Protection of Conscience Project
Protection of Conscience Project
Service, not Servitude

Service, not Servitude
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The commentaries provided on the website are not a substitute for legal advice provided by a qualified professional. 

Re: General Commentary

Australia needs to recognise conscience rights, not just religious rights

  • David Van Gend | . . .  I ask the question: how would a Religious Discrimination Bill protect the free speech, and therefore free conscience, of traditional-minded people like me who make a stand on conscientious, not religious, grounds?
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Coalition’s religious discrimination bill goes far, but not far enough

  • Xavier Symons  |  It is no surprise that the Religious Discrimination Bill is being criticised as too strong by aggressive secularists and too weak by people of faith.  .  . It is a religious discrimination bill with a narrow focus on a very specific set of issues. . .  a patchwork, jury-rigged, rickety scaffolding to placate religious critics without laying a firm foundation.
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The great divide where religious beliefs and the law meet

  • Michael Quinlan  | . . . freedom of conscience and belief is not treated with the importance our history and international law call for and state and territory laws regularly override religious freedom. . . Religion is not going away. Our laws can do a better job of accommodating people of faith. Our history demands no less.
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Queensland's Voluntary Assisted Dying Act (2021)

Impact on freedom of conscience for health care practitioners and institutions

  • Sean Murphy  | Queensland’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Act (2021) was drafted by the Queensland Law Reform Commission ("the Commission") It will legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide (termed "voluntary assisted dying") in the Australian state when it comes into force in January, 2023. This review considers the impact the Act may have on freedom of conscience. Part I outlines the main features of the law, providing a context for discussion of provisions relevant to freedom of conscience in Part II (Practitioner Freedom of Conscience) and Part III (Institutional & Collective Freedom of Conscience). . . . continue reading

New South Wale's Voluntary Assisted Dying Act (2022) No. 17

Impact on freedom of conscience for health care practitioners and institutions

  • Sean Murphy  | New South Wales' Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2022 No. 17, drafted and introduced by Independent MLA Alex Greenwich, closely resembles Queensland's Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2021. It will legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide (termed "voluntary assisted dying") in the Australian state when it comes into force in January, 2023. This review considers the impact the Act may have on health care workers and institutions opposed to euthanasia or assisted suicide (EAS) for reasons of conscience. Part I outlines the main features of the law, providing a context for discussion of provisions relevant to freedom of conscience in Part II (Individual Freedom of Conscience) and Part III (Institutional & Collective Freedom of Conscience). . . . . continue reading

Re: Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 (New South Wales)

The conscience rights of health practitioners must be protected
A NSW bill could deter some of the brightest and best from entering health services

  • Greg Walsh  | One of the main concerns about the Bill recently introduced to amend New South Wales laws on abortion is how health practitioners with a conscientious objection to participating in abortion will be regulated. Under the Bill, health practitioners must disclose that they have a conscientious objection if they are asked to perform, assist with, provide advice about, or make a decision concerning whether an abortion should be performed.  .  .
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Abortion bill in New South Wales a global first
Freedom of conscience conditional upon gestational age

Re:  Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 (Victoria)

New euthanasia/assisted suicide law in Australia
Victoria's Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017

  • Sean Murphy  | On 19 April, 2018, the legislature of the State of Victoria, Australia, passed the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017, which will come into force in June, 2019.  It is currently the most restrictive euthanasia/assisted suicide (EAS) legislation in the world, running to 130 pages.  In brief, the law authorizes physician assisted suicide for terminally ill adults, but permits euthanasia by physicians only when patients are physically unable to self-administer a lethal drug.  In both cases a permit must be obtained in advance.  The main elements of the law are set out below, followed by consideration of its protection of conscience provisions.
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Politicians wrestle with doctors' consciences in Victoria: Conscientious objection needs to be protected

  • Paul Russell  | As the Victorian Ministerial Advisory Panel on "assisted dying" makes ready to release its interim report sometime in April, The Age newspaper turned its attention to the matter of conscience whether a doctor may refuse to take part in any action that would bring about the premature and deliberate death of a person.  Conscience - or the ability to draw upon one's own personal belief system in making a decision about an action - plays out at different levels in any debate on euthanasia and assisted suicide. . . .
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Re:  Abortion Law Reform Bill 2008
(State of Victoria)

The Abortion Law Reform Bill 2008 legalized abortion in the State of Victoria, Australia.  It demands that physicians who object to abortion for reasons of conscience must refer a woman to a colleague who has no such objections in order to facilitate the procedure, and requires physicians to perform abortions if necessary "to preserve the life of the pregnant woman."  A number of individuals and groups spokeout against the bill and the law, often for a combination of reasons.


  • Doctors in Conscience Against Abortion Bill

    • . . .We believe it to be an attack on the basic human rights of health professionals which undermines their moral integrity and professional autonomy. The state should not coerce its health professionals to participate in the taking of human life. . .
      Position Statement
  • Dr. John Neil

    • . . . It is ludicrous that a "registered medical practitioner" should have to perform an emergency abortion. Firstly it is coercive, and others will speak about this. Secondly, it is based on a false premise that an emergency abortion actually is ever necessary. Coercion to make an "effective referral" is also unnecessary and prejudicial. . .
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    • . . .This Bill misrepresents and undervalues the process and responsibilities of professional referral. This Bill implies that referral removes obligation and participation. However, referrals between medical professionals imply a partnership of care. . . There is no way that a practitioner can make or receive such a referral in good conscience if they do not agree with the procedure and care to be undertaken. . .
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  • Jacinta Le Page (Medical Student)

    • . . . Firstly, referring personally to another medical practitioner, as this Bill states, seems to be clearly participating in abortion. . . we fear we will be required to research for a colleague who will readily 'help' her have an abortion. Such a personal referral equals participation in the killing. . .
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  • Joanne Grainger (Registered Nurse, Bioethicist)

    • . . . I am not here representing all Victorian nurses - that would be a presumptuous assertion. However, there are over 80,000 registered nurses in Victoria - and I speak on behalf of those many nurses who have a conscientious objection to their participation in an abortion on religious, cultural, personal or ethical grounds. . .
      Full text of speech
  • Justine Armstrong (Victorian Division One Theatre Nurse)

    • If passed, this Bill would force me to directly participate in abortions as a theatre nurse. This is totally unacceptable to me and my family. It is immoral. It violates my personal and professional ethical framework. It is an affront to my faith and it strips me of my fundamental rights as a human being and as a professional, to object to an action that contravenes my personal conscience.
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  • The Australian Egyptian Doctors and the Coptic Doctors

    • . . .The bill as it stands . . .coerces the health practitioner to behave or act in a manner which comprises his or her ethics, morals, culture and religious beliefs. . .(Egyptian Doctors)
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  • George Cardinal Pell

    • The rights of freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief are fundamental. The ability to exercise conscientious objection is a keystone of democracy. All of us should have the right to hold a belief and not be compelled by the state to act contrary to that conviction. It is the difference between the free society and the one subject to tyranny.
      Full text of news release
  • Greg Craven

    • . . .This centrality of conscience in rights discourse hardly is surprising. Of all the rich and varied freedoms, the freedom to think and believe is fundamental. Without it people not only have fewer human rights, they are less human. . .
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  •  Michael Cook

    • . . . One of the most objectionable features of this legislation is that it effectively removes doctors' right to conscientious objection. It requires doctors-who-won't to refer women to doctors-who-will. Furthermore, "in an emergency where the abortion is necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant woman", the doctor must perform it. . .
      A question of conscience
    • . . . corrupting the medical profession by forcing doctors and nurses to collude in this is a clear violation of a universally acknowledged human right to freedom of conscience. Nowhere else in the world does such a draconian law exist, not in New Zealand, not in the United Kingdom, not in Canada, not in the United States. . .
      Forcing compliance
  • Liberty of Conscience in Medicine: A Declaration

    • . . . Liberty of conscience is critical for individual doctors as it lies at the very heart of our integrity and self-identity. It is conscience that must compel doctors to refuse to participate in treatments they believe to be un-ethical or that they consider not to be in the best interests of patients. . .
      Full Text of Declaration
  • Conscience Laws and Healthcare Conference

    • Dr. Lachlan Dunjey:  In this video, Dr Lachlan Dunjey speaks on the topic: The Coercion of Doctors: What is happening to modern medicine?
    •  Francis Sullivan:  In this video, Francis Sullivan speaks on the topic: Freedom of Conscience and Good Medical Practice: The Australian Medical Association's position.
    • Martin Laverty:  In this video, Martin Laverty speaks on the topic: The Victorian Abortion Law and the threat to religious affiliated healthcare.
    • Nigel Preston:  In this video, Nigel Preston speaks on the topic: The Victorian Abortion Law and Conscientious Healthworkers: Is there a way out or do we need a test case?
    • Julian McGauran:  In this video, Julian McGauran speaks on the topic: The Coercion of Conscience: A Federal Political Response.

Fundamental freedoms
Why the right to conscientious objection must be restored

  • David van Gend  |  I feel a little out of place coming from Queensland to speak about the wretched situation in Victoria: coming from a State where it is always sunny, where the people are always nice, and where we don't have oppressive laws that try to compel the conscience of free citizens. But we are all in this together: an assault on fundamental freedoms in one State will become a precedent for similar abuses in other States. . .
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Forcing compliance
The Australian state of Victoria has a world first: a law which forces doctors to refer women for abortion or to do it themselves -- even if they have a conscientious objection.

  • Michael Cook   | Set in a huge mosaic in the lobby of Parliament House in Melbourne is a Biblical proverb, "Where no counsel is, the people fall; but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety." A good number of healthcare workers in the state of Victoria must be wondering now whether this is still true. Last week their Victorian legislators passed the only law in the Western world which forces doctors and nurses to participate in abortions against their conscience. . . .
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A question of conscience.
Why are pro-choice activists so dismissive of freedom of conscience?

  • Michael Cook   | The conscience of a moral relativist makes arbitrary, even capricious, choices. It is just a whim. The traditional view of conscience is quite different. Only a malfunctioning conscience is capricious.
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Re:  Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill (2013)
(State of Tasmania)

New frontiers in repressing dissent

  • Mishka Gora  | Tasmania may be small, but it will punch far above its weight on the world stage in shutting down protests against abortion if a new bill is passed. . . the real aim of the Labor-Green coalition which is running Tasmania is to criminalize abortion dissent.
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Submission to the Tasmanian Government

  • Australian Medical Association Tasmania Ltd. | AMA Tasmania has grave concerns that the draft legislation has the potential to criminalise members of the profession with conscientious objection to termination of pregnancy.
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