Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Conscientious objection applies to individuals and institutions

Whilst we are clear that the entire Government proposal to introduce abortion will result in the introduction of widespread abortion in Ireland and that it should be scrapped in favour of some other initiative, which will uphold the right to the life of every mother and every baby,  it is also clear that some aspects of the Government proposals are contrary to European law. 
This is particularly so in the case of conscientious objection. Previous case law from the European Court of Human Rights upholds both the right of individuals and institutions such as hospitals and this was also the subject of a resolution in the Council of Europe.
The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly affirmed that institutions, such as hospitals, hold a legitimate interest in being consistent with their moral or ethical ethos, and may for example forbid their staff not only to practice but also to promote abortion.

In the case of ROMMELFANGE v. the Federal Republic of Germany[1] the European Commission on Human Rights ruled that a hospital is entitled to restrict its staff from advocating in favour of abortion. In this case, the Commission ruled that the hospital was entitled to dismiss Dr Rommelfange, because he took public standings contrary to the ethical positions of his employer. Therefore, a hospital is naturally entitled to hold ethical positions on sensitive practices. This ruling applies to any kind of hospitals, both private and public, since public hospitals are not necessarily devoid of ethical references.

More recently, in the case LOMBARDI VALLAURI v. Italy[2], the Court confirmed the ROMMELFANGE case law and applied the article 4 of the Directive 78/2000/CE5 (§78), considering, in the context of a Catholic institution, that an institution with a moral ethos is entitled to preserve its ethos, even if it requires limiting rights and freedoms of other people.

[1] Comm. Eur. DH, 6 Sept. 1989, n° 12242/86, Rommelfanger c/ RFA : DR, n° 62, p. 151.
[2] CEDH, 20 oct. 2009, Lombardi Vallauri c. Italie, Application no 39128/05.