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Protection of Conscience Project

Service, not Servitude

Update 2012-03-01

1 March, 2012

Covering the period from 1 January to 29 February, 2012

1.  By Region/Country

Developments relevant to freedom of conscience.

2.  News Items

Links to news summaries.

3.  Recent Postings

Links to resources added to Project site.

4.  Action Items

Support protection of conscience initiatives near you.

5.  Conferences/Papers

Seminars, conferences and workshops relevant to conscience advocacy.

6.  Publications of Interest

Relevant to freedom of conscience issues.

1.  By Region/Country
Visit the Project News/Blog for details.

Seventh-day Adventist world church President Ted N. C. Wilson, speaking at the 7th World Congress for Religious Freedom in the Dominican Republic, said that anti-religious secularism must be opposed.  At the same time, religious believers must not attempt to establish a "religious state" as an alternative to secular regimes.

A number of bioethicists argue that some parents who use in vitro fertilization- those believed to be at risk for transmitting serious genetic disorders - should be compelled by law to use pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to produce unimpaired offspring: even to use only artificial reproduction and PGD.

Surgical and pharmaceutical treatment to limit the growth of disabled children is becoming more frequent.  A British newspaper has identified a dozen families involved in them. 

Catherine Constable of the New York University School of Medicine has published a journal article advocating that patients diagnosed as being in a permanent vegetative state (PVS) should be killed by starvation and dehydration unless their families insist that they receive assisted nutrition and hydration. 


Progressive Conservative Premier Alison Redford of Alberta stated that she was "very frightened" by support for freedom of conscience expressed by the leader of the Wildrose Party, her principal opponent in the provincial election campaign.  The Wildrose Party is officially committed to protection of conscience legislation for health care workers.  After losing the election, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith was reported to be thinking of reconsidering the party's position.

The Quebec legislative Select Committee on Dying with Dignity has tabled a report unanimously recommending "relevant legislation be amended" to allow euthanasia in the province of Quebec.  The Committee also recommends that objecting physicians be forced to refer for the procedure.  The Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association has lauded the report's recommendations for the improvement of palliative care, but states that hospice and palliative care workers should not be expected to participate in assisted suicide or euthanasia.

An editorial in the Toronto Star notes that some physicians are refusing to continue with families when parents refuse to allow their children to be vaccinated.  In most cases the refusals are prompted by distrust of conventional medicine and fear of side effects.  It is important to recognize that the issue of freedom of conscience for physicians does not arise in these circumstancdes.

European Union

In a speech to the law school at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, Giovanni Cardinal Lajolo, former president of the commission governing Vatican City State, warned that the current controversy in the United States about freedom of conscience indicates the need to seek greater protection for freedom of conscience in Europe. 


Haaretz reports that psychiatric drugs are being prescribed to members of the ultra-orthodox Jewish Haredi community to suppress sexual urges and help them to conform to religious prohibitions.  A posting on the Practical Ethics blog of Oxford University asks whether or not psychiatrists may, for reasons of conscience, refuse to prescribe drugs for this reason. 


A Polish member of parliament, Jacek Żalekis, is advocating a protection of conscience law for pharmacists.  Polands Catholic Pharmacists' Association (SFK) supports the idea, noting that pharmacists are denied the freedom of concience enjoyed by physicians and nurses. The idea is opposed by the deputy speaker of parliament and others, who argue that pharmacists who wish to act in accordance with their conscientious convictions should change their profession.

United Kingdom

Britain's General Medical Council has released a draft document for consultation that proposes to force physicians to facilitate practices to which they object for reasons of conscience by helpng patients find someone who will provide the procedures.  Comments are sought from 18 April, 2012 to 13 June, 2012.

An investigation by the Daily Mail has revealed that some physicians in the United Kingdom will arrange for sex-selective abortions.  A physician was suspended by the General Medical Council following the disclosure agreed to falsify the reason for the procedure.  Another physician and an obstetrician/gynaecologist also face discipline. 

The disclosures of sex-selective abortion and the inspection of 250 abortion facilities in England by the Care and Quality Commission have triggered complaints from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and abortion activists.  They are concerned that few physicians are willing to train to do abortions and that it is difficult to find any who will perform the procedure.  They state that most National Health Service physicians will not do abortions beyond 12 to 14 weeks; only a small number of physicians in the country will do later abortions. 

Britain's National Health Service is denying access to various services provided by the state health care system because of patient lifestyles.  Smokers and those who are considered overweight are denied some operations or procedures in about a quarter of the country's health care regions.

The National Health Service Trust in the Midlands has given up its attempt to force an objecting nurse to work in an abortion facility attached to a hospital.  She was threatened with dismissal, but the Trust backed down when it received a letter from her lawyer and consulted legal counsel.

Two Catholic midwives will appeal a ruling by the Court of Session in Edinburgh that they must facilitate abortions by supervising and supporting nurses involved with the procedure.

It is reported that, within a few weeks, researchers from Edinburgh University will request a license from Britain's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to fertilize human eggs produced from stem cells isolated in ovarian tissue.  The ultimate goal is to produce an unlimited supply of human eggs for artificial reproduction and research, and, perhaps, to provide a way to treat older women to prevent health problems related to menopause. 

An Aberdeen pharmacy has become the first in the country to offer birth control pills directly from a specially trained pharmacist, thus avoiding the need to obtain prescriptions from physicians.  Since it appears that the prescribing pharmacists will likely be volunteers, the arrangement has the potential to minimize the likelihood of conflicts of conscience among pharmacists and non-prescribing physicians.

United States

The Obama administration has filed a document for publication in the Federal Register that requests comments about making rules to accommodate "religious organizations" that have religious objections to providing insurance coverage for surgical sterilization, contraceptives and embryocides.  The rules for accommodation may not be finalized until ten months after the November, 2012 presidential election.

By a vote of 51-48, the United States Senate rejected an amendment in the form of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011.

The U.S. Supreme Court held three days of hearings in a suit brought against the health care reform legislation. 26 state attorneys general have challenged the constitutionality of the legislation, and amicus briefs have been filed by seven medical organizations.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has published a powerful statement on religious liberty, Our First, Most Cherished Liberty. "It does not serve the common good," write the bishops, "to treat the good works of religious believers as a threat to our comon life."  The Conference has also stated that it will continue to resist efforts by the federal government to require objecting religious believers to provide insurance coverage surgical sterilization, contraceptives and embryocides.

The confrontation between the Catholic Church and the federal government in the United States has exposed significant disunity among identifiably Catholic universities on the subject of contraception.  Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, founded by the Jesuits, will end birth control coverage for employees in July.  The announcement has caused controversy on campus.  Contraceptive coverage continues to be provided by prominent Catholic universities like Georgetown, DePaul and Fordham.

  Evangelicals and Catholics Together, an ecumenical fellowship established almost twenty years ago, has published "In Defense of Religious Freedom." The document  responds to growing concerns about the security of freedom of conscience and religion in the United States and elsewhere. 

The Attorney General of Alabama is reported to be seeking to join a lawsuit against the federal government launched by the Eternal Word Television Network to stop the federal government from forcing objecting employers to provide insurance coverage for surgical sterilization, contraceptives and embryocides. 

The Arizona House of Representatives has passed bill HB2625 to amend state legislation to provide a religious exemption to the state's own mandate for insurance coverage for contraception. 

Hercules Industries, a family business in Colorado run by believing Catholices, has filed for an injunction against the federal government's regulation that will force eomployers to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives, surgical sterilization and embryocidal drugs and devices.

The Kansas House of Represtentatives has passed a bill providing protection for conscientious objection by individuals or institutions to participation in or referral for procedures, drugs or devices that may terminate pregnancies.

House Bill 1541 has been passed by the Missouri House of Representatives.  The bill defines 'conscience' as "the religious, moral, or ethical principles held by a medical professional or a health care institution."  Meanwhile, the Missouri Senate passed SB749, a bill drafted to prevent employers from being forced to provide insurance coverage for abortion, contraception or sterilization.

Opposition to a freedom of conscience bill by the Nebraska Board of Medicine and Surgery, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the Nebraska Psychological Association is generating resistance to the bill in the legislature, and may prevent the bill from proceeding further.

The New Hampshire House of Representatives has tabled (suspended the legislative process) HB 1653, which was proposed to ensure freedom of conscience for medical professionals in the state.

Parents of a child with Down Syndrome in Oregon have been awarded  $2.9 million (U.S.) damages on the grounds that they would have aborted her had the condition been diagnosed during pregnancy.  The award is based on the estimated extra lifetime costs of caring for someone with Down syndrome.

A statement from a Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Prostestant religious leaders in Pennsylvania  supports universal access to health care, but protests the federal government's plan to force objecting religious employers to provide health care insurance for contraceptives, surgical sterilization and embryocidal drugs and devices. 

The State of Washington has announced that it will appeal a decision by a U.S. District Court Judge that held that a state regulation was deliberately intended to deny freedom of conscience to pharmacists, and therefore unconstititional.


The Philippines Congress will recess without taking a vote on the Reproductive Health Bill.  The bill includes a number of provisions that are problematic with respect to freedom of conscience for health care workers.

2.  News Items

All news items are now on the Project News/Blog, archived by country.  They can also be searched by topic using the blog search box. 

3.  Recent Postings

All recent postings are now on the Project News/Blog, archived by year and month.

4.  Action Items

Personal beliefs and medical practice: A draft for consultation
General Medical Council (United Kingdom)
Responses required by 13 June, 2012

5.  Conferences/Papers

The Project will post notices of conferences that are explore and support the principle freedom of conscience, including the legitimate role of moral or religious conviction in shaping law and public policy in pluralist states or societies.


6.  Publications of Interest

 Devolder. Katrien "Psychiatric drugs to enhance conformity to religious norms, and conscientious objection." Practical Ethics, University of Oxford (10 April, 2012)

Constable, C. (2012), Withdrawal of Artificial Nutrition and Hydration for Patiens in a Permanent Vegetative State: Changing Tack. Bioethics, 26: 157-163

Bowman M., Schandevel CP, The Harmony Between Professional Consience Rights and Patients' Rights of Access.  SSRN, 2 March, 2012.

Goffin T.  The physician's right to conscientious objection: an evolving recognition in Europe. Med Law. 2010 Jun;29(2):227-37.

Personal beliefs and medical practice: A draft for consultation
General Medical Council (United Kingdom)
Responses required by 13 June, 2012

Our First, Most Cherished Liberty: A Statement on Religious Liberty
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

In Defence of Religious Freedom
Catholics and Evangelicals Together

Vischer, Robert K., The Dangers of Anti-Sharia Laws
First Things, March, 2012

From the Project

Notes toward an understanding of freedom of conscience

The importance of orientation
Review of Health Care Providers' Consciences and Patients' Needs: The Quest for Balance (Brookings Institution Publication)

"Take two aspirin and call me after the election"
Responding to R. Alta Charo: "Warning: Contraceptive Drugs May Cause Political Headaches" (Perspective, N Engl J Med. 2012 Mar 14)

7.  Video


8.  Audio