Report Finds Large Number of Cases of Intolerance and Legal Restrictions Effecting Christians in Europe
Vienna / European Union, May 22, 2013. The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians releases 41 examples of national laws with adverse effects on Christians in more than 15 European Countries. Additionally, 169 cases of intolerance against Christians in the EU – area in 2012 are portrayed. The report was presented on May 21 at an OSCE High Level Conference on Tolerance and Non-discrimination held in
Tirana, Albania, in a keynote speech delivered by the Observatory’s director Dr. Gudrun Kugler. [Full news release and documents]
The secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, who represented the Holy See at a recent OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) conference devoted to tolerance, rued rising intolerance against Christians in Europe.
“Examples of intolerance and discrimination against Christians have not diminished, but rather increased in various parts of the OSCE region despite a number of meetings and conferences on the subject,” said Bishop Mario Toso, SDB.[ Read more – Holy See diplomat strongly denounces intolerance against Christians in Europe : News Headlines – Catholic Culture.]
The protection of conscience provision in a bill introduced in the House of Lords by Lord Falconer proposing to legalize assisted suicide.
Insurance & Health Care Conscience Protection
An Act to modify certain laws pertaining to abortion health insurance coverage . . .
[Full text of protection of conscience provision]
The following is the protection of conscience provision found in an assisted suicide
law. There is limited protection provided for health care facilities, which can prohibit their physicians from prescribing lethal medications for residents who wish to use them on their premises, but not from prescribing them for those who intend to use them elsehwere. [Protection of conscience provision]
Physicians testifying before a committee of the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) about the proposed abortion law have expressed conflicting views about the bill.
One point of disagreement is the provision for abortion in the case of a woman threatening suicide. Many Irish psychiatrists have protested the expectation that they will assess pregnant women in such circumstances. The issue is particularly important because it appears that the proposed law prohibits conscientious objection when a pregnant woman is threatening suicide.
The master of the National Maternity Hospital, Dr. Rhona Mahony, and its clinical director, Dr Peter Boylan, asserted that suicidal threats do provide grounds for abortion. On the other hand, Dr. Sam Coulter Smith, master of the Rotunda Hospital, testified that there was no evidence to support the inclusion of suicidal intention as a reason for abortion, and that such a law would pose “major ethical dilemmas for obstetricians.” He also criticized the proposed law for failing to set a gestational limit for the procedure. [Irish Times]
The president of the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland, Dr. Anthony McCarthy, stated that there would likely never be evidence that would demonstrate whether or not providing abortion would prevent suicide by a pregnant woman. He asserted that the question to ask “is there ever a case where a woman will kill herself because of an unwanted pregnancy and, if so, what can we do to save her life and would that ever be a termination of pregnancy?”
Consultant perinatal psychiatrist Dr. John Sheehan pointed out that, in 40 years of practice, Irish perinatal psychiatrists had never encountered a pregnant woman expressing suicidal intention. According to Dr. Sheehan said the incidence of suicide in pregnancy is between one in 250,000 and one in 500,000, so that it would be impossible for psychiatrists to predict who would likely commit suicide. [Irish Times]
Links Medical Practice in Mottingham, south London, includes some physicians unwilling to prescribe the morning-after pill for reasons of conscience, and has posted a notice so that customers can seek the drug elsewhere. An anonymous patient reported the practice to the media because she was “outraged” at the ‘religious influence’ on medical practice, and plans to find another physician. The Family Planning Association has encouraged other women to leave the practice. [The Independent]
A preliminary response from the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference to the proposed Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 had criticized the bill on several grounds. Among their concerns they raise the issue of freedom of conscience:
The Bill also appears to impose a duty on Catholic hospitals to provide abortions. This would be totally unacceptable and has serious implications for the existing legal and Constitutional arrangements that respect the legitimate autonomy and religious ethos of faith-based institutions. It would also pose serious difficulties for the conscientious beliefs of many citizens. [Full statement]
The protection of conscience measure in the bill does not apply to hospitals or other institutions, denominational or otherwise.
Fr Vincent Twomey, Emeritus Professor of Moral Theology at the University of Maynooth, has criticized the protection of conscience provision in the proposed Irish abortion law as “passing the buck”.
“It’s the Pontius Pilate answer. ‘I’m not going to do it but somebody else can do it for me’.”
Sean Cardinal Brady warned that the proposed law was “potentially menacing” for hospitals and for freedom of religion.[Herald]