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

Crux

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]

A question of conscience: In doing the bidding of their political masters, how far are Hong Kong police willing to go?

Hong Kong Free Press

Keiran Colvert

Here’s a question for every officer in the Hong Kong police – if the Hong Kong government asked you to shoot to kill to clear protesters from the streets would you do it? This might sound like a far-fetched scenario in Hong Kong – a place which has, until now, been dramatically different from Mainland China in terms of citizen’s rights and the rule of law. Having witnessed the grim scenes unfolding in Admiralty yesterday, and given that two people are currently in intensive care as a result of the police action, this question, unfortunately, may become all too relevant for people serving in the Hong Kong police. . . [Full text]

Conscience fight moves to the political arena

The Catholic Register

Michael Swan

Having lost twice in court, the battle for conscience rights for health care workers in Ontario is now a political battle.

“We feel we really need legislation,” said Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada executive director Deacon Larry Worthen. “It’s basically for us a call to action.”

The latest setback came May 15 when the Ontario Court of Appeal ruling upheld a College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) requirement that doctors in the province must give referral for medical services such as assisted dying and abortion that conflict with their moral or religious beliefs. . . [Full text]

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

thejournal.ie

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

DW

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”

Bioedge

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.


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