Facebook abortion ads: no need for coerced referrals

Sean Murphy*

The  Life Issues Institute reports that ads are being run on Facebook in the United Kingdom that offer women assistance in finding nearby abortion facilities, including late-term abortion specialists.  The ads demonstrate that there is no need to force objecting health care workers to facilitate abortion by referral or by providing abortionist contact information, as access to abortion can be easily facilitated by popular social media and websites.

“Normalisation of cruelty” and the ‘ethics of the profession’

Sean Murphy*

A court in the United Kingdom has awarded £410,000 ($663,000) in damages to 38 plaintiff families for an extraordinary cataloque of neglect, abandonment and abuse at the National Health Service’s Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, England.  The incidents occurred between 2002 and 2009.  Britain’s Health Secretary said that the case illustrates “the normailisation of cruelty.”  One elderly patient was left unwashed for 11 weeks and another was starved to death. [RTE Question More; The Telegraph]

World Medical Association and unethical “participation”

Those who, for reasons of conscience, refuse to facilitate morally contested procedures by referral or other indirect means should take note of the World Medical Association’s reaffirmation of 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]


Polish law and conduct of Polish physicians, clergy, activists and authorities leads to adverse judgement

Sean Murphy*

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.

A 14 year old girl, P. supported by her mother, S.,  sought an abortion for a pregnancy alleged to have been the result of a rape.  While she obtained the necessary prosecutor’s certificate for the procedure, mother and daughter received contradictory information from two public hospitals in Lublin.  Further, health care personnel clearly violated principles of patient confidentiality and informed consent in an effort to dissuade the girl from having an abortion.  These violations included clearly coercive and manipulative tactics.  P and S experienced

  • the intervention of a priest and anti-abortion activists, unsolicited and unwanted,
  • importuning by anti-abortion activists that included confrontations in public,
  • national media attention, including a press release issued by a hospital concerning P,
  • detention and six hours of questioning by the police,
  • apprehension of the girl by state authorities, apparently for the express purpose of preventing the abortion,
  • posting on internet by the Catholic News Agency of the girl’s travel to Gdansk for an abortion,
  • the filing of criminal charges against the girl for having had unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor (i.e., the rape that resulted in pregnancy)

While the court found that objecting physicians had a legal obligation to refer patients for abortion, the source of that legal obligation was Polish law.  Article 39 of Poland’s Doctor and Dentist Professions Act imposes a legal obligation of referral.  The imposition is objectionable in principle, but the European Court of Human Rights can hardly be criticized for applying Polish law to Polish citizens.

Erroneous assumptions illustrated by editorial

Sean Murphy*

In an editorial titled, “Birth Control: Now a human right,” the Charleston Gazette has expressed support for the Obama administrations regulation that will force objecting employers to provide insurance coverage for “contraceptive services.”  The editorial illustrates five common unexamined and questionable assumptions frequently made by opponents of freedom of conscience in health care.

  • First: it assumes that ‘birth control’ and ‘contraception’ are equivalent terms; they are not.
  • Second: it assumes that contraception is a form a health care, something that many objectors deny.
  • Third: in failing to recognize the distinction that objectors make between contraception and treating illness or injury, it draws the erroneous conclusion that they might refuse to treat sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Fourth: it asserts that birth control (by which it clearly means contraception) is a “human right,” although this has not been legally established.
  • Finally: it suggests that employers who do not pay for employees’ birth control are interfering with their freedom.