The SNC-Lavalin affair raises the issue of politicians’ conflict between their conscience and party politics.

There are good reasons to favour conscience.

Policy Options

Brian Bird

The SNC-Lavalin affair, which continues to reverberate, raises many issues in a democracy dominated by political parties — and all these issues take on greater relevance with a federal election approaching. One of them is the conflict that can arise between the conscience of a politician and the strictures of party politics, in a variety of contexts, and how that conflict should be resolved. When our representatives are voting on legislation, there are good reasons to favour conscience. . . [Full Text]

Bishop calls on Scotland’s first minister to affirm conscience rights of party members


Charles Collins

LEICESTER, United Kingdom – A Catholic bishop in Scotland is urging the country’s political leadership to affirm freedom of conscience, “and hold in high regard those in public life who remain true to their conscience, even at the expense of personal popularity or political advantage.”

Bishop Hugh Gilbert, the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, made his comments in a letter to Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. . . [Full text]

Peadar Tóibín suspended from Sinn Féin for six months for voting against abortion legislation

Christina Finn

SINN FÉIN’S PEADAR Tóibín has been suspended from the party for six months.

Disciplinary proceedings had been initiated against the Meath TD, who broke ranks with his party’s policy by voting against the abortion legislation in the Dáil last month.

As indicated by Sinn Féin party leader Mary Lou McDonald in April, Tóibín would face suspension from the party for doing so. . . [Full text]

Munich university remembers executed students: “Law changes, the conscience doesn’t”

Ludwig Maximilians Universität München

Justice, freedom, human rights, moral consciousness, courage, willingness to accept responsibility – what do these values and virtues cost? . . . On 18 February 1943, Hans and Sophie Scholl were arrested by the Gestapo, after they had scattered copies of their latest leaflet around the Main University Building. Further arrests were made in the days following and, in several separate trials, the leading members of the White Rose were convicted by an inhuman regime and put to death. [Full text]

No, Politico, Conscience Protections Are Neither ‘So-Called’ Nor ‘Controversial’

There is simply no historical ground upon which Politico can claim that protecting the right of medical professionals not to participate in abortion has been ‘controversial’ since Roe v. Wade.

The Federalist
Reproduced with permission

Casey Mattox

Government shouldn’t force people to violate their consciences. Until recently, that opinion hasn’t been particularly controversial, even where actual controversial issues like abortion were involved. One can support abortion and still think government shouldn’t discriminate against medical professionals who don’t perform abortions.

But if you want to gin up opposition to something, it presumably helps to pretend that it’s your opponent who is the extremist. You can’t very well admit that it’s your own opinion that is historically extreme and your opponent who has history on his side. That’s a much harder sell.

Perhaps this is why, in a story yesterday about the new U.S. Department of Health and Human Services office to address conscience and religious freedom for medical professionals and institutions, Politico casually dropped this nugget: “So-called conscience protections have been politically controversial since shortly after Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973.”

This claim may be politically useful, but it is demonstrably false. At the risk of appearing to repeatedly bludgeon this false narrative to death, it’s important to understand just how inexcusably wrong this instance of fake news is, and how these sorts of so-called “mistakes” drive narratives that create today’s politics.

Shortly after Roe v. Wade

Weeks after the Supreme Court released its decision in Roe v. Wade, Congress enacted the first of the federal laws aimed at protecting conscience in light of this newly minted “right” to abortion. The Church Amendment, named for its sponsor, Idaho’s longtime Democratic Senator Frank Church, ensured that Catholic hospitals could continue to provide health care to millions of Medicaid patients without being forced to also perform abortions.

That provision passed 372-1 in the House and 92-1 in the Senate. Noted right-winger Sen. Ted Kennedy spoke in favor of the law on the floor of the Senate, calling it necessary “to give full protection to the religious freedom of physicians and others.”

A Democrat-controlled Congress added additional “so-called conscience protections” to the Church Amendment for these individual medical professionals and in federally funded programs over the next few years. The idea that these laws were controversial would have been a surprise to the bipartisan coalitions in Congress voting for them.

In 1992, Nadine Strossen, president of the American Civil Liberties Union, testified in favor of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (yep, you read that correctly), saying RFRA would protect “such familiar practices as . . . permitting religiously sponsored hospitals to decline to provide abortion or contraception services.” The ACLU didn’t think conscience was either “so-called” or “controversial” in 1992.

In 1996, a bipartisan Congress again defended conscience rights, enacting the Coats-Snowe Amendment to the Public Health Services Act with President Bill Clinton’s signature. This law prohibits the federal government and any state or local government receiving federal funds (i.e., all of them) from discriminating against physicians or health-training programs or their participants on the basis that they don’t provide or undergo abortion training or perform or refer for abortions.

Forty-seven states have enacted laws protecting medical professionals from being discriminated against because of their objection to participating in abortion, most of those becoming law in the years immediately following Roe.

But everything above is just icing on the cake. Politico could have confirmed its narrative was false just by reading Roe. Addressing the concern that this new right to an abortion might result in attempts to force medical professionals to perform them, the Supreme Court explained this wouldn’t happen because the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates had already broadly defended the exercise of religious and moral conscience in the abortion context, quoting it in Roe:

Be it … resolved that no physician or other professional personnel shall be compelled to perform any act which violates his good medical judgment. Neither physician, hospital, nor hospital personnel shall be required to perform any act violative of personally held moral principles. In these circumstances good medical practice requires only that the physician or other professional personnel withdraw from the case so long as the withdrawal is consistent with good medical practice.

In the companion case Doe v. Bolton, the Supreme Court called a state law allowing hospitals not to admit patients for abortions and prohibiting them from requiring medical professionals to assist in them an “appropriate protection to the individual and to the denominational hospital.”

There is simply no historical ground upon which Politico can claim that protecting the right of medical professionals not to participate in abortion was “controversial” at the time of Roe or in the decades thereafter. It has only become “controversial” to defend the right of people to think differently and to live according to their own moral compass when the political left recently abandoned this classically liberal principle in favor of government compulsion.

The whole article reads like a horror movie in search of a villain. Its writers and interviewees know that HHS committing resources to safeguard the conscience of medical professionals and institutions that deliver health services to Americans is an evil plot. They just don’t know how. So the authors introduce the reader to none of these laws (available on the HHS Office of Civil Rights website with handy links), vaguely assert that all of this is really about LGBT issues (it’s not), and try to make boogey-men of those in this new office.

What Politico doesn’t do is inform readers that those advocating for government to compel medical professionals to perform abortions are actually the ones advocating for a departure from our historical common ground of respecting one another’s conscience. That, apparently, would complicate the narrative.

Casey Mattox is senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom. You can follow him on Twitter at @CaseyMattox_.


Appeal to sound medicine, not conscience rights: expert

Defenders of life called to polish arguments for the right to life

BC Catholic

Deborah Gyapong

U.S. physician and theologian is warning appeals to conscience rights may no longer be effective because they appear to pit physicians against their patients.

Instead, defenders of conscience rights must polish their rhetorical arguments in defence of good professional judgment and sound medicine, said Dr. Farr Curlin March 16. He was giving the annual Weston lecture sponsored by Augustine College.

A palliative care physician and co-director of the Theology, Medicine and Culture Initiative at Duke University in Raleigh, NC, Curlin has been called as an expert witness in the case of five Ontario doctors who are challenging the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s policy that would force physicians to make effective referrals on abortion, euthanasia, and other procedures they may find morally objectionable.

“The policy is outrageous and unprecedented,” Curlin said. “It’s also incoherent.” . . . [Full text]


Polish abortion laws provoke mass Women’s Day protests


Poland’s abortion laws are already very restrictive, now the government is seeking to tighten them further still. But fierce opposition to limits on women’s rights is growing.

For days now, thousands of people have been taking to the streets in Poland to protest restrictions on women’s rights. This is the first time that Anna and Viktor, both in their mid-30s, have taken part in such a demonstration. They are both Catholic, and voted for the ruling right-wing conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) in 2015. In the past they had no interest in “feminist” women’s protests, yet a fateful event and the trauma that followed changed their outlook. . . [Full text]


Doctors told not to call pregnant women “mothers”


Xavier Symons

British doctors have been told not to call pregnant women ‘mothers’ in a British Medical Association (BMA) document that has been slammed by conservative commentators.

In a booklet entitled A Guide To Effective Communication: Inclusive Language In The Workplace, doctors are instructed to use “inclusive language” that demonstrates “a commitment to equality and inclusion”. This includes revising conventional language used during pregnancy:

“Gender inequality is reflected in traditional ideas about the roles of women and men…We can include intersex men and transmen who may get pregnant by saying ‘pregnant people’ instead of ‘expectant mothers’.”

In an introduction to the guide on the BMA’s website, senior executive Dr Anthea Mowat wrote: ‘I would encourage you all to read and share this guide, and think about how you can apply it in your day-to-day work. This is a time where we need to come together to support and protect our colleagues and our patients.’

Conservative MP Philip Davies described the guidance as ‘completely ridiculous’: “If you can’t call a pregnant woman an expectant mother, then what is the world coming to?'”

Women’s rights campaigner Laura Perrins was equally critical of the document:

‘As every doctor knows only females can have children. To say otherwise is offensive and dangerous. This will offend women up and down the country, and is an example of the majority of women being insulted for a tiny minority of people.’

The BMA controversy comes just weeks after British media outlets reported the ‘first male pregnancy’, involving a transgender who halted her gender transition to being a male so that she could have a child.

This article is published by Xavier Symons and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation to BioEdge. Commercial media must contact BioEdge for permission and fees.


Prevailing culture hard on religious liberty

Policy hits conscience; believers often classified as bigots

Catholic Sentinel

Ed Langlois

Oregon tends to lead the pack in causes favored by some wings of the political left — legal abortion, assisted suicide, gay marriage, recreational marijuana.

Some fear that next on the progressive docket could be tax exemption for churches and the right of church agencies to operate according to their ancient beliefs, especially in the dignity of life and marriage.

‘Striking change’

“There has been a striking change just in the last 10 or even just five years,” says Bishop Liam Cary of the Diocese of Baker in central and eastern Oregon.

Bishop Cary cites demographics. Among the fastest-growing groups in Oregon is the population without religious affiliation. That means they have no personal interest in protecting religious freedom. In their minds, personal choice trumps religious liberty, the bishop says.

Also new is the government’s willingness to use policy to try to force people to act against conscience. . . [Full text]


Canadian Prime Minister, Attorney General and Minister of health lead vote against freedom of conscience

Vote in Canadian House of Commons appears to reflect intention to enable provincial governments to coerce participation in homicide and suicide

Sean Murphy*

With their euthanasia/assisted suicide Bill C-14 about to be debated in the Canadian House of Commons, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Attorney General/Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould and Health Minister Jane Philpott led the governing Liberal Party in a vote in the House against freedom of conscience for health care providers.

The vote was occasioned by a motion proposed by Conservative M.P. Arnold Viersen of Peace River-Westlock:

Vote No 61, 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, Sitting No. 57, 17 May, 2016

That, in the opinion of the House:

(a) it is in the public interest to protect the freedom of conscience of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or any other health care professional who objects to take part, directly or indirectly, in the provision of medical assistance in dying;

(b) everyone has freedom of conscience and religion under section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;

(c) a regime that would require a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or any other health care professional to make use of effective referral of patients could infringe on the freedom of conscience of those medical practitioners, nurse practitioners, pharmacists or any other health care professional; and

(d) the government should support legislation to protect the freedom of conscience of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or any other health care professional.

Not all members of all parties were present in the House when the vote was taken.  Since MPs may be absent during a vote for various reasons, it is not possible to establish to what extent absenteeism reflected indecision or unwillingness to vote against a party line on the part of individual members.

96 opposition MPs supported freedom of conscience:

Conservatives (98 members): 90/90 present

New Democratic Party (44 members): 5/40 present

Green Party (1 member): 1/1 present

214 MPs opposed freedom of conscience:

Bloc Quebecois (10 members): 10/10 present

New Democratic Party (44 members): 35/40 present

Liberal Party (184 members): 169/169 present

MPs voting against freedom of conscience

NDP:  (Total of 44 elected)

  1. Niki Ashton
  2. Robert Aubin
  3. Sheri Benson
  4. Rachel Blaney
  5. Alexander Boulerice
  6. Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet
  7. Ruth Ellen Brosseau
  8. Richard Cannings
  9. Guy Caron
  10. Francois Choquette
  11. David Christopherson
  12. Nathan Cullen
  13. Fin Donnelly
  14. Matthew Dubé
  15. Linda Duncan
  16. Pierre-Luc Dusseault
  17. Scott Duvall
  18. Randall Garrison
  19. Cheryl Hardcastle
  20. Carol Hughes
  21. Peter Julian
  22. Jenny Kwan
  23. Hélène Laverdière
  24. Brian Masse
  25. Irene Mathyssen
  26. Thomas Mulcair
  27. Pierre Nantel
  28. Anne Minh-Thu Quach
  29. Tracey Ramsey
  30. Murray Rankin
  31. Romeo Saganash
  32. Brigitte Sansoucy
  33. Wayne Stetski
  34. Kennedy Stewart
  35. Karine Trudel

Liberal (Total of 184 elected)

  1. John Aldag
  2. Omar Alghabra
  3. Leona Alleslev
  4. William Amos
  5. Gary Anandasangaree
  6. René Arsenault
  7. Chandra Ayra
  8. Ramez Ayoub
  9. Vance Badawey
  10. Larry Bagnell
  11. Navdeep Bains
  12. Frank Baylis
  13. Terry Beech
  14. Carolyn Bennett
  15. Chris Bittle
  16. Bill Blair
  17. Randy Boissonnault
  18. Mike Bossio
  19. Bob Bratina
  20. Pierre Breton
  21. Scott Brison
  22. Celina Caesar-Chavannes
  23. Jim Carr
  24. Sean Casey
  25. Bardish Chagger
  26. Francois-Philippe Champagne
  27. Shaun Chen
  28. Serge Cormier
  29. Rodger Cuzner
  30. Julie Dabrusin
  31. Pam Damoff
  32. Matt DeCourcey
  33. Sukh Dhaliwal
  34. Anju Dhillon
  35. Nicola Di Iorio
  36. Francis Drouin
  37. Emmanuel Dubourg
  38. Jean-Yves Duclos
  39. Terry Duguid
  40. Julie Dzerowicz
  41. Wayne Easter
  42. Ali Ehsassi
  43. Fayçal Al-Khoury
  44. Neil Ellis
  45. Nthaniel Erskine-Smith
  46. Mark Eyking
  47. Doug Eyolfson
  48. Greg Fergus
  49. Andy Fillmore
  50. Pat Finnigan
  51. Darren Fisher
  52. Peter Fonseca
  53. Judy Foote
  54. Peter Fragiskatos
  55. Colin Fraser
  56. Sean Fraser
  57. Stephen Fuhr
  58. Mark Gerretsen
  59. Pam Goldsmith-Jones
  60. Ralph Goodale
  61. Karina Gould
  62. David de Burgh Graham
  63. Raj Grewal
  64. Ken Hardie
  65. T.J. Harvey
  66. Kent Hehr
  67. Mark Holland
  68. Anthony Housefather
  69. Ahmed Hussen
  70. Gudie Hutchings
  71. Angelo Iacono
  72. Mélanie Joly
  73. Yvonne Jones
  74. Bernadette Jordan
  75. Majid Jowhari
  76. Darshan Singh Kang
  77. Iqra Khalid
  78. Kamal Khera
  79. David Lametti
  80. Kevin Lamoureux
  81. Linda Lapointe
  82. Stéphane Lauzon
  83. Dominic LeBlanc
  84. Diane Labouthillier
  85. Paul Lefebvre
  86. Denis Lemieux
  87. Andrew Leslie
  88. Michael Levitt
  89. Joël Lightbound
  90. Alaina Lockhart
  91. Wayne Long
  92. Lloyd Longfield
  93. Karen Ludwig
  94. Lawrence MacAulay
  95. Steven MacKinnon
  96. James Maloney
  97. Rémi Massé
  98. Bryan May
  99. John McCallum
  100. Karen McCrimmon
  101. Ken McDonald
  102. David McGuinty
  103. John McKay
  104. Ron McKinnon
  105. Michael McLeod
  106. Marco Mendicino
  107. MaryAnn Mihychuk
  108. Marc Miller
  109. Maryam Monsef
  110. Robert Morrissey
  111. Joyce Murray
  112. Eva Nassif
  113. Robert Nault
  114. Jennifer O’Connell
  115. Robert Oliphant
  116. John Oliver
  117. Seamus O’Regan
  118. Denis Paradis
  119. Joe Peschisolido
  120. Kyle Peterson
  121. Ginette Petitpas Taylor
  122. Jane Philpott
  123. Michel Picard
  124. Jean-Claude Poissant
  125. Carla Qualtrough
  126. Yasmin Ratansi
  127. Jean Rioux
  128. Yves Robillard
  129. Pablo Rodrguez
  130. Sherry Romanado
  131. Anthony Rota
  132. Kim Rudd
  133. Dan Ruimy
  134. Don Rusnak
  135. Ruby Sahota
  136. Raj Saini
  137. Harjit S. Sajjan
  138. Darrell Samson
  139. Ramesh Sangha
  140. Randeep Sarai
  141. Francis Scarpaleggia
  142. Peter Schiefke
  143. Deborah Schulte
  144. Marc Serré
  145. Judy A. Sgro
  146. Brenda Shanahan
  147. Terry Sheehan
  148. Jati Sidhu
  149. Sonia Sidhu
  150. Gagan Sikand
  151. Scott Simms
  152. Amarjeet Sohi
  153. Francesco Sorbara
  154. Sven Spengemann
  155. Marwan Tabbara
  156. Geng Tan
  157. Filomena Tassi
  158. Hunter Tootoo
  159. Justin Trudeau
  160. Dan Vandal
  161. Anita Vandenbeld
  162. Adam Vaughan
  163. Arif Virani
  164. Nick Whalen
  165. Jonathon Wilkinson
  166. Jody Wilson-Raybould
  167. Borys Wrzesnewskyj
  168. Kate Young
  169. Selma Zahid

Bloc Quebecois (Total of 10 elected)

  1. Xavier Barsalou-Duval
  2. Mario Beaulieu
  3. Michel Boudrias
  4. Rhéal Fortin
  5. Marilène Gill
  6. Simon Marcil
  7. Monique Pauzé
  8. Louis Plamondon
  9. Gabriel Ste. Marie
  10. Luc Thériault

Source: Parliamentary web page