Council of Europe Hailed for Religious-Freedom Resolution

Resolution 1928 says that the assembly must ‘accommodate religious beliefs in  the public sphere by guaranteeing freedom of thought in relation to health care,  education and the civil service.’

National Catholic Register

Carl Bunderson/CNA/EWTN NEWS

STRASBOURG, France — A resolution passed by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly is being lauded as an important — although limited —  recognition of religious and conscience rights in the public sphere.

“The important step with this resolution is the mention of the right to  conscientious objection and the enlargement of its scope of application,” Grégor  Puppinck, general director of the European Centre for Law and Justice, told  Catholic News Agency April 29. [Read more . . .]


Australian physician threatened with discipline for refusing to refer for sex-selective abortion

Couple wanted a boy –  wanted to abort girl

Dr. Mark Hobart, a physician in Melbourne, Australia, refused to refer a couple for an abortion at 19 weeks gestation.  The couple wanted the abortion because they had learned that the woman was carrying a girl.  They wanted a boy, not a girl.  They found another physician without the referral and had the abortion.

Under the state of Victoria’s Abortion Law Reform Act 2008, objecting physicians are obliged to refer patients seeking abortions to a willing colleague.  The law was passed despite vigorous opposition from health care workers who protested the Act’s suppression of freedom of conscience.

Dr. Hobart is aware of the law and refuses, for reasons of conscience, to conform to it. [Herald Sun] [Related: Couple abort girl because they wanted a boy]





Claims of Conscience

Religious Freedom and State Power

3 May, 2013

William Galston

Is religious conscience special? And what kinds of claims (if any) does conscience warrant? These are two of the many questions Brian Leiter raises in his provocative book Why Tolerate Religion? (Princeton University Press, $24.95, 192 pp.).

Note that in principle one could answer the first question in the negative—by denying the distinctiveness of religion—while endorsing broad claims for conscience as such. Imagine a two-by-two table: In the upper left quadrant is an expansive notion of conscience coupled with a broad conception of conscientious claims; in the bottom right is conscience restricted to religion with few or no claims to which the law must yield. The two remaining quadrants are broad/narrow and narrow/broad, respectively.  [Read more . . .]

Protection of conscience initiative launched by New Zealand health care professionals


For immediate release

Protection of Conscience Project

The New Zealand Health Care Professionals Alliance Te Hononga Mãtanga Haurora O Aortearoa has launched a website highlighting the interest of the Alliance in freedom of conscience in health care.  The new site features a Best Practice Guide, Patient Support and Resources, and an introduction to the Alliance’s Mentorship Programme.

The Alliance is a non-denominational organization that welcomes members from all health care professions, including nurses & midwives, doctors, radiographers, pharmacists, laboratory technologists, anaesthetic technicians, and radiation therapists.  Hospital chaplains may also join.  Membership is open to professionals in training, practice and retirement who support the purposes of the organization.

Sean Murphy, Administrator of the Protection of Conscience Project, offered his congratulations to the Alliance.

“Since the Project began in 1999, it has emphasized the importance of local initiatives of this kind,” he said, “and especially the need for health care professionals to become active in support of their own fundamental freedoms.”

“The people best placed to respond to pressures against freedom of conscience in health care are those closest to the action,” Murphy explained.  “New Zealanders know best what challenges they face in their own country, and how to respond effectively to them.  The history of the Alliance demonstrates that quite clearly.”

The New Zealand Health Professionals Alliance (NZHPA) was incorporated in 2009 in response to an attempt by the Medical Council of New Zealand to suppress freedom of conscience by means of a direction called Beliefs and Medical Practice.  Relying on the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003, the NZHPA applied to the High Court for a judicial review of the draft statement because it considered it unlawful.  The court supported the NZHPA, and the Medical Council ultimately decided not to publish the direction.

Global Charter of Conscience: A Global Covenant Concerning Faiths and Freedom of Conscience

The Charter has been drafted by people of many faiths and none, politicians of many  persuasions, academics and NGOs, all committed to a partnership on behalf of “freedom  of thought, conscience and religion” for people of all  faiths and none.
Full Text

Irish psychiatrists reject proposed part in assessment of women seeking abortion

About one third of Irish psychiatrists who treat adults have signed a statement rejecting a draft government proposal that psychiatrists should assess women seeking who are threatening suicide.  One of a group of psychiatrists involved in discussion with the Irish government told the Irish Independent that “there is no evidence that abortion is a treatment for suicidality in pregnancy and may in fact be harmful to women.”  113 of about 300 practitioners have signed a statement to that effect. [Irish Independent]

Should medical staff be able to opt out on grounds of conscience?

Click on the image to watch the discussion.

Scotland Tonight looked at the issue of conscientious objection by health care workers following the successful appeal of midwives against an order to delegate, supervise, or support staff involved in providing abortions.

Discussion participants were Paul Tully of the pro-life group, Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, health journalist Pennie Taylor and employment lawyer Donald MacKinnon.

Appeal succeeds in Scotland: freedom of conscience upheld for midwives

A panel of judges of the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Scotland, has ruled in favour of two midwives appealing a 2012 decision by a judge of the same court.  Lady Dorrian,  Lord Mackay of Drumadoon and Lord McEwan have ruled that the midwifery sisters, Mary Doogan, and Concepta Wood, cannot be compelled to supervise the provison of abortion by the National Health Services of Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

The two women were labour ward co-ordinators at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow and had long identified themselves as having conscientious objection to abortion.  However, in 2007, when the labour ward was made responsible for abortions, they were ordered to supervise, support and delegate staff providing the procedure.  They challenged the order as a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights on the grounds that it made them morally complicit in abortion by requiring their participation in the process of providing it.

The appelate judges said, “In our view the right of conscientious objection extends not only to the actual medical or surgical termination but to the whole process of treatment given for that purpose.” [Text of the ruling]

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is considering an appeal of the decision. [Herald Scotland] [The Telegraph]




Rights of conscience must be preserved

Lawmakers offer bill to protect health care workers from being forced to violate  their moral and religious beliefs

The Detroit News

Michigan lawmakers worried that the Obama administration is brushing over  concerns that its health care law will trample religious freedoms have crafted  an appropriate bill to shield workers and hospitals from being coerced into  violating their conscience.

Sen. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, introduced legislation that would offer  conscience protections to individuals and institutions in the health care  field. . . [Read more]

Conscience vs. Religion

Peter Lawler

So Richard Reinsch has a good article on the limits of James Madison’s religious thought–as expressed in the overrated MEMORIAL AND REMONSTRANCE.  There the duty each of us has to our Creator is private or merely “conscientious.”  It’s a limit to government, to be sure.  But it’s a personal–or not social–limit.  It’s far from clear that Madison is saying that government is limited by the freedom the church as an organized body of thought and action. . . [Read more]