Bolivian Catholic Bishops comment on freedom of conscience and religion

Assert right to conscientious objection

Sean Murphy*

The Conference of Catholic Bishops of Bolivia have published a statement commenting favourably on changes to Bolivia’s law on freedom of conscience and religion. However, they criticize the failure to recognize a right to conscientious objection, referring to a physician in Sucre who is being disciplined for refusing to provide an abortion.

“[W]e have expressed on several occasions the need to recognize in Bolivia the right to conscientious objection, in this and other matters, because we consider first order safeguarding individual and thought freedom and because no one should be forced to act against their conscience.”

The right to conscientious objection

Archbishop supports doctor who refused to perform legal abortion

Correo del Sur

César Vale

Caution: Machine assisted translation of César Vale,”Arzobispo respalda a médico que se negó a practicar aborto legal.” Correo del Sur, 25 Marzo, 2019.

The archbishop of Sucre, Monsignor Jesus Juarez, backed the doctor of the National Health Fund (CNS) who refused to perform an abortion based on his claim of conscientious objection, and was subjected to administrative discipline.

“I would like to give my full support to all the doctors who really bet on life, first because life is the best gift that God makes humanity, and second, life is the first right that every person has, and also the right of the unborn, ” said Juarez.

In past days, the CNS of Sucre decided to suspend the doctor J.N.M., interim chief of the Gynecology and Obstetrics Service of the Obrero Hospital “Dr. Jaime Mendoza “, and to begin an administrative disciplinary proceeding for refusing to perform the legal termination of the pregnancy of citizen P.A.A.

Bolivian doctor to be prosecuted for refusing to perform an abortion

LifeSite News

Jeanne Smits

LA PAZ, Bolivia, March 25, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — A Bolivian doctor has been suspended by that country’s National Health Fund (Caja Nacional de Salud) for having refused to perform an abortion on a woman pregnant with an anencephalic child. “N.M.,” as he is known, will also be prosecuted before an administrative court, together with the former director of the Jaime Mendoza Workers’ Hospital in Sucre, where the refusal took place.

Abortion is illegal in Bolivia except in cases of rape, incest, danger to the mother’s health, or a lethal malformation of the unborn child.

It was this last case that was invoked by a woman from Cochabamba in February of last year after medical examinations revealed that her baby had a serious congenital malformation. She was five months pregnant. . . [Full text]

Doctor who failed to comply suspended

The department head refused to provide a legal termination of pregnancy

Correo del Sur

Caution: Machine assisted translation of “Suspenden a médico que incumplió fallo: El Galeno Se Negó a Practiar Una Interrupción Legal del Embarazo.” Correo del Sur, 21 Marzo, 2019.

The Acting Chief of the Gynecology and Obstetrics Service of the Hospital Obrero Jaime Mendoza was suspended from his duties for not attending a pregnant woman who asked to terminate a high-risk pregnancy, in accordance with a constitutional decision.

The doctor, who justified his action with conscientious objection, failed to comply with the constitutional ruling that orders the legal interruption of pregnancy when it endangers the health or life of the woman. The Ombudsman’s Office learned about and followed up on the case since the middle of last year.

In response to an Ombudsman’s resolution issued last week requesting to establish civil, criminal or administrative action against those who failed to comply with the ruling, the National Health Fund (CNS) of Sucre decided to suspend the physician and announced a similar process against the former director of the hospital.

Because of lethal congenital malformations, the pregnant woman requested the legal termination at five months of pregnancy, which was denied, so she had to go to another health center.

A National Health Fund doctor who refused to perform a legal abortion is being disciplined

Correo del Sur

El Deber

Caution: Machine assisted translation of “Procesan a médico de la CNS que se negó a practicar un aborto legal.” Correo del Sur, 20 Marzo, 2019.

The National Health Fund (CNS) of Sucre decided to suspend the doctor J.N.M., interim chief of the Gynecology and Obstetrics Service of the Obrero Hospital “Dr. Jaime Mendoza “, and to initiate an administrative process for refusing to perform the legal termination of the pregnancy of citizen P.A.A.

The information was communicated to the defense delegation of Chuquisaca, by the regional administrator of the insurer in the capital of the country, Javier Mercado, who indicated that a similar process will also be started against the former director of that hospital, J.M.C.

The Ombudsman issued a ruling concerning the violation of the rights of citizen PAA, who was denied access to the procedure for the legal termination of pregnancy because there was congenital malformation in the fetus (anencephaly), according to medical diagnosis, rights supported in a constitutional decision and legal regulations.

In Bolivia, Constitutional Decision No. 206/2014 and Ministerial Resolution No. 027/2015 regulate the provision in health services of the legal and safe termination of pregnancy when it endangers the health or life of women, if there are lethal congenital malformations, or if it is the product of rape or rape and incest.

Menacho explained last Saturday, that he would wait for the official reports to decide what actions to take with respect to the doctor involved, since the professional had claimed an “objection of conscience” not to perform the abortion.

“The professionals of the institution took refuge in the ‘conscientious objection’, that is to say, that nobody can be forced to interrupt the life of a human being,” he explained in a press conference, explaining that the patient left the hospital to go to another one in which the abortion was performed.

National Health Fund clarifies circumstances in abortion case

Woman had requested termination of pregnancy for malformation

Correo del Sur

Caution: Machine assisted translation of ” CNS aclara actuación en caso de aborto: La Mujer Había Pedido Interrumpir el Embarazo por Malformación.” Correo del Sur, 16 Marzo, 2019.

The regional administrator of the National Health Fund (CNS) Chuquisaca, Javier Menacho, disclaimed responsibilities on the alleged violation of the rights of a pregnant woman who requested the legal and safe termination of her pregnancy due to congenital malformation of the fetus. He clarified that the family requested, by their own decision, the discharge of the patient and then went to another hospital where they fulfilled the desire of the mother.

At a press conference, Menacho explained that in mid-February of last year they treated a patient with a five-month pregnancy. She had been transferred from Villa Tunari, Cochabamba.

He said that after doing the corresponding studies they determined that the fetus had a congenital malformation; then, the woman’s family asked for the termination of the pregnancy.

The doctors met in a medical meeting and, following the protocols, gave three options: the first, continue with the pregnancy; the second, to guide the family on the malformation of the fetus; and the third, obtain a legal approval that allows interrupting the pregnancy.

“However, the professionals of the institution claimed ‘conscientious objection’, that is, that no one can be forced to interrupt the life of a human being,” Menacho explained.

He said that days later, the family requested the discharge of the patient and saw it convenient to go to another hospital, where they did proceed with the termination of the pregnancy.

“We are waiting for our legal report, what steps have to be followed, with what charges we are to proceed. I cannot begin a process immediately without having a adequate evidence because I cannot judge anyone without having something concrete, “Menacho said.

Hospital denies legal abortion care

The Ombudsman’s Office calls for punitive action

Correo del Sur

Caution: machine assisted translation of “Hospital niega atención de aborto legal.” Correo del Sur, 15 Marzo 2019.

The Ombudsman’s Office asked the authorities of the Jaime Mendoza Hospital, the National Health Fund and the Ministry of Health to take civil, criminal and / or administrative action against those responsible for violating the rights of a pregnant woman who requested legal interruption of her pregnancy due to congenital malformation of the fetus, a right that was denied.

The case was made public yesterday by the Ombudsman, Nadia Cruz, who said that the decision of the citizen is supported by the Plurinational Constitutional Judgment No. 206/2014, but despite this, the hospital refused to perform the termination of pregnancy, so the woman had to resort to another center.

She explained that the rule permits legal interruption when “pregnancy endangers the health or life of women, there is the existence of lethal congenital malformations, or is the product of rape, rape and incest.” She asked for respect for the law and the human rights of women.

Bolivia enacts new abortion law with limited conscience clause

Sean Murphy*

A new abortion law has been enacted in Bolivia as part of the revision of the country’s Penal Code.  Section 153 of the Penal Code now permits abortion of any girl under the age of 20 for any reason and at any point in gestation, when pregnancy results from rape, incest or involuntary artificial reproduction.  Abortion is also allowed at any point in gestation in the case of present or future risk to the life or “overall health” of a woman, and (when pregnancy is under 8 weeks gestation) the woman is a student or has the care of a disabled relative.

The protection of conscience provision prohibits “the national health system” from asserting conscientious objection and insists that conscientious objection is limited to individual medical personnel “directly involved in the accomplishment” of the procedure, and must be stated in advance.  “The national health system” is not defined in the law.  It would appear from this that private or denominational health facilities (if they exist and are legally part of the national health system) cannot establish policies prohibiting abortion.

The fact that abortion is permitted as an exception to a general prohibition should mean that medical personnel or institutions of the opinion that a women does not qualify for an abortion under one of the legal criterion (such as risk to “overall health”) cannot be compelled to participate.  This would not constitute conscientious objection and could not be stated in advance.

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