1 September, 2013
Covering the period from 1 July, 2013 to 31 August, 2013
1. By Region/Country
Visit the Project News/Blog for details.
An abortion bill being considered in the Tasmanian legislature includes a
provision that demands objecting physicians refer for the procedure.
A representative of the Australian Health
Practitioner Regulation Association told a Tasmanian legislative committee
that this was required by professional codes of ethics. However, the Australian Medical
Association Tasmania had previously made a submission contradicting the claim.
Two recent research papers based on a 2011 survey of physicians providing
abortion in British Columbia assert that "rural abortion services are
disappearing in Canada." However, the the urban-rural dichotomy defined by the authors
inadequate. Among other things, the papers define "rural" areas to
include cities of over 90,000 people. The authors do not complain
about freedom of conscience as a contributing factor, though there a number
of observations demonstrate that abortion remains a morally contested
Only 26 per cent of doctors surveyed by the Canadian Medical Association
(CMA) said they would be "very or somewhat likely" to participate in
physician assisted suicide or euthanasia, and 54 per cent were "very or
somewhat unlikely" to do so. Delegates at the CMA's annual general meeting
rejected a motion to change the CMA's current position (against euthansia
and assisted suicide) but accepted a motion affirming that physicians
opposed to the procedures have a right to conscientious objection should the
procedures be legalized. The Calgary Herald, calling doctos "the
forgotten ones" in the assisted suicide/euthanasia debate, noted that
physicians "do not want to help kill people."
29 year old Jaga Stojak, a midwife with 27 years experience, has been
dismissed by authorities at the "Hrvatski Ponos (Croatian Pride)" hospital in
Knin because she refused to assisted with abortion. The
Croatian Code of Ethics
for Midwives states that midwives must "respect human life from its
beginning until death" and recognizes freedom of conscience, but the governing
statute is silent on the issue. Stojak has retained a lawyer with a view
to challenging her dismissal.
Despite criticism by the Irish Catholic Bishops' conference, the Oireachtas
(Irish parliament) passed an abortion law that requires objecting physicians to
refer for the procedure and allows the Minister of Health to designate
demoninational hospitals to provide abortion, regardless of denominational
objections. Responding to a statement by a member of the board of the
Mater Hospital in Dublin that the hospital cannot comply with the law, an
unnamed official of the Irish Department of Health stated that hospitals will
not be permitted freedom of conscience with respect to the law. Meanwhile,
a cardiologist at the Mater Hospital is suggesting that acute care hospitals
should be included in the list of designated facilities. If acted upon,
this would likely increase the potential for conflicts of conscience among
health care workers.
Dr. Joseph Lee, a physician in Blenheim, New Zealand, has been criticized by
abortion activists because he refused to prescribe contraceptives for a 23 year
old patient. The Abortion Law Reform Association NZ (ALRANZ) wants
the General Medical Council to force objecting physicians to refer patients or
otherwise assist them to obtain morally contested services. The president of
ALRANZ, Dr. Morgan Healey, claims that a High Court decision in 2010 has made
the question of referral legally ambiguous. However, in that decision, Justice Alan MacKenzie of the High Court in Wellington, New
ruled that that the General Medical Council could
not force objecting physicians to refer abortion.
As a result of legal challenges to the controversial
Health (RH) Law, the Philippines Supreme Court has indefinitely extended
an order to suspend the implementation of the law while it considers the claims.
In the closing hearings, judges questioned a provision in the law that makes it
a crime to provide "incorrect information" about contraceptives, which, it
seems, could lead to the imprisonment of physicians who disagree with the
government's medical assessement of drugs . The government continues to
demand that objecting physicians have a "professional obligation" to
facilitate the provision of the services to which they object by referral. The
court gave lawyers for both sides 60 days to submit memoranda concerning their
After its approval by the Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Rwandan
Member of Parliament Ignatienne Nyirarukundo has brought a proposed Rwandan
reproductive health law before the Rwandan Chamber of Deputies for
consideration. The English
text of the bill
is incoherent and inconsistent, and includes a provision that would make
conscientious objection to abortion illegal.
As a result of continuing concerns about the Dept. of Health and
Human Services preventive service mandate,
the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Ad Hoc
Committee for Religious Liberty, the president of the Southern Baptist
Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and over 100 prominent
national religious leaders and scholars have signed
an open letter to the Obama administration entitled Standing Together
for Religious Freedom. The letter calls on the Administration and Congress
to respect conscience rights and religious freedom. Some Catholic
organizations, including Georgetown University and the Catholic Health
Association, have broken with the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and
announced that they consider the administration's revised contraceptive mandate
acceptable. Some courts have granted injunctions to protect private
businesses from the mandate, while others have refused.
Pressure on denominational hospitals to provide or facilitate abortion and
assisted suicide seems to be growing in Washington state, as
reflected in an
editorial in the Seattle Times.
Parts of a new law passed in North Carolina strengthen the state's
protection of conscience law
for health care workers. The revisions extend protection against coerced
participation in abortion to nurses and other health care workers and to health
care institutions other than hospitals.
2. News Items
You can search news items by date, country and topic in the
3. Recent Postings
Philippines government demands referral by objecting physicians
even if not “right”
Letter: If society wants to legalize euthanasia, physicians
should not be the ones to carry it out
regulator misrepresents physician obligations
Doctor-ethicist sees ongoing efforts to weaken conscience
problem of unregulated conscientious objection
Medical Association affirms physician freedom of conscience
government signals intention to force Catholic hospitals to
Ethics for Midwives (Etički kodeks primalja) (Croatia)
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius is not
radical enough to work at Rite Aid
Rx- No to assisted suicide
priest says hospital can’t carry out abortions
Canadian doctors unwilling to partake in physician-assisted
suicide if legalized, survey suggests
posla u kninskoj bolnici- “Dali su mi otkaz jer nisam pristala
sudjelovati u pobačaju”
fired for refusing to assist in abortion
Conscientious objection- the struggle continues
Carolina strengthens protection of conscience law
American HHS controversy
Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013
Rwandan law would legalize abortion, make conscientious
“rural” British Columbia
Supreme Court hearings on the Reproductive Health Law
Times issues warning- Catholic hospitals won’t provide assisted
Supreme Court extends suspension of RH Act
abortion activists complain about physician freedom of
Bishops’ briefing note on the Protection of Life During
Pregnancy Bill 2013
to be free to act on their conscience
4. Action Items
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.
6. Publications of Interest
Campbell CS, Black MA.
Dignity, Death, and Dilemmas: A
Study of Washington Hospices and Physician-Assisted Death.
J Pain Symptom Manage. 2013 Jul 3. pii: S0885-3924(13)00270-4.
doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2013.02.024. [Epub ahead of print]
Anna Heino, Mika Gissler, Dan Apter, Christian Fiala.
Conscientious objection and
induced abortion in Europe. The European Journal of Contraception and
Reproductive Health Care, 2013; 18: 231–233
Berger M. Termination of pregnancy as emergency obstetric care: the interpretation of
Catholic health policy and the consequences for pregnant women. An analysis
of the death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland and similar cases.
Reproductive Health Matters 2013;21(41):9–17
- ". . .any Catholic health professionals and/or hospitals refusing to
terminate a pregnancy as emergency obstetric care should be stripped of
their right to provide maternity services."