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02 / 07 / 2008 - Catholic doctors attack abortion proposals
Proposals made by the British Medical Association to strip doctors of their right to refuse to arrange abortions have been criticised by Catholic clergy and medics.
"The right of conscience is a fundamental human right. The doctor's right to act according to his conscience remains firmly embedded both in medical practice and in the law," said Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff.
Archbishop Smith is head of the Department of Christian Responsibility and Citizenship of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.
Under the proposals, doctors would no longer be able to conscientiously object to authorising abortions but will be compelled to send any woman requesting the procedure directly to an agency or a physician offering the procedure.
It is expected that the move will be discussed by the association's policymaking body July 10 at its annual general meeting.
But Catholic medics said they would argue at the meeting that it would be unlawful to deny them a right of conscientious objection that is enshrined in Section 4 of Britain's 1967 Abortion Act.
"This would spell the death of the rights of conscience," said Dr Tony Cole of the Catholic Medical Association. He said the proposal was unlawful and can be challenged.
"A doctor whose conditions of service (were) affected by this might be able to seek redress through the courts," he said.
Dr Majid Khatme of the Islamic Medical Association said Muslim doctors were also "very unhappy" about the proposal.
"The conscience clause should not be removed," he said. "You cannot force me, as a doctor, to do things against my conscience. Something very dangerous is going on."
The proposals, initiated by the Oxford division of the association, insist that doctors "must refer" any woman to a doctor who will arrange an abortion if they will not do so themselves.
Source : The Universe
Doctors could lose the right to turn down abortions
Doctors could lose their right to refuse to arrange abortions under proposals to be debated next month.
They would be compelled to send any woman requesting the procedure to an abortion clinic.
The growing number of doctors who have moral objections to abortion - 25 per cent refuse to sign consent forms for it - are furious with the proposal.
Some are considering legal action if, as expected, the move is ratified by the British Medical Association's policy-making body in July.
Roman Catholic doctors are particularly opposed to the move, saying it will make them complicit in something they believe is evil, but doctors of other faiths and no faith have also condemned it.
Dr Tony Cole, of the Catholic Medical Association, said: 'This would spell the death of the rights of conscience. This takes away the right of conscience already guaranteed by statute. This is open to legal challenge.'
Dr Majid Khatme, of the Islamic Medical Association, said Muslim doctors were 'very unhappy' about the scheme.
He said: 'You cannot force me, as a doctor, to do things against my conscience. Something very dangerous is going on.'
Neil Addison, a barrister and expert on religious discrimination law, said he believed the motion was in breach of human rights and employment rights legislation.
The motion was tabled by Dr Evan Harris, a LibDem MP on the BMA's ethics committee, who has also tabled an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill to remove the need for two doctors to consent to an abortion before it can go ahead.
Dr Harris was unavailable for comment.
Source : Daily Mail