue to be the first victims of court-imposed abortion
mandates, for in many cases they cannot practice medicine at all under
these conditions. The poor and vulnerable will be the ultimate
casualties when these facilities have to close.
National Catholic Register Commentary & Opinion
August 25 - 31, 2002
Reproduced with permission
Michael J. O'Dea
Christus Medicus Foundation
Regarding "N.Y. 'Pill Bill' Puts Church in Tough Spot" (July 28-Aug.
Passage of New York's Equity in Prescription Insurance and
Contraceptive Coverage (EPICC) bill forces New York's fully insured
health plans to subsidize all FDA-approved contraceptive pills and
devices. In addition to violating religious liberty and an individual's
right of conscience, this law undermines parents by expanding government
control of American children's sexual and reproductive health. How dare
Ms. (Assemblywoman Deborah) Glick get away with her comments in this
article. The bill is not about religious freedom, she says, but about
individual choice and health care.
This bill is not about individual choice nor health care. It is about
state and federal control of our children and what we finance in health
care. This is a totalitarian agenda, proposed by Planned Parenthood and
the Alan Guttmacher Institute. How does the Church get out of
cooperating with a state law that interferes with parents' right to
shape the conscience of their children? The Catholic Church still does
have options of setting up self insured plans that are regulated by
ERISSA, the federal law that frees self-insured health plans from state
contraceptive mandates. However, if Sen. Kennedy and Congressman Bonior
get their way with S 104 and HR 1111, those options will quickly vanish.
President Bush could be forced to use his veto power - or every private
and public health insurance plan that has prescription coverage will
force employers and individuals, through taxes and insurance premiums,
to confidentially fund unhealthy and morally objectionable contraceptive
chemicals and devices for children, without parental consent or
In addition to challenging this insidious N.Y. EPICC legislation in
the court and teaching the intrinsic evil of contraception, Catholics
must unite to establish, administrate and control financing in their own
self-insured Catholic health plan. Catholics must also unite with other
faith-based organizations and defeat EPICC. If EPICC is not defeated,
what will employers and individuals be forced to pay for next -
euthanasia, artificial insemination, invitro-fertilization, cloning, and
coverage for unmarried and same-sex partners? America prides itself on
assuring parents the opportunity to raise children without government
intrusion and interference. A nation with the greatest political freedom
is being undermined by a few powerful political interest groups. At this
critical time, when the health and welfare of the American family, our
nation's future and our political freedom are all at stake, it is time
for all Christians, particularly those in positions of leadership, to
take charge of what we pay for in health care and "Give to Caesar what
is Caesar's and to God what is Gods."
Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project
[The following was sent to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
in Winnipeg, Manitoba on 5 April, 2002, asking whether or not it would
be accepted for broadcast in the same region where Dr. Goldman's
editorial was aired. The CBC did not reply.]
In an editorial broadcast on CBC Radio on 7 March, 2002, Dr. Brian
Goldman criticized Dr. Frederick Ross of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Dr.
Stephen Dawson of Barrie, Ontario. Dr. Ross had told his patients to
stop smoking or find another doctor, while Dr. Dawson had refused to
prescribe birth control pills or Viagra to single patients.
It does not seem that Winnipeg's Dr. Ross believes that treating
smokers is wrong, nor that it would be wrong to refer a smoker to
another physician. His public statements do not preclude the possibility
that he would treat smokers on an ad hoc basis (while standing in
for an absent partner, for example).
In contrast, Dr. Dawson refuses to help single patients obtain birth
control pills and Viagra under any circumstances, because he believes
that by doing so he would be a party to immoral activity (i.e.,
extramarital sex). Dr. Goldman was more sympathetic to this position,
but criticized Dawson because he would not refer patients to other
physicians who would prescribe the drugs.
Dr. Goldman recognized that his colleagues were acting for different
reasons, but in drawing his conclusions he failed to maintain this
distinction or recognize its significance. It is one thing to refuse to
do something because it is inconvenient, difficult, frustrating, or
pointless; it is quite another to refuse to do something because it is
wrong. Grasping this distinction is the key to understanding the
difference between the case of Dr. Ross, which does not seem to involve
conscientious objection, and that of Dr. Dawson, which plainly does.
What some characterize as Dr. Dawson's inflexibility actually
illustrates the normal human reaction to a request to do something
wrong. For example, a fifty year-old man who wanted to have sex with a
fourteen year- old girl might be refused the use a friend's apartment
for that purpose. Nor would it be surprising if the unco-operative
friend also refused to refer the lecher to a more 'flexible' apartment
We see the same principle at work in criminal law. It is an offence
not only to commit a crime directly, but to counsel, aid or abet a crime
committed by someone else. Again: many people who engage in 'ethical
investment' do so because they do not want to be implicated, even
indirectly, in business practices to which they object for reasons of
conscience, even if the practices aren't illegal.
Now, no one is suggesting that consensual extramarital sex between
adults is morally equivalent to criminal activity. But when Dr. Dawson
refused to provide birth control for single patients, he reacted exactly
as an 'ethical investor' might react if asked to purchase shares in a
company that exploits child labour. He reacted exactly as an honest man
would act were he asked to help someone lie or cheat. In other words, he
acted as if extramarital sex really is wrong, and that its wrongness is
not merely a matter of opinion or taste. That, in truth, is what has
upset many of his critics; he has disturbed their repose in their
Of course, one may criticize a physician for causing needless
distress to a patient by offering a poorly articulated or inappropriate
explanation of his moral position. But that was not Dr. Goldman's
concern. Instead, he complained that Dr. Dawson had acted upon his own
In fact, Dr. Goldman does exactly the same thing. He believes that he
does nothing wrong by providing single patients with contraceptives and
Viagra, and he acts upon that belief by writing prescriptions. Why
should Dr. Goldman be allowed to act upon his beliefs by writing
prescriptions, while Dr. Dawson is forbidden to act upon his by refusing
to do so? Is it because "the true north strong and free" is afraid of
A physician who refuses, for reasons of conscience, to do something
he believes to be wrong - falsifying a diagnosis, amputating a healthy
limb, or prescribing contraceptives - does not force a patient to
conform to his moral code. He is not "imposing morality." To see what
"imposing morality" really means, watch this month when the Ontario
College of Physicians and Surgeons tries to force Barrie's Dr. Stephen
Dawson to give up his Christian convictions, on pain of professional
BreakPoint with Charles Colson
Commentary #020308 - 03/08/2002
Reproduced with permission
Few, if any, organizations in the world promote abortion as zealously
as the American Civil Liberties Union. Now it's training its guns on
A new ACLU report recently released complains that access to abortions
is "increasingly jeopardized by the imposition of religious beliefs in
the health care context."
This deceptive language suggests that a Catholic or Baptist or
Presbyterian hospital is "imposing" its beliefs on a woman by refusing
to kill her unborn child. "No," is equated with "imposing." Well, the
fact is that it's the ACLU that would impose its zeal for killing the
unborn on those who disagree.
Naturally the report doesn't quite say it that way. The ACLU website
says, "It is often . . . appropriate to accommodate an individual health
professional's refusal to provide a service . . . " That sounds good,
but read the fine print. It goes on to say "but only if the patient is
ensured safe, timely, and feasible alternative access to treatment" --
which means that if the woman can't get an abortion nearby, medical
personnel at a religious hospital have to
perform it even though it is against their deepest convictions.
While the report concedes that an individual might be excused, it
concedes nothing to the institution. The report states that hospitals
"operating in the public world and serving and employing a religiously
diverse population . . . ought to play by public rules." To do otherwise
is viewed as a violation of "reproductive rights" and a failure "to
But wait a minute -- Public Rule number 1 is the First Amendment,
guaranteeing the free exercise of religion. Clearly the ACLU and the
abortion industry want to eviscerate the exercise of religious
conviction in faith-based medical centers.
Christians and other people of compassion have established hospitals to
heal the sick and care for the dying. They're motivated by a concern for
the ill -- and also by the desire to obey God. The Scriptures command,
"Practice hospitality" (Romans 12:13). The ministry of "hospitality"
means gracious, tender care for friend and stranger alike.
Hospitality does not mean doing anything and everything to please a
guest. If a friend comes over asking for a gun to kill himself, we
invite him in, comfort him, and encourage him to choose life. We don't
give him what he wants; rather we give him what he needs. In the same
way, we don't kill an unborn child because the child's mother says he or
she is unwanted.
I am thrilled that President Bush has reiterated his commitment to
faith-based institutions, both in his State of the Union address and in
his recent message to Congress with a new faith-based bill. Religious
hospitals are one more good example of faith-based solutions that get
the job done. And these hospitals need to be protected by law.
A pregnant woman and her child deserve real hospitality that affirms
life and gives them wise
counsel. And hospitals must remain free to minister in the name of
Christ. It's a shame the ACLU can't practice a little hospitality toward
these ministries of compassion.
Copyright (c) 2002 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with
permission. "BreakPoint with Chuck Colson" is a radio ministry of Prison
London Free Press, March 19, 2002
Reproduced with permission
Tomorrow, the first day of spring, a coalition of American national,
state and local organizations will take Walt Disney's Bambi's notion of
"being twitter pated" to a new level.
March 20 is the kick-off to their first annual "back up your birth
control" campaign. On that day, women all over the U.S. will be asked,
regardless of their need, to request emergency contraceptives (EC) from
their doctors. Doctors will promise to tell their patients about EC;
pharmacists will talk to their customers about it and activists will
lobby both state and federal legislatures in favour of more access and
awareness of EC.
Similar campaigns to support what many call the morning pill have been
taking place for a couple of years with radio ads, billboards picturing
a broken condom and other literature. The Web site has an image of a
young working woman flexing her bicep with a heart-shaped tattoo saying
Preven and Plan B are the two emergency contraceptives approved in
Canada, but according to pharmacists I've talked to, many doctors have
been prescribing concentrated birth-control hormones within 72 hours of
sex since the 1970s. If taken in time, it prevents fertilized eggs from
implanting on the uterine wall. Advocates for EC call it "a safe,
effective back-up birth control method that can prevent pregnancy after
unprotected intercourse or contraceptive failure." Opponents, however,
call it an "abortifacient," believing conception begins at fertilization
and the idea of contraception after the fact is nothing more than
I am certain the intentions of the majority involved in this initiative
are good. After all, even the most pro-choice person knows the fewer
full-fledged abortions that take place, the better for everyone.
Consider the horrible state of the 15-year-old Brampton girl recently
charged with second-degree murder after hiding her pregnancy and
injuring her baby girl in an unassisted home birth. In contrast, EC
pills seem such a neat little compromise. More radical feminists embrace
EC as a tool to empower women against the evil oppressor, men, who make
us pregnant in the first place and get off scot-free.
However, aside from my personal convictions about when life begins, this
campaign and others like it give me the willies. This is because, in the
words of Canadian organization, The Protection of Conscience Project,
they are so "well-organized, well-connected and well-funded" and "may
directly impact some conscientious objectors, especially if activists
decide to target objectors or objecting facilities in order to get media
coverage or to initiate complaints of professional misconduct." In
short, these groups bully those who don't see the world from their point
of view and trample on objectors' rights and freedoms.
Secondly, it seems to me the message of emergency back-up plans is
cheap. I mean, if a group is going to take time, energy and resources to
imprint a message into the psyche of young women, is this the best
message we have to give them? Why not teach them to respect themselves,
to be responsible for their actions (even mistakes) and how to form
monogamous, lasting accountable relationships, instead of ones that
create an emergency if you become pregnant when pre-intercourse birth
control fails? Why don't we hand out planned parenting post cards that
say, "Don't waste yourself on a one-night stand," instead of, "You have
72 hours to erase last night." Rather than simply empowering women to be
in charge of their bodies, why not teach men and women what a wonderful
thing sex can be in the right context? Maybe even, heaven forbid,
encourage them to wait? Then we might not only have less unwanted
pregnancies, but also women who are emotionally healthy and truly
24 February, 2002
Dr. Monica Brewer's characterization of physician referral for
morally controversial purposes as a "black and white" issue is the
result of inadequate reflection.("MD's Morals Restricting Birth Control
Access," February 9, 2002) Her suggestion that doctors who object to the
morning-after-pill and contraception "should pair with doctors to whom
they can refer" is a suitable solution only for those whose objections
are simply matters of professional judgement or personal preference.
For example: physicians who know that 94% of the women who are sold
the morning-after-pill do not actually require it to prevent pregnancy
(the numbers are provided by those who support its widespread
use1) may be
unwilling to prescribe it for that reason. However, they might well
refer a patient who wants the drug to a doctor who will.
Similarly, some physicians believe that women's health and social
interests are better served by learning to recognize their natural
fertility cycles, so that they need not be dependent upon physicians or
drug companies to plan or avoid pregnancy. These physicians may not
prescribe birth control pills for 'ecological' reasons, but probably
wouldn't object to referral.
Finally, an obstetrician who thinks that aborting Down syndrome
infants is a good idea, but finds performing abortions a traumatic
experience, would probably welcome the opportunity to refer a patient to
The situation is quite different when physicians are asked to refer a
patient for something to which they have grave moral objections. They
believe that by referring patients they are themselves morally culpable
for facilitating the wrong that is done. Strange? Not at all.
Consider Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter's suggestion that,
since physical torture is "contrary to American values", the US should
turn terrorist suspects who won't talk over to "less squeamish
one would seriously argue that this would relieve the US of moral
complicity in torture.
Of course, moral complicity in abortion, contraception and the
morning-after-pill are not issues for people like Dr. Morgantaler and
his associate, Judy Burwell, who think these are good things, and that
those who think differently are mistaken. But it is surprising that they
view freedom of conscience as a problem to be solved by abolishing it,
at least for those who don't agree with them.
After all, Dr. Morgantaler justified his defiance of Canadian
abortion law in a 1970 article titled, "A Physician and His Moral
Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project
Notes (provided for editorial verification)
1. "In 16 months of
ECP services, pharmacists provided almost 12,000 ECP prescriptions,
which is estimated to have prevented about 700 unintended pregnancies."
Cooper, Janet, Brenda Osmond and Melanie Rantucci, "Emergency
Contraceptive Pills- Questions and Answers". Canadian Pharmaceutical
Journal, June 2000, Vol. 133, No. 5, at p. 28. See also Valpy,
Michael, "The Long Morning After", Globe and Mail, 15 December,
2. Alter, Jonathon,
"Time to Think About Torture". Newsweek, 5 November, 2001, p. 45.
article appeared anonymously in The Humanist. Quoted in Pelrine,
Eleanor Wright, Morgantaler: The Doctor Who Couldn't Turn Away.
Canada: Gage Publishing, 1975, P. 79
23 February, 2002
A doctor caring for patients in four Ontario cities may be driven
from the profession, or from the country, because he refuses to practise
medicine in accordance with the policies of Planned Parenthood ("MD
under fire for denying birth control," National Post, 22
February, 2002). Welcome to the world of single-issue ethics.
Professor Laura Shanner asserts her personal belief that a physician
"absolutely must" help patients obtain drugs or procedures to which the
physician objects for reasons of conscience. But there is no
self-evident reason why her morality should be imposed upon dissenting
physicians under threat of professional excommunication. Nor do mantras
like "standard of care" provide useful guidance when the morality of the
'care' itself is in issue. Dr. Morgantaler's standard of care is, in
some respects, markedly different from that of Physicians for Life. The
standard of care in Oregon includes assisted suicide, and in the
On the other hand, John Hof is mistaken in his suggestion that
conscientious objectors may refuse to prescribe contraceptives in order
to meet the "spiritual needs" of their patients. People do not go to the
doctor to satisfy their spiritual needs, and physicians should not
assume the role of spiritual director.
Conscientious objection arises from concern about one's own moral
culpability, not that of others. It is a matter of personal integrity,
not an attempt to control someone else's behaviour. The unfortunate
situation in Barrie may be the result of an infelicitous explanation
that failed to make this clear.
Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project
22 February, 2002
Continuing attempts to suppress the freedom of conscience of health
care workers like Dr. Stephen Dawson ("Doctor's Faith Under Scrutiny,"
The Barrie Examiner February 21, 2002) give the lie to the claim,
oft repeated by Canadian politicians, that protection of conscience
legislation is unnecessary. Perhaps their complacent attitude reflects
the influence of rigid party discipline that only rarely permits them
the 'privilege' of voting according to conscience.
Professor J.R. Brown of the University of Toronto appears to covet
the role of party whip, ready to lash or to exile recalcitrant 'scum'
like Dr. Dawson for daring to let their beliefs affect their public
Yet Professor Brown's private beliefs affected his public
behaviour when he asserted that people like Dr. Dawson should "find
another job." Will Professor Brown take his own advice? Or will he
continue to speak, act and live in accordance with his own beliefs, even
as he denies the same freedom to others who think differently - those
whom he characterizes as 'scum'?
Thoughtful readers will recognize that their relationships and their
political and social activities are almost always governed, not by an
analysis of empirical evidence, but by deeply held convictions about
human dignity and equality, about good and evil, and other equally
fundamental concepts. Some of these beliefs may be religious, others
not, but all are beliefs. There is no reason, apart from anti-religious
bigotry, to allow only atheists and agnostics the freedom to act on
their beliefs in public life.
Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project
Letter to the Editor, Telegraph Journal
New Brunswick, Canada
14 February, 2002)
[Comments in the December, 2001, Bulletin of the College of
Physicians and Surgeons came to media attention in February, 2002,
generating pressure on conscientious objectors in New Brunswick.
Catholic Bishop J. Edward Troy responded to the news reports in this
letter, reproduced with permission of the author. - Administrator-]
The headline on the front page, "MDs' morals restricting birth control
access" (Telegraph-Journal, Feb. 9) was eye-catching. Upon reading the
piece, I learned the reporter was culling from the Bulletin of the
College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick (CPSNB) in which it
was recorded that at its meeting of Nov. 23, 2001, its council discussed
the implications of the right of physicians not to participate in a
treatment or process to which they morally object.
In other words, the Code of Ethics of the College quite properly permits
physicians to practice their profession in accordance with their
conscience. The discussion, as recorded in the bulletin, is repeated
almost in its entirety in the Telegraph-Journal. It was particularly
noted that some patients are not referred for an abortion or do not
receive advice on contraception from their doctors. This is followed by
comments (not contained in the bulletin) from one physician in Saint
John who doesn't have the same moral qualms, and by some remarks from
the administrator of the Morgentaler abortion facility in Fredericton.
There is an underlying indignation present in the article more suitable
to an opinion piece than to a news report. The writer goes back to Nov.
23 for this information which is given headline treatment on Feb. 9,
breathlessly zeroing in on the roughly eight per cent of the text in the
college bulletin that considers the case of patients whose doctors
refuse to counsel abortion or contraception because of their moral
Nothing about the other important matters the council deliberated upon
and which were reported in the pages of the same bulletin. Nothing about
the patient who died from a heart attack after being refused treatment
for heart disease. Nothing about the instances where allegations of
malpractice were lodged against doctors for a variety of reasons that
resulted in loss of life or serious illness. Nothing about the extremely
difficult choices physicians are faced with every day and the honest
efforts the vast majority of them make to serve their patients with
integrity and skill, but also with fallibility and occasional failure.
No, the focus, in a somewhat negative and disapproving fashion, on the
good news that physicians are acting conscientiously in their
professional lives. Indeed I was impressed and heartened by all that I
read in the bulletin precisely because it revealed the conscientious
manner in which the council of the CPSNB monitors and guides its
I doubt very much the CPSNB would wish to change its code of ethics so
as to require physicians to disregard their consciences, especially
today when there are factions promoting euthanasia and
physician-assisted suicide. While the code of ethics of the CPSNB does
not allow the doctor to impose his moral views on the patient, it would
be equally objectionable to insist that the patient be authorized to
impose his or her moral outlook on the doctor. One hears of patients
demanding a prescription for this or that drug; should the physician be
obliged to comply? There is reference in the newspaper piece to the
"morning after pill" that is not really a contraceptive but rather an
Pro-life doctors do not perform or cause abortions nor do they
co-operate with others in procuring an abortion. They rightly consider
that abortion is the taking of a human life at an early stage in its
In today's social and cultural climate, the opposition to contraception
is not easily understood, let alone accepted. This is not surprising
since the whole idea of any binding moral principles in the area of
sexuality is widely rejected. According to the lax standards prevalent
in our culture, no sexual behaviour is morally wrong - fornication,
promiscuity, adultery, masturbation, homosexuality, bestiality, etc.
With the exception of child sexual abuse, the guiding rationale seems to
be a light-hearted "different folks, different strokes!"
If a person adheres to this sexual libertinism, he or she is not likely
to be persuaded by any amount of argumentation that artificial methods
of contraception are wrong, nor will he or she be able or willing to
grasp the distinction between them and natural family planning. He or
she will not see that the warm embrace of contraception has led
logically and historically to the widespread acceptance of abortion.
While the views of the administrator of the Morgentaler facility were
completely predictable, she really demonstrates a lot of nerve in
lecturing physicians about ethics. "I think it's very irresponsible of
doctors not to be meeting patients' needs, regardless of their personal
opinion or religious beliefs," she is quoted as saying. Now this
judgment comes from someone who is managing a business devoted to the
destruction of babies in the womb!
Talk about the moral high ground! Also, please observe the mentality
revealed in this declaration. If the abortionists were in charge, they
would require people to act against their conscience. These are the same
folks that are always whining about pro-life people who, they say, wish
to impose their morality on them. However, it's apparently all right for
the pro-abortion people to impose their morality on the rest of us.
She is also reported complaining that "many" women who had been refused
birth control pills by doctors were using other methods such as condoms
and became pregnant. Was that a slip of the tongue? Doesn't she belong
to the school that keeps insisting that condoms should be made available
to teens and others so that they won't become pregnant or contract AIDS?
What about all that propaganda about "safe sex?" It appears that she
knows, as everyone should, that condoms do fail with the result that the
woman becomes pregnant or the unaffected partner gets AIDS.
I salute physicians - no doubt the vast majority of practitioners - who
refuse to ignore conscience and moral principle in the exercise of their
calling. I honour physicians who do not derive their notions of what is
right and wrong from popular magazines or from the superficial opinions
of "celebrities" or from Hollywood script writers or from harangues by
those who operate abortuaries.
Doctors have access to a long and solid tradition of medical ethics.
It's encouraging to see that so many continue to draw on that wisdom in
the practice of their profession and aren't easily swayed by the fog of
moral indifference which covers so much of the world today.
J. EDWARD TROY
Bishop Emeritus of Saint John
16 February, 2002
The cover of your January/February 2002 edition highlighting Dr. Roey
M. Malleson's article on 'emergency contraception' was unexpected: a
brawny, half-naked, Aryan warrior, eyes glinting murderously from under
his horned helmet, wielding a copper IUD, crouched to spring and
I would like permission to post the cover on the Project website, and
would appreciate it if you would send me seven copies of the issue. The
cover is a splendid illustration of the usual basis for conscientious
objection to potentially abortifacient devices and drugs, and the
article provides an excellent example of moral obfuscation masquerading
Dr. Malleson clearly believes, as a matter of faith (for it cannot be
science), that it is not immoral to destroy an early human embryo by
preventing implantation. However, the article fails to explain why this
belief should be forced upon those who do not share it. The Journal
of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, cited to support
Dr. Malleson's threatening accusation of negligence, is not widely
acknowledged to be an infallible authority on faith and morals, nor is
Finally, astute readers will recognize that the law is more complex
than suggested by the article. Freedom of conscience is recognized as a
fundamental freedom that must be accommodated. It is imprudent and
unhelpful to publicly incite civil actions against colleagues in order
to secure their submission to the moral outlook so aptly expressed by
Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project