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Protection of Conscience Project

Service, not Servitude

Update 2012-12-31

31 December, 2012

Covering the period from 1 November to 31 December, 2012

1.  By Region/Country

Developments relevant to freedom of conscience.

2.  News Items

Links to news summaries.

3.  Recent Postings

Links to resources added to Project site.

4.  Action Items

Support protection of conscience initiatives near you.

5.  Conferences/Papers

Seminars, conferences and workshops relevant to conscience advocacy.

6.  Publications of Interest

Relevant to freedom of conscience issues.

1.  By Region/Country
Visit the Project News/Blog for details.

The Australia Institute has published the results of a survey indicating that about 70% of the respondents agreed that physicians should be able to provide euthansia in cases of "unrelievable and incurable suffering."  The Advanced Care Directives Bill (2012) in South Australia defines medical treatment and health care to include nutrition and hydration, and makes it possible for nutrition and hydration to be refused or denied even to patient who is not dying. The protection of conscience provision in the bill requires objectors to facilitate the withdrawal of food and fluids.


The Belgian Socialist party has submitted proposals to amend the country's euthanasia law to permit euthanasia of children and persons suffering from dementia.


Statistics Canada has confirmed that 491 babies survived abortions in Canada between 2000 and 2009 and then died.

Tests of a patient diagnosed as having been in a "persistent vegetative state" for twelve years following a car crash have demonstrated that he is self-aware and capable of mentally responding to communication from caregivers. The tests were performed using an fMRI machine.

Costa Rica

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has ruled that the Costa Rican law prohibiting in vitro fertilization violates the American Convention on Human Rights(Murillo et al. v. Costa Rica.


Professor Didier Sicard has produced a report for the French government recommending that euthanasia should remain illegal. He also recommends that "accelerated death" should be allowed in three kinds of circumstances, and news reports describe the proposals as legalizing assisted suicide.


The World Medical Association as reaffirmed its position against physician "participation" in executions, which now includes a statement that physicians must not facilitate executions by importing drugs for executions. Similarly, the British group, Reprieve, has embarked upon a campaign to have drug companies sign a Pharmaceutical Hippocratic Oath against the use of their products in executions. [Bioedge] The definition of "participation" is important because it acknowledges that moral responsiblity can attach to indirect as well as direct involvement with a procedure.

Safe Abortion: Technical and Policy Guidance for Health Systems, a newly revised publication of the World Health Organization, claims that objecting health care workers have an ethical responsibility to refer patients for abortion, or to provide abortions if referral is not possible.  The WHO document has been reviewed and criticized by Susan Yoshihara of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, but awaits a critique by medical and legal professionals.

The U.N. Population Fund's annual report claims that access to birth control is a human right. The report has no legal significance, but activists like the American based Center for Reproductive Rights have pursued a strategy of seeking such declarations, or "soft norms," in the hope that they will eventually lead to binding "harde norms" that can be enforced against governments and objecting health care workers. (See Secret Memos Reveal Worldwide Pro-Abortion Legal Strategy)


The death of a 31 year old woman at the Galway University Hospital in October generated enormous controversy in Ireland. Savita Halappanavar was 17 weeks pregnant when she presented with back pain on 21 October. Reports indicate that she was miscarrying. She developed septicaemia and died on 29 October. An interview of the reporter who broke the story in the Irish Times disclosed that the headline and story were deliberately inflammatory, making it appear that she had died because she was refused an abortion.  Several investigations are underway.  A survey conducted following the news found 80% of Irish respondents in favour of legalization of abortion to save the life of a mother.

Meanwhile, a panel appointed by the Irish government has stated the government is obliged to provide guidelines that establish how women in Ireland can obtain abortions consistent with Irish law. It recommends that a physician who objects to abortion for reasons of conscience should be forced to facilitate the procedure by referring a patient to a willing colleague, and to provide an abortion "when the risk of death is imminent and inevitable." The report is not clear on the extent to which conscientious objection might be allowed to other health care workers.  The Irish government has announced that it will legalize the procedure under some circumstances, but the lawyer who won a judgement at the European Court of Human Rights against Ireland's ban on abortion, argues that restrictions on abortion related to the life or health of the mother are unacceptable.

A 58 year old woman, Marie Fleming, wife of euthanasia campaigner Tom Curran, has brought a case in the Irish High Court to legalize assisted suicide in Ireland. She is said to be "terminally ill with multiple sclerosis."


The Philippines Senate and House of Representatives passed the controversial Reproductive Health Bill by signficant margins, and it has been signed by the Philippines President.  It will take effect in January, 2013.


The European Court of Human Rights has issued a judgement adverse to freedom of conscience and ordered Poland to pay two complainants, a mother and daughter, a total of 61,000 Euros in damages and costs. Subject to the possibility that the English translation of the judgement is faulty, the use of the term "anti-choice activist" by the judges brings their impartiality into question. However, the facts of the case outlined in the judgement suggest that the conduct of Polish health care personnel, anti-abortion activists, clergy and state authorities effectively guaranteed an adverse outcome.

United Kingdom

A report by Lord Justice Leveson, who conducted An inquiry into the culture, ethics and practice of the press, includes a recommendation that a protection of conscience clause should be included in journalist contracts. It follows upon his observation that journalists were reluctant or afraid to contest unethical or illegal activities they encountered, and that this seemed related to lack of protection for those acting on conscientious conviction.  One would hope that British journalists might demonstrate some interest in the issue of freedom of conscience for health care workers.

United States

Contentious litigation continues with respect to the Department of Health and Human Services birth control mandate.  Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino's Pizza, has filed suit.  Judgements in other cases have been see-sawing for and against the plaintiffs. Meanwhile, the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious order that provides nursing care to the elderly poor in 30 American cities, is considering the possiblity of leaving the United States if the current regulation stands.

After seven years of litigation, the Illinois Attorney General has conceded that pharmacists  cannot be forced to dispense drugs to which they object for reasons of conscience. The Religious Liberty Protection Act has been passed by the Michigan Senate by a vote of 26-12.


Nearly one hundred doctors in Uruguay filed a lawsuit on Dec. 7, arguing that the country's new abortion norms to not allow for conscientious objection.

2.  News Items

You can search news items by date, country and topic in the Project News Portal. 

3.  Recent Postings

Abortion controversy in Ireland

Irish Archbishops challenged on claims of conscience about abortion

Survivor of Nazi 'Twin Experiments' Talks to Doctors About Human Subjects Research

Message to Irish lawmakers: "Exceptions don't work"

American obstetrician comments on death of woman in Ireland

Jefferson's Robust Views of Religious Freedom

Re: Washington State Board of Pharmacy Regulation

Americans United for Life Celebrates Win for Illinois Conscience Rights in Case AUL Championed Since 2005

They Said "No"

Ob/Gyn Medical Student 

4.  Action Items

None noted.

5.  Conferences/Papers

The Project will post notices of conferences that are explore and support the principle freedom of conscience, including the legitimate role of moral or religious conviction in shaping law and public policy in pluralist states or societies.

23 February, 2013
Washington, D.C.
Sr Diana Dreger, MD "Physicians or Technicians: Why Conscience Matters" (AAPLOG CME Meeting)

6.  Publications of Interest

None noted.


7.  Video


8.  Audio