CARE welcomes protection of conscientious objection

Christian advocacy group CARE has welcomed a vote in the Council of Europe to protect the right to conscientious objection in medical care.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voted down a resolution last week that sought to remove a safeguard on the right of medical practitioners to refuse to take part in procedures or services that went against their conscience.

If the resolution had been approved, medical practitioners would have lost their right to refuse to participate in abortions.

The proposal had been put forward by Christine McCafferty in her report, 'Women's access to lawful medical care: the problem of unregulated use of conscientious objection'.

The draft report was approved by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in June.

In the final debate on the report last week, the Council also agreed to rename it as 'The right to conscientious objection in lawful medical care'.

CARE said it was "delighted" with the outcome.

"The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has done what the Council of Europe should do.

"It has stood against those who would like to play fast and loose with the important role played by conscience in our liberal democratic traditions which the Council exists to champion.

"We in Europe must cherish our liberal democratic traditions and the important role that conscience has played and continues to play in them.

"A key constitutional freedom has today very properly been upheld."

Cross bench peer Lord Alton of Liverpool also welcomed the decision.

He said: "A great debt of gratitude is owed to Senator Ronan Mullen for his tenacious and effective action in securing the continued right of conscientious objection for medical staff who would have otherwise been forced to participate in abortion.

"Ronan, along with pro-life legislators across Europe, strongly supported by groups like CARE and Right To Life, met this challenge head on.

"It is a declared intention of the abortion industry and its supporters to remove conscientious rights of objection, not least because an increasing number of young doctors and nurses have been refusing to take part in the ending of the lives of the unborn."

Prior to the debate, CARE for Europe, the European Centre for Law and the Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe held a joint public meeting in which they raised concerns about the report.

The meeting was joined by Dr Andrew Fergusson, a former Chairman of the Professional Conduct Committees at the UK General Medical Council and current head of communications at the Christian Medical Fellowship.

He spoke out against attempts to restrict the conscientious freedom of medical practitioners.

"When a person is coerced by employers, or by the power of the state, to act in a way which transgresses these core ethical values then their internal moral integrity is damaged,” he said.

Spaniard Javier Borrego Borrego, former judge at the European Court of Human Rights, said that freedom of conscience was a fundamental right.

He said: "A restriction of conscientious objection in health care is a threat for the fundamental freedoms in Europe."