Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pro- abortion attack on the right to conscientious objection in the Council of Europe was a ‘bridge too far’

We reported last Thursday on the victory in the Council of Europe in respect of the protection of the right to conscientious objection. We now report more fully on the issues as set out by the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ)

On October 7th, The McCafferty Report on “WOMEN’S ACCESS TO LAWFUL MEDICAL CARE: THE PROBLEM OF UNREGULATED USE OF CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION” was submitted for debate and vote by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

In a historic reversal, the resolution proposal was entirely replaced by a new text which affirms, defends and promotes the right to conscientious objection of medical staff. Even the title of the resolution has been changed into “The right to conscientious objection in lawful medical care”.

According to a statement by ECLJ Director Grégor Puppinck
“The Council of Europe reaffirms the fundamental value of human conscience, and of liberty in the face of attempts at ideological manipulation of science and of medicine,”
“The McCafferty’s Report was an aberration and we are delighted that a large majority of deputies are poised to defend the values on which the Council is founded: respect of liberty, of conscience and of life. Independence of science and of medicine is also an essential value at the heart of democracies. ”
Here are the principal points of the new resolution that's been adopted: The resolution
- affirms, defends and promotes the right to conscientious objection of medical staff.
- It applies not only to doctors but to all the staff engaged directly or indirectly in an act or a procedure of abortion, euthanasia, etc.
- It also applies to institutions, hospitals and clinics, both private and public. (The McCafferty Report encouraged denominational hospitals to provide abortion)
- It also protects medical professionals from discrimination and pressure.

One of the adopted amendments which reflects the tone of the new text is the following:
“No one hospital, institution or person may be subject to pressures, or be held liable or suffer discrimination of any kind for refusing to perform, allow or assist an abortion, miscarriage or induced euthanasia, or for refusing to perform any intervention to cause the death of foetus or an embryo, whatever the reasons.”
(Amendment 83)

Furthermore, the Assembly recognises that in the vast majority of European Member States, the regulation of conscientious objection does not pose any problems and, when necessary, the Assembly “invites Member States (…) to develop regulations (…) that guarantee the right to conscientious objection related to the proceedings in question.”

By adopting these amendments the Assembly is neither more nor less in line with the law in most democracies. (See the full text as adopted here and below)

According to thr ECLJ report the recommendations of the McCafferty Report hugely infringed the fundamental rights of medical professionals, notably their freedom of conscience. Even for those who consider abortion as legitimate, the small facilitation of the access to “reproductive health services” that this Report seeks apparently to provide cannot justify hurting, damaging and undermining the very core principle of “freedom of conscience”.

According to Grégor Puppinck, Director of the ECLJ,
“The McCafferty Report was defeated because its primary objective was not only practical but also profoundly symbolic. Effectively, it would have a bearing on the moral qualification of abortion, euthanasia and of the exercise of the conscience: the ‘right to abortion or euthanasia’ would become the rule and conscientious objection would become the exception. To reduce the fundamental right of moral objection to a mere exception amounts to a reversal in the moral relationship between abortion or euthanasia and conscientious objection. Conscientious objection would become in some way immoral because it is contrary to the ‘right to abortion.’ The McCafferty Report was an attempt of submission of medicine and of the conscience to ideology. The freedom is a condition of the exercise of medicine and of the conscience; that was affirmed with force during the Nuremburg trials; it is important to remember this and defend this fundamental liberty.”