Conscience, life and Europe

McCafferty's report to the CoE is reason for concern

Next October 7 the so-called McCafferty Report undergo voting at the Council of Europe. The purpose of the initiative promoted by a British parliamentarian is to limit freedom of conscience. In brief, the McCafferty Report guards against “the increasing and unrestrained use of conscientious objection, especially in the field of reproductive health”. This is logical, considering the increasing number of physicians who are taking a stand to this regard. Italy’s figures are exemplifying: 70% of physicians refuse to perform an abortion. For this reason, abortion advocates want to regulate – namely, limit – the right to conscientious objection and report those physicians who disagree with their anti-life stand. The McCafferty Report refers to article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which stipulates that a health professional who refuses to perform an abortion is threatening the health, freedom and rights of women who want to abort. For this reason the Report prescribes that physicians who oppose abortion must inform women that they still can undergo an abortion and redirect them to doctors that will consent to carry out the medical operation. It equally denies the right of conscientious objection to the entire medical and administrative staff that is not directly involved in the abortion cases and proposes the creation of a separate registry of all objector doctors along with the establishment of complaints office for the unfulfilled abortion cases. If the Report is followed through (developing into a Council of Europe recommendation), health professionals will find it hard to exert their freedom within the ever more complex sphere of conscience. The fact that a report submitted by a British parliamentarian will be put to vote at the Council of Europe is not a minor question. It shows that institutions can act as backdoors enabling the introduction of anti-life agenda within national legislations. The Lautsi case on the display of the Cross in public schools is an example. The Court believes the case presented by a European citizen regards a universal right. The same Court, upon receiving the Italian appeal confirmed its jurisdiction as relates to human rights. Given recent events, more attention is needed, whilst triggering public-awareness and urging the involvement of European representatives is crucial. Without political and institutional pressure, proposals such as the McCafferty Report risk being reiterated.Unfortunately, if this document is approved, going back will be a much more difficult endeavor.

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