Statistics Canada has confirmed that 491 babies survived abortions in Canada between 2000 and 2009 and then died. [Lifesite News] This is consistent with confirmed reports of the abandonment of infants following abortion [Did Someone Try to Murder Ximena?] and distress caused to objecting health care personnel [Down the Slope to Infanticide].
Irish Health minister James Reilly announced that the Irish government will decide upon a regulatory scheme for abortion in Ireland by the end of the year, and implement it in 2013. [Irish News]
A report by Lord Justice Leveson, who conducted An inquiry into the culture, ethics and practice of the press, includes a recommendation that a protection of conscience clause should be included in journalist contracts. The subject is addressed in Volume 2 (p. 724) and Volume 4 (p. 1705, 1799) and follows upon his observation that journalists were reluctant or afraid to contest unethical or illegal activities they encountered, and that this seemed related to lack of protection for those acting on conscientious conviction.
In his executive summary, Lord Leveson said, “I was struck by the evidence of journalists who felt that they might be put under pressure to do things that were unethical or against the code. I therefore suggest that the new independent self-regulatory body should establish a whistle-blowing hotline and encourage its members to ensure that journalists’ contracts include a conscience clause protecting them if they refuse.”
The recommendation is strongly supported by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ). The General Secretary gave evidence at the inquiry “on behalf of journalists too frightened to speak out openly for fear of the impact on their careers.” [Morning Star] Commenting on the report, she said, “”A journalist should always have the right to refuse assignments and no journalist should be disciplined or suffer detriment to their career for asserting his or her right to act ethically.”[Morning Star]
The International Federation of Journalists and the European Federation of Journalists have welcomed the recommendation for a “conscience clause,” noting that such clauses can be found in many European collective agreements. [IFJ]
While health care and journalistic environments are signficantly different, there is no principled reason to suppose that freedom of conscience for health care workers is less important than freedom of conscience for journalists.
Lawyer Julie Kay, who won a judgement at the European Court of Human Rights against Ireland’s ban on abortion, argues that restrictions on abortion related to the life or health of the mother are unacceptable. “There are,” she writes, “no guidelines for doctors on the distinction between a medical procedure necessary to preserve a woman’s life versus a procedure that would merely protect her health.” She describes this distinction as “bogus.” [Slate]
In a long-awaited report, a panel appointed by the Irish government to study the operation of the abortion law in Ireland has stated the government is obliged to provide guidelines that establish how women in Ireland can obtain abortions consistent with Irish law. It recommends that a physician who objects to abortion for reasons of conscience should be forced to facilitate the procedure by referring a patient to a willing colleague, and to provide an abortion “when the risk of death is imminent and inevitable.” The report is not clear on the extent to which conscientious objection might be allowed to other health care workers. [Report, p. 42, 6.9]
The House of Assembly in the Parliament of South Australia has passed the Advanced Care Directives Bill (2012), which defines medical treatment and health care so as to include nutrition and hydration, and makes it possible for nutrition and hydration to be refused or denied even to patient who isnot dying. The protection of conscience provision in the bill requires objectors to facilitate the withdrawal of food and fluids by providing contact information for someone willing to do so, and to refer the patient to that person if requested. The bill also allows patient directives to override denominational or institutional codes of conduct governing the delivery of health care. [The Australian]
Obstetrician Lisa Harris, whose column in the New England Journal of Medicine asserted that protection of conscience laws fail to recognize that abortion providers are motivated by conscientious convictions, repeated her arguments in an interview with the New Scientist magazine. While she admitted that the circumstances of the death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland are not clear, she speculated that the Halappanavar might not have died had an abortion been provided. She stated that similar problems arise in denominational hospitals in the United States. She described the case of a woman who was referred to her with a “septic abortion ” because the foetus was still alive, and the religiously affilicated hospital where she was first treated would not induce an abortion. [New Scientist]
The Australia Institute has published the results of a survey indicating that about 70% of the respondents agreed that physicians should be able to provide euthansia in cases of “unrelievable and incurable suffering.” Over 50% thought that euthanasia should be available for patients suffering from dementia who had expressed a desire for euthanasia while competent.[Herald Sun]