The All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group (APPG) in the United Kingdom (UK), led by Fiona Bruce MP, conducted an inquiry into growing reports of denials of conscience rights to healthcare professionals. This, despite a conscience clause in the 1967 Abortion Act which “requires that ‘no person shall be under any duty, whether by contract or by any statutory or other legal requirement, to participate in any treatment authorised by this Act to which he has a conscientious objection’.”
The findings were compiled into a report, A Report into Freedom of Conscience in Abortion Provision, which includes oral and written evidence from 150 witnesses, with nearly a third being former healthcare professionals or healthcare bodies and demonstrates that legal protection for healthcare professionals who have a conscientious objection to participating in abortion is not being observed. The instances of health providers facing pressure about their conscientious objection to abortion were categorized into four areas: training and education; referrals; career progression; and the extent to which practitioners must ‘participate’.
The report includes testimonies from doctors, nurses, and midwives who were pressured and discriminated against when they exercised their right to conscientious objection. The British Medical Association even confirmed in written evidence that “some doctors have complained of being harassed and discriminated against because of their conscientious objection to abortion.”
Nine recommendations and a call for ‘Reasonable Accommodation’ to be incorporated into legislation were included in the report. Recommendation 5 calls on known abortion promoter, The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, “to publish a statement in response to this Inquiry to clarify their view on career progression for healthcare professionals who conscientiously object to abortion.”
According to Fiona Bruce, Chair of the APPG:
“Freedom of conscience is a key part of living in a diverse and democratic society. It is vital that conscientious health professionals who do not wish to participate in abortion can be confident in their right to opt-out of doing so without fear of censure, discrimination or abuse. It is essential that our hardworking doctors, nurses and midwives are given the protection the law requires if they do not want to participate in abortions.”
The All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group also called on the UK government and all NHS governing bodies to “ensure that an appropriate appeal system for those who believe they have been discriminated against because of their conscientious objection is set up.”
Editor’s note. This appeared at the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues.