In what may presage increasing attacks on freedom of conscience outside
health care, Dutch civil servant Nynke Eringa-Boomgaardt has been threatened
with dismissal by Leuwaarden city council because she refused to officiate
in a homosexual wedding. Holland legalized homosexual weddings in April,
2001. Eringa-Boomgaardt must sign a contract agreeing to wed same-sex
couples at city hall if she wants to save her job. "This is about the battle
between equality and my right to have conscientious objections,"
Eringa-Boomgaardt said. [News
Item 1] [News
An article in the June/July 2001 issue of Ms. Magazine suggests that
several American organizations, including the American Civil Liberties
Union, plan to attack freedom of conscience in health care by rejecting all
protection of conscience provisions in legislation. It is unclear whether or
not they also intend to push for coercive legislation that would effectively
drive health care workers from their professions and eliminate
denominational health care in the United States. In addition to the ACLU,
those opposed to freedom of conscience in health care include Catholics
for a Free Choice (which is not affiliated with the Catholic Church),
the ProChoice Resource Center, Planned Parenthood, the
National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) and a group formed by
Connecticut Pharmacist Robert Tendler, Pharmacists for Choice. It
seems that these groups, which identify themselves by name and/or policy as
"pro-choice", are prepared to deny freedom of choice to anyone who does not
share their moral viewpoint.
Agence France Presse reports that a draft law submitted to Parliament by
Christian Democrat legislators would allow pharmacists to refuse sales of
the abortifacient Mifepristone (RU-486) which was approved for distribution
in Italy late last year.
address to the International Congress of Catholic Obstetricians and
Gynaecologists, Pope John Paul II noted that demands for contraceptive and
abortifacient drugs and developing reproductive technology threaten the
traditional harmony between Christian morality and medical ethics. He
supported the practice of conscientious objection, noting that "it is never
licit to cooperate formally in evil."
The pope spoke of conscientious objection as the "middle path which opens
up before Catholic health workers who are faithful to their conscience",
asserting that conscientious objection "ought to be respected by all,
especially legislators. "
San Francisco Chronicle reports that a new instruction issued by the
American Catholic bishops will put an end to contraceptive tubal ligations
and vasectomies in Catholic hospitals. Backed by an overwhelming majority of
209-7, their directive removes policy 'loopholes' that had previously been
used to justify accommodation of the procedures in some Catholic hospitals.
The bishops' affirmation that the procedures are "intrinsically evil"
contrasts sharply with popular opinion. The unfavourable reaction to the
instruction in some quarters suggests the kind of pressures that may be
experienced by conscientious objectors employed in a state health care
system. It also reveals varying degrees of antagonism to the concept of
religious freedom in practical matters. (Bishops'
Canadian professor of philosophy Don DeMarco has urged conscientious
pharmacists to refuse to dispense the abortifacient morning-after pill.
Professor DeMarco, from St Jerome's university, Ontario, told a pro-life
conference in Nova Scotia that pharmacists across North America had been
reprimanded or even dismissed because of their religious and moral beliefs.
He observed: "Our society is very confused. It wants conscientious people,
but not people with conscience."
(The Daily News, Halifax)
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has launched a new website
to provide information about financial ties between scientists and industry.
The site also provides information about some of the corporate support
received by dozens of professional, health, and non-profit organizations,
such as the International Life Sciences Institute, American Council on
Science and Health, and American Dietetic Association.
CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson said: "Corporations
increasingly are funding academic scientists to conduct research, speak at
press conferences, and provide advice. Too frequently, neither the
scientists nor the corporations disclose that funding. Today, we have begun
to lift that veil of secrecy by providing journalists, activists, policy
makers, and the public with information about the links between more than
1,100 scientists and industry. The list will be expanded in the coming
During a CTV News interview on 2 June, Melanie Anderson, executive
director of Planned Parenthood in Calgary, claimed that physicians who
object to abortion for reasons of conscience are ethically obliged to refer
patients for abortion. Her comments were in response to a report that a
number of conscientious objectors among Alberta pharmacists will refuse to
dispense the drug because it sometimes acts as an abortifacient.
The Administrator has written to Anderson, requesting that she explain
the basis for her statement, which is contradicted by the policy of the
Canadian Medical Association. A
news release from Physicians for Life describes her statement as "an
erroneous allegation", quoting correspondence from the Registrar of the
Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons to the effect that physicians are
not ethically obliged to refer for abortion.
Testimony given last May before a committee studying Ireland's abortion
law indicated that a "vast majority" of Irish gynaecologists would refuse to
participate in abortion. Despite this, the Irish Medical Council introduced
two proposals favouring abortion at a private meeting dealing with other
business. Seven members of the Council walked out in protest, and are
considering legal action.
Echoing the testimony given last year, Professor John Bonnar, chairman of
the Irish Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, warned that the new
guidelines would be "at variance with the position of the overwhelming
majority of the medical profession in Ireland." [Unison]
Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) reports that a bill to force
private health-insurance policies to pay for contraceptive pills has been
stopped in committee.
The first Faculty of Bioethics will begin offering courses at the
bachelor, masters and doctorate levels in the fall of 2001.
(See news release)
In the United Kingdom, the
Daily Telegraph reports concerns that the code of ethics for British
pharmacists has been amended to remove protection for conscientious
objectors, substituting a clause that would encourage discrimination against
them by employers. The code had stated that a pharmacist "may object on
grounds of conscience to the dispensing of certain medicinal products for
the control of fertility, conception or termination of pregnancy."
This clause was replaced at the annual meeting of the Royal
Pharmaceutical Society with the statement, "... before accepting employment
pharmacists must disclose any factors which may affect their ability to
provide services." The revised code makes no allowance for conscientious
objection. Pharmacists for Life International member Caroline Hubert said:
"This would effectively render pharmacists who have a conscientious
MADRID, Spain, MAY 20, 2001 (From report by (Zenit.org).-
Andalucian health counsellor Francisco Vallejo has ordered pharmacies to
stock the morning-after pill, and is attempting to unilaterally suppress
pharmacists' freedom of conscience by denying exemptions for conscientious
objectors. The order was criticized by Catholic bishops in southern Spain.
Bishop Antonio Dorado Soto of MÃ¡laga-Melilla called the order unjust and "an
offense against pharmacists' [right to] conscientious objection."
The order to stock the drug, which some pharmacists object to because it
can act as an abortifacient, is effective this week.
Dr. Robert Walley, Founder of
MaterCare International and professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at
Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland, expressed concern that
"there is discrimination against Catholic and pro-life doctors in many
countries who wish to specialize but who refuse to participate in abortion
or birth control."
The comments appeared in an
interview published yesterday by Zenit News promoting the
June 17-20 conference entitled "The Future of Obstetrics and Gynecology:
The Fundamental Human Right to Be Trained According to Conscience."
A report from Buenos Aires states that the president of the Argentine
bishops' conference, Archbishop Estanislao Karlic, has said that Argentines
are not bound by a new birth control law passed in the House of
Representatives and awaiting approval by the Senate.
The new law would force public hospitals and the Social Security agency to
provide non-permanent birth control to all women, including minors without
their parents' consent. "If the law goes directly against true values, then
it is not a law, since an unjust law just ceases to exist," said Archbishop
Karlic. He added that he was not calling for rebellion, but "for the natural
disobedience paid to a law that is no such thing."
The Wisconsin Assembly Family Law Committee has approved
legislation that will provide much needed job security for pharmacists who
conscientiously object to dispensing drugs or devices that can cause death
through abortion, euthanasia or physician assisted suicide. The measure now
moves to the Wisconsin Assembly for approval. (See
House Bill 2564 in the Arizona legislature would provide comprehensive
protection for health care providers, institutions and health maintenance
organizations, insurance companies, management services organizations and
employers. Civil, criminal and administrative immunity is assured, and the
bill provides for civil actions for damages and legal costs, and injunctive
relief. The bill is not procedure-specific, though it mentions abortion,
artificial insemination, assisted reproduction, artificial birth control,
cloning, human stem cell and fetal experimentation, withdrawal of nutrition
and hydration, physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia.
The Louisiana Senate has voted to reject SB 211- the "Pill Bill" - which
would have forced every insurance policy in Louisiana to cover all
FDA-approved birth control drugs.
Conscientious objectors in South Korea are fortunate that the government
has reaffirmed its support of the criminal law by criticizing new guidelines
issued by the country's medical association. The guidelines would allow
doctors to withhold life-sustaining treatment from terminally ill patients,
something that would be morally objectionable to at least some health care
workers. The government pointed out that the guidelines contravene criminal
French health minister Bernard Kouchner, who believes that French public
opinion is swinging in favour of euthanasia, is planning a fact-finding
mission to the Netherlands. The absence of reference to the possibility of
conscientious objection to euthanasia by health care workers is troubling. [ABC
Assembly Bill 168, a promising proposal, has been approved by the
Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. The bill is a forward-looking
statute that could serve as a model for other jurisdictions struggling to
balance claims of conscience against uncontrolled expansion of modern
medical and reproductive technologies. It is an example of
'procedure-specific' legislation that includes protection from civil action
and provisions for injunctive relief.
Assembly Bill 307 concerns only pharmacists and would apply in the case
of drugs used for abortion, euthanasia, and assisted suicide.
A new survey suggests significant support among American pharmacists for
protection of conscience policies or laws. A majority of the 719 pharmacists
surveyed favoured such protection (388-54%). 40 per cent of the respondents
(289) disagreed, and 6 per cent (41) were undecided. The recent poll was
conducted by Pharmacy One Source, a national professional web site
for members only.
It is reported that previous surveys of American pharmacists by
organizations like the American Pharmacists Association also disclosed
widespread support for pharmacy conscience clauses. In Oregon, where
assisted suicide is legal, many pharmacist have indicated a desire for
'conscience clauses' with respect to participation in that practice.
The New York Times reports that the executive director of the New York
affiliate of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League,
Ms. Kelli Conlin, said she wanted to be sure that all of New York's
mayoralty candidates are "committed to ensuring that medical residents at
city hospitals were trained in abortion procedures." [NY
A news release from the Dutch group Cry for Life (Schreeuw om Leven)
notes that a Professor Schuurman of the Christenunie had stated that
gynaecologists and neonatologists of a Christian background can no longer be
found in the Netherlands "because of problems with their conscience."
Minister of Health Mrs. E. Borst-Eilers is reported to have commented that
she could "very well imagine that."
The government of British Columbia, Canada, which will soon be calling an
election, has used its majority to pass a formal
in the provincial legislature that calls for abortion providers to be
designated "a protected group under current hate provisions" of the Criminal
Code. Such an amendment would make it a criminal offence to "promote hatred"
against them. Such a law might criminalize the publication of material that
explains the basis for conscientious objection to abortion - some of which
is posted on this site. The same government has refused to amend its "bubble
zone" law to ensure that it is not used against conscientious objectors in
health care (See
Of greater concern is government
which would empower the government to force any hospital in the province to
provide abortions. Although a government spokesman has said that Catholic
hospitals would not be forced to do so, no protection of conscience
provision has been included in the bill for individuals or institutions.
Two bills in the Illinois legislature concern freedom of conscience with
respect to the 'morning after pill'. Senate Bill 114 requires all hospitals
to provide what it terms "emergency contraception". This bill has passed the
Senate and is now in Committee in the House of Representatives. House Bill
430 is intended to provide protection of conscience for physicians who would
otherwise be victimized by Senate Bill 114, but the proposed protection is
quite limited, and makes referral a mandatory condition of exemption.
Neither bill has been posted on the Project site, as the former would
suppress conscientious objection, and the latter does not appear to be
sufficiently supportive of the principle. Unconfirmed reports suggest that
the Senate is prepared to exempt Catholic hospitals from the requirement to
statement about the 'morning after pill', Ugandan bishops noted that
moral responsibility extends to those who promote its use, and call for
health care workers to object to participation in MAP programmes.