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Protection of Conscience Project

Service, not Servitude

Update 2014-05-01

1 May, 2014

Covering the period from 1 March, 2014 to 30 April, 2014

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.

A controversy has developed in Queensland, Australia, over the refusal of some parents to have their children vaccinated.  Although media reports refer to "conscientious objection," it appears that the term is being applied much more broadly to encompass those who refuse vaccinations because they are concerned about side effects or doubtful about their efficacy. 

Flag CanadaCanada

The Canadian Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Journal published an article in late 2013 about the moral distress suffered by a Catholic nurse who witnessed the death of a newborn infant. The baby was allegedly starved to death in a neonatal intensive care unit at a Toronto hospital. Upon posting the article, the Project Administrator sent this information to the Toronto Police Service, which later acknowledged receipt of the information.

Flag ItalyItaly

The Council of Europe's Committee of Social Rights has upheld a complaint by the International Planned Parenthood Federation that too many doctors in Italy refuse to provide abortions. Italian Law 194 includes a protection of conscience provision, and, depending on the region, between 70% and 95% of obstetricians refuse to perform the procedure.  The campaign against the law includes demands that no one unwilling to provide abortion should be accepted as a medical student.  Those defending the law say there is little demand for abortion in Italy, and that this is shown by the fact that non-objecting physicians perform an average of less than two abortions a week throughout the country.  The statistics, however, are subject to other interpretations.  The law's critics claim that an increase in spontaneous abortions (miscarriages) reflect increasing recourse to clandestine abortion, some of which are alleged to be performed by physicians who can be bribed to do privately what they refuse to do publicly.[Interpress]

Flag PhilippinesPhilippines

A battle over a "Reproductive Health Law" (RH Law) that has been ongoing for years led to a showdown in the Supreme Court of the Philippines that has resulted in a ruling that supports freedom of conscience among health care workers.  Of the 15 Supreme Court judges:

  • 11 held that the mandatory referral provision in the law was an unconstitutional violation on freedom of conscience;
  •  10 of the 11 also ruled that forcing an objecting health care worker to provide "complete and correct information" about contraception was a violation of freedom of conscience
    • The eleventh judge held that this was not, but added that the provision could not be used to suppress the freedom of objecting health care workers to express professional or other opinions concerning contraception.
Flag PolandPoland

The manager of the Specialist Hospital Pro-Familia in Rzeszów, Poland, has demanded that a midwife retract public statements made about the performance of abortions at the hospital and pay 50,000 złotych (approximately $17,000) for a children’s hospice, or face legal action. The midwife had spoken publicly about the trauma she experienced when ordered to participate in abortions at the hospital. [LifeSite News]

Flag SwedenSweden

 Sweden's Equality Ombudsman has dismissed a complaint of discrimination lodged by midwife Ellinor Grimmark, who was denied employment because she refused to assist in abortion.  The Ombudsman ruled, in effect, that abortion was part of the job description of a midwife, and Grimmark's beliefs were irrelevant to the decision to refuse to hire her. 

Flag TurkeyTurkey
Turkish journal

  The Project's three part series about the proposed Quebec euthanasia law (Bill 52:   An Act respecting end-of-life care) has been translated into Turkish and published in volume 14 of the Comparative Current Criminal Law Series by Özyeğin University in Istanbul.

FLag UKUnited Kingdom

67 doctors found by the Care Quality Commission to have illegally signed blank abortion forms were referred to the General Medical Council by the commission, but none will be disciplined, suspended, or struck off.  Commenting on the case, the Project Administrator said, "It remains to be seen if the General Medical Council will take the same approach if confronted by a complaint about a physicians who refuse to refer patients for abortion or other morally contested procedures for reasons of conscience."

Flag USAUnited States

Pennsylvania State Representative Gordon Denlinger has given up a plan to amend the state constitution to ensure freedom of conscience for citizens who refuse to provide services for reasons of conscience or religion.

A bill concerning the regulation of genetic counselling in Virginia has been enacted with the original protection of conscience provision intact after an attempt by the state governor to weaken the bill.

The Washington State Department of Health has posted a web page that lists all of the hospitals in the state, together with their policies on admission, non-discrimination, end of life care, and reproductive health care. 

On 25 March, the United States Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, two cases challenging the controversial HHS birth control mandate.  Meanwhile, two Catholic dioceses in Georgia have been granted permanent injunctions barring the federal government from enforcing the mandate against them.  In Oklahoma, 200 Catholic employers filed a suit against the federal government seeking the same kind of protection. 


2.  News Items

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

3.  Recent Postings

Project article on Quebec euthanasia bill published in Turkish law journal

Conscientious objection to "patriarchal norms"

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

Entrenching a 'duty to do wrong' in medicine

The Mary Dilemma - A Case Study on Moral Distress: Newborn infant starved to death in Toronto hospital

Therapeutic homicide in a neonatal unit?  The Mary Dilemma: Case Study on Moral Distress

Virginia conscience clause re: genetic counselling

Genetic screening to improve intelligence

Canadian assisted suicide/euthanasia bill lacks protection of conscience provision

Supreme Court of the Philippines supports freedom of conscience

Refusals of vaccinations in Australia

Swedish midwives must provide abortions even if they object

American veterans dying while on secret wait list: a question of integrity

The Hippocratic "oath" (Some further reasonable hypotheses)


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.

6.  Publications of Interest

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

N.Juth, N. Lynöe. "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

Condic ML.  "Totipotency: What It Is and What It Is Not.Stem Cells and Development. April 15, 2014, 23(8): 796-812. doi:10.1089/scd.2013.0364.

Musitelli S, Bossi I,"The Hippocratic "oath" (Some further reasonable hypotheses)." Research 2014; 1:733 (25 April, 2014)


7.  Video


8.  Audio