By Dave Andrusko
The lead to the story in CNS News perfectly summarized the huge issues at stake this week. “European lawmakers [through the 27-member European Parliament] will vote on a measure that promotes abortion as a fundamental human right, while taking aim at the conscientious objection rights of pro-life doctors and health workers.”
The Draft Report on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights was adopted September 18 by the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament are the driving force behind the measure which seeks to elevate abortion to the status of a “human right” and stifle those who object because of conscience.
CNS News’s Patrick Goodenough reported that
“According to supporting documents, 20 E.U. member-states legally permit abortion on demand, while six others have limitations which are either interpreted broadly (Britain, Finland, Cyprus) or restrictively (Ireland, Poland, Luxembourg). Malta prohibits all abortions. (The 28th and newest member, Croatia, had not joined the E.U. when the legislation was being drafted.)
“Even in countries where abortion is legal, the report states, it is often made unavailable ‘through the abuse of conscientious objection or overly restrictive interpretations of existing limits.’ Other obstacles include “medically unnecessary waiting periods or biased counseling.”
“(Some E.U. countries have compulsory waiting period of up to seven days and pre-abortion counseling, either for all women or in some cases for adolescents only.)
“The measure would therefore require member states to ‘regulate and monitor the use of conscientious objection so as to ensure that reproductive health care is guaranteed as an individual’s right, while access to lawful services is ensured and appropriate and affordable referrals systems are in place.’”
Hilary White observed that the draft report recommendations are headed in the opposite direction of where physicians are moving, noting that other European bodies have no difficulties with current protections for individual consciences:
“The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe… adopted Resolution 1763, which asked member states to ‘guarantee the right to conscientious objection in relation to participation in the medical procedure in question.’ The Assembly also stated that ‘in the vast majority of Council of Europe member states, the practice of conscientious objection is adequately regulated”.
“Italian government statistics recently showed that the number of doctors and other health care practitioners who refuse to participate in abortion is steadily increasing. This includes more than 80 percent of all gynecologists – up to 91 percent in some areas – as well as more than half of anesthesiologists and nurses.
“In 2007, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists complained that ‘unprecedented numbers,’ of doctors are opting out of abortion, 80 percent of which are paid for in Britain by the National Health Service.”
Ironically, the draft report uses those same findings to make its case to squelch conscience rights. It notes that doctors are increasingly refusing to participate in Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia, “where nearly 70 per cent of all gynecologists and 40 per cent of all anesthesiologists conscientiously object to providing abortion services.”