Council of Europe committee attacks Italian law allowing doctors to refuse abortions

LifeSite News

Hilary White

ROME, March 10, 2014  ( – The International Planned Parenthood Federation has scored a major victory against conscientious objection laws in Italy at the Council of Europe. The council’s European Committee of Social Rights voted this weekend to uphold IPPF’s complaint against Italy that too many doctors are allowed to refuse to participate in abortion.

The complaint was launched in November 2012 by International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPFEN) claiming that Italian doctors were “abusing” the right, granted in Italy’s abortion law, not to be forced to commit abortions. It alleged that the Italian law is in “violation of the right to health … due to inadequate protection of the right to access procedures for the termination of pregnancy.”

The law, they said, “does not indicate the precise means through which hospitals and regional authorities are to guarantee the adequate presence of non-objecting medical personnel in all public hospitals, so as to always ensure the right of access to procedures for the termination of pregnancy.”

“Due to this lack in the normative framework, there exists an inadequate application of Law no. 194 of 1978, as demonstrated by the facts relating to practice, which in turn compromises the rights to life, health and self-determination of women seeking to terminate a pregnancy.” [Full Text]

Stop fretting about 3-parent embryos and get ready for “multiplex parenting”

Michael Cook*

The controversy over three-parent embryos could soon be old hat. Writing in one of the world’s leading journals, one of Britain’s best-known bioethicists has outlined a strategy for creating children with four or more genetic parents. He calls it “multiplex parenting”.

John Harris, of the University of Manchester, and two colleagues, César Palacios-González and Giuseppe Testa contend in the Journal of Medical Ethics (free online) that this is one of many exciting consequences of using stem cells to create synthetic eggs and sperm. (Or as they prefer to call them, in vitro generated gametes (IVG).)

After the discovery of induced pluripotent stem cells in 2007, theoretically any cell in the body can be created from something as simple as a skin cell. Mice have already been born from sperm and eggs created from stem cells. Harris and his colleagues believe that the day is not far off when scientists will be able to do the same with humans. In their paper, they spin an ethical justification for this and outline some possible uses.

First, is it ethical? Of course it is, so long as experiments on mice show that it is safe. After all, they write, this is already a much higher ethical bar than the one used for the first IVF babies. “If impractically high precautionary thresholds were decisive we would not have vaccines, nor IVF, nor any other advance. Nothing is entirely safe.” Besides, any children brought into the world are better off than if they never existed. . . [Full Text]

Pennsylvania legislator abandons plan to amend state constitution

State Representative Gordon Denlinger has suspended work on a bill to amend the state constitution to ensure freedom of conscience for citizens who refuse to provide services for reasons of conscience or religion.  He explained that he encountered difficulty in drafting the amendment so as to avoid providing a legal pretext for unjust discrimination.  []

Conscientious objection to “patriarchal norms”

 Hymen restoration and ‘virginity certificates’ in Sweden


 Michael Cook*

Informed consent and conscientious objection are easy to fulminate about, but tricky to discuss with consistency. Take, for instance, the delicate topic of requests for hymen restorations and virginity certificates. Worldwide, an estimated 5,000 women were victims of honour killings in 2000. If a young woman from a culture which sanctions honour killing approaches a doctor, what should he or she do?

Refusal is not a popular or even, in some jurisdictions, a legal option for doctors who are asked to refer for an abortion or to prescribe contraception. But a request which reinforces “patriarchal norms” is different.
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Zero tolerance against patriarchal norms? A cross-sectional study of Swedish physicians’ attitudes towards young females requesting virginity certificates or hymen restoration

J Med Ethics doi:10.1136/medethics-2013-101675

N.Juth, N. Lynöe


Many countries, Sweden among them, lack professional guidelines and established procedures for responding to young females requesting virginity certificates or hymen restoration due to honour-related threats. The purpose of the present survey study was to further examine the attitudes of the Swedish healthcare professionals concerned towards young females requesting virginity certificates or hymen restorations. The study indicates that a small majority of Swedish general practitioners and gynaecologists would accommodate these patients, at least given certain circumstances. But a large minority of physicians would under no circumstances help the young females, regardless of speciality, years of practice within medicine, gender, or experience of the phenomenon. Their responses are similar to other areas where it has been claimed that society should adopt a zero tolerance policy against certain phenomena, for instance drug policy, where it has also been argued that society should never act in ways that express support for the practice in question. However, this argument is questionable. A more pragmatic approach would also allow for follow-ups and evaluation of virginity certificates and hymen restorations, as is demonstrated by the Dutch policy. Hence, there are some obvious advantages to this pragmatic approach compared to the restrictive one espoused by a large minority of Swedish physicians and Swedish policy-makers in this area.
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U.S. Responses to Japanese Wartime Inhuman Experimentation after World War II: National Security and Wartime Exigency

Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics / Volume 23 / Issue 02 / April 2014, pp 220-230

Brody H, Leonard SE, Nie J-B, Weindling P.


In 1945–46, representatives of the U.S. government made similar discoveries in both Germany and Japan, unearthing evidence of unethical experiments on human beings that could be viewed as war crimes. The outcomes in the two defeated nations, however, were strikingly different. In Germany, the United States, influenced by the Canadian physician John Thompson, played a key role in bringing Nazi physicians to trial and publicizing their misdeeds. In Japan, the United States played an equally key role in concealing information about the biological warfare experiments and in securing immunity from prosecution for the perpetrators. The greater force of appeals to national security and wartime exigency help to explain these different outcomes.
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