Catholic Charities files lawsuit against the State of California

A law passed in 1999 included a requirement that would force Catholic hospitals to provide employee insurance coverage for artificial contraception. This has resulted in a lawsuit against the state. An application for a preliminary injunction is to be heard in a Sacramento Court in late August.


Irish Committee may recommend abortion in Ireland

It has been reported that Brian Lenihan, chairman of the Oireachtas committee which has been considering the issue of abortion in the Irish Republic, believes a consensus exists to advise rejection of an outright constitutional ban. He believes the committee’s recommendation will be to allow abortion in cases where the mother’s life is at risk. In view of this possibility, the Project submission to the Committee was timely.


Pharmacy Practice cites Ward, criticizes freedom of conscience in pharmacy

While Pharmacy Practice has not yet published the Project’s response, (e-mailed 13 July) an editorial against freedom of conscience in pharmacy appears in the July issue. It not only quotes Marianne Meed Ward’s accusation of selfishness with approval, but compares conscientious objectors in pharmacy to a ‘Deep South’ (USA) bigot who refused to serve blacks in his restaurant.


Responses to Canadian Pharmaceutical Journal

The Project submitted a response to the Canadian Pharmaceutical Journal, directing attention to significant errors in Frank Archer’s legal analysis of human rights law on accommodation of religious or moral belief, and challenging prejudicial remarks made about conscientious objectors in his review. A second critical article by a constitutional lawyer was also submitted to the Journal.


Project letter to the editor, Pharmacy Practice

NAPRA, the Canadian Pharmacy Association and New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Yukon and Alberta colleges or associations of pharmacy have stonewalled efforts from outside the profession to discuss freedom of conscience in pharmacy. Gordon Stueck’s invitation to serious, open dialogue on the subject is welcome (“Here we go again…” Pharmacy Practice, May 2000). One hopes it will encourage a change of attitude among those governing the profession. This is particularly important if, as Mr. Stueck states, a significant number of pharmacists object to dispensing Preven for reasons of conscience.

Mr. Stueck suggests that the proper context for such discussion is “the role of the pharmacist in today’s society”, and puts forward an argument against freedom of conscience based on economic self-interest. His primary concern is that the monopoly that pharmacists now enjoy in dispensing prescription drugs will be endangered if too many pharmacists refuse to dispense certain drugs for moral or religious reasons. What this amounts to is an assertion that economic self-interest is a greater good that should be protected at the expense of lesser goods – like freedom of conscience and religion.

Is economic self-interest a greater good than freedom of conscience and religion? Perhaps, in Mr. Stueck’s view, it is, but his view has not been dominant in the histories of liberal democracies, and it is not reflected in the Charter of Rights. The Charter guarantees freedom of conscience and religion- not economic self-interest.

Mr. Strueck’s assertion notwithstanding, public policy in Canada is rarely, in practice, determined by everyone in society, but by those in power. The rejection of the Charlottetown Accord in the nationwide referendum was a singular exception to the general rule. The results of other referenda have been ignored when they have conflicted with the views of public policy makers.

Whatever ‘public policy’ might be with respect to this drug or that, suppression of freedom of conscience and religion is not acknowledged by any authority to be a matter of public policy in Canada.

It should not become the policy of a professional association.

Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project

Project letter to the editor, The Standard

A number of health care professionals have moral or ethical objections to dispensing the ‘morning after pill’, so a recent article in The Standard (“Morning-after pill poses moral dilemma for some Mds”, 29 June 2000) is of interest beyond the community served by your paper. I would like to make two points.

First: though the drug in question was described as a ‘contraceptive’ that ‘prevents pregnancy’, many who are familiar with the action of the drug consider it an abortifacient, not a contraceptive, and object to dispensing it for that reason. Moreover, people attempting to understand the issues involved need to be aware that the words ‘abortion’, ‘pregnancy’, ‘conception’ and ‘contraception’ are often assigned completely different meanings by parties in the dispute about Preven.

Second: the good news in the story is almost too obvious for many to see. The woman obtained the drug that she wanted, and the physician was not forced to involve himself in something that he considered to be morally abhorrent. Arrangements at the hospital accommodated both her request for the drug, and his request not to have someone else’s morality imposed upon him.

This is the kind of common-sense accommodation that ought to be more widely practised.

Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project

Conscientious objectors at Canadian conference told to leave profession of pharmacy

Representatives speaking up for freedom of conscience in pharmacy were told that they should leave the profession by more than one colleague at the Canadian Pharmacists Association Conference in Saskatoon. Frank Archer’s article was cited against them.


Faigheann coiste Ill-phairti Oireachtais run mar gheall ar saoirse choinsiasa

Tacaíocht choinsiasa

Fuáir an Coiste Ill-phairti Oireachtais ar an mBunreacht, pléadáil I scríbhinn on gComhairle Saoirse Choinsiasa, ar an nga oibrithe I gcúrsaí leighis agus daoine nach iad a bheith cosainte ó éigeantalacht agus di-mheas.

Chuir Riarthóir an Phróiseas, Sean ó Murchu, in úil go bhfuil béim an phléadáil o chuile éisteachtai eile an Choiste go dáta. “Ní faoi geinmhilleadh,@ adeir sé, “ach  faoi saoirse choinsiasa, chomh fada is a bhaineann sé le cursai leighis faoi lathair, ata  na smaointe seo.@

“Mo lean,” a mhinigh sé, “na h-argointi faoi chúrsai léighis go dtí seo-ni raibh siad riamh curtha, ionas     go mbeadh, mar deir diad (seal mhachnamh stuamtha), agus mar gheall air sin ni raibh aon mhachnamh deanta ar na rudai tharlaionn dóibh siud ata in aghaidh geinmhilleadh de réir  choinsiasa”.

Thagair an t-Uasal ó Murchu don staitistic a rinne iarracht soiléiriú, nuair nach raibh an cúrsa leighis seo sásúil do go leor daoine,nach raibh iachall ar na daoine sin páirt a ghlacadh ann. Rinne an pléadáil I scríbhinn an poinnte nach bhfuil sé sin fíor. Ní dheanann an pléadáil aon phoinnti faoi moltaí spesificiula-fagtar iad seo faoi chúraim an Choiste.

” Má tá nó má bhionn gá le tacaíocht choinsiasa a chur ins an dlí in Éirinn, is faoi Muinntear na H-Éireann a bheas an cúram sin, agus is in Éirinn a chaithfidh na dlíthe agus na polasaithe a bheith déanta-chomh fada is a bhaineann siad le saol na H-Éireann”.

Tá an pléadáil seo ar fáil on Website.


All-Party Committee receives plea for freedom of conscience

Protection of Conscience Project

The All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution has  received a written submission from Protection of Conscience Project on the need for laws to protect health care workers and others from coercion and discrimination.

Project Administrator Sean Murphy noted that the focus of the submission was different from that of the recent Committee hearings. “This submission is not about abortion,” he wrote, “but  about freedom of conscience in relation to morally controversial medical       procedures.”

“Unfortunately,” he  explained, “discussions about such procedures have not always been accompanied by sufficient reflection about their impact on those who object to them for reasons of conscience.”

Mr. Murphy observed that when the procedure in question is objectionable to large numbers of people, it is usually assumed that no one would be forced to participate in it. The submission cites a number of cases to make the point that, in the long run, this is not the case.

The Project does not recommend specific measures, leaving such questions for the consideration of the Committee: “If  there is or will be a need for protection of conscience legislation in Ireland, that need will have to be articulated by Irish citizens, and laws and policies framed according to the circumstances prevailing in Ireland.”

The submission to the Committee is available on-line through the Project Website.


Project Submission to the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution


(19 June, 2000)

  • Background | In 2000, a parliamentary committee in Ireland held hearings into the possibilty of legalizing abortion in the country.  One of the physicians who testified stated that most obstetricians-gynaecologists would refuse to participate in the procedure. Project Submission