All Party Parliamentary Group publishes worrying report on conscientious objection of healthcare workers regarding abortions – ADF International urges quick improvements to protect freedom of conscience in the UK
LONDON – Last week on 21 July 2016, the UK Parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group (APPG) presented its report on Freedom of Conscience in Abortion Provision. The report addressed the practical application of freedom of conscience in abortion provision in the Abortion Act 1967.
“ADF International welcomes the clear findings and recommendations of the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group in its report on Freedom of Conscience in Abortion Provision. It has rightly recognised that freedom of conscience for medical professionals in the UK is not being respected as it should. Our submission to the Inquiry gave examples of other European countries which grant better protections forconscience to their medical professionals. The UK could learn from their European neighbours in this regard,” said Laurence Wilkinson, Legal Counsel for ADF International, which submitted written observations to the Inquiry.
Freedom of conscience is of vital importance to any democratic society upholding pluralism, tolerance, and justice
“Freedom of conscience is of vital importance to any democratic society upholding pluralism, tolerance, and justice. The fact that a national healthcare system has decided to provide abortion does not mean that members of staff should be compelled to participate if it goes against their genuinely held religious or moral beliefs. Ultimately, no-one should be forced to choose between their faith and their job.”
Significant pressures on healthcare professionals
The report found that all 150 witnesses to the Inquiry – regardless of their view on abortion – agreed that conscience was “a key part of what it means to live as a free and fulfilled individual in a diverse and democratic society.” It also noted that the current application of statutory conscience protection in the UK does not provide the full protection intended by Parliament when it enacted the legislation in 1967.
“There is increasing pressure on healthcare practitioners with conscientious objections to participate in abortion. Moral and ethical thinking among healthcare professionals must not only be allowed, but accommodated and encouraged in the UK,” said Ewelina Ochab, Legal Counsel for ADF International.
The report found particular difficulties in the field of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, where ADF International had highlighted problematic guidelines released by a branch of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists that actively opposed any objections on moral or religious grounds. The report also recommended that the concept of ‘reasonable accommodation’ should be incorporated into UK legislation, to ensure that: “healthcare professionals with a conscientious objection to abortion can be fully engaged in their chosen professional sphere.”