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International Assembly Affirms Fundamental Right of Conscience

Yesterday, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), meeting in London, adopted a resolution supporting the fundamental right of health care providers to practice medicine in accord with their individual consciences.  In pertinent part, the provisional resolution stated that “[N]o person, hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion, the performance of a human miscarriage, or euthanasia or any act which could cause the death of a human foetus or embryo, for any reason.”

In adopting the resolution, the Assembly rejected attempts by international pro-abortion groups to undermine health care freedom of conscience.   Pro-abortion Assembly members, working in concert with pro-abortion groups such as the Center for Reproductive Rights, had sought to harass and punish medical personnel who refuse to participate in abortions because of religious, moral, ethical, or conscientious objections.

The adoption of the provisional resolution followed the rejection of the “McCafferty Report” (named for the report’s lead author, Assembly member Christine McCafferty of the United Kingdom).  The report encouraged the Assembly to severely limit the ability of individual providers to practice in accordance with their consciences and to completely eliminate the right of health care institutions, such as Catholic hospitals, to refuse to provide abortions and other morally-problematic procedures.

The Assembly led by Luca Volonte of Italy and Ronan Mullen of Ireland passed 29 amendments to the McCafferty Report, changing it from a pro-abortion attack on health care providers’ fundamental right of conscience into a defense of conscience.  McCafferty and pro-abortion Assembly members were then forced to vote to reject their own report.