Virginia enacts protection of conscience provision for genetic counsellors

 Governor’s attempt to force referral overridden by Senate

A bill concerning the regulation of genetic counselling in Virginia has been enacted with the original protection of conscience provision intact.  Identical versions of the bill had been passed unanimously by the Virginia House and Senate, but Governor Terry McAuliffe, apparently in response to lobbying from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood, attempted to insert a mandatory referral provision into the bill.  This was rejected by the Senate.  The law now requires an objecting counsellor to offer “to direct the patient to the online directory of licensed genetic counselors maintained by the Board.” [Family Foundation]

Protection of conscience provision in new Tasmanian abortion law

The Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill 2013 passed the Tasmanian  Legislative Council 9-5 on 21 November [ The Examiner] and received Royal Assent today.  Abortions after 16 weeks will require the approval of two physicians.  The new Act includes a protection of conscience provision that exempts those who object to the procedure from participating in it, except when necessary to save the life of a woman or prevent serious physical injury.  There is no requirement for referral, but an objecting physician must provide a woman “seeking a termination or advice regarding the full range of pregnancy options” a “list of prescribed health services” from which she may seek advice.  Since, subject to the content of the list, this does not seem to be the equivalent of referral for abortion, the requirement may not be problematic for those concerned about indirect moral complicity.

What is not clear is whether or not the Act actually prohibits an objecting physician from providing information or advice about pregnancy options beyond the “prescribed” list.  Section 7(4) states that an objecting physician may continue to “provide treatment, advice or counselling, in respect of matters other than a termination or advice regarding the full range of pregnancy options” (emphasis added) which could be taken to imply that an objecting physician is not permitted to offer a woman anything other than the prescribed list.


Protection of conscience bill to be proposed in Alabama

Representative Becky Nordgren of Alabama, is proposing a Health Care Right of Conscience Act in the state legislature.  The bill is intended to protect all health care providers from being compelled to participate, directly or indirectly, in abortion, human cloning, human embryonic stem cell research, and sterilization if they object to the procedures for reasons of conscience.  A health care provider must give an employer no less than 24 hours written notice of an objection.  An exception is made in the case of a procedure necessary to save the life of a patient.  Patricia Todd, a Representative apparently hostile to freedom of conscience for health care workers, asked “[W]hy are you in the health care profession if you don’t want to provide health care?” adding that there had been no attempts to regulate male impotence drugs or prostate exams. [Anniston Star]

Protection of conscience laws by country

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Poland flagPoland
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United Kingdom flag United Kingdom
US flag United States
Uruguayan flag Uruguay
Zambian flag Zambia

Ireland: Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013

Protection of Conscience Provision

The  Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 became law in July, 2013The protection of conscience provision is provided here in full within an abbreviated presentation of the entire act.  Paraphrased parts of the bill are in italics.  Mouseover the red text to see government comments that were provided in the “heads of bill” relevant to the text.  Links to other information relevant to the law are in the first column to the right.

Vermont: An act relating to patient choice and control at end of life

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]

Uruguay Abortion Law: Protection of Conscience Provisions

Sean Murphy*

The Act legalizing abortion in Uruguay, passed in the fall of 2012, includes two protection of conscience provisions.

Section 10 provides protection for existing health care institutions that are part of the National Integrated Health System if they had ideological objections to abortion at the time the law was enacted.  They are not required to provide abortion, but “may” reach an agreement with the Ministry of Public Health to arrange for their patients to have abortions elsewhere.  If “may” is understood to mean that such arrangements are optional, institutional freedom of conscience will not be compromised.  However, it appears that all hospitals that are part of the National Integrated Health System that are opened from this point on will be required to provide abortions.

Section 11 allows conscientious objection by health care workers, but this is limited by the meaning given to “health” in Section 6A.

[Protection of concience provisions: Spanish/English]