By Hilary White

ROME, October 7, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – An attempt to erase the conscience rights of EU health care workers has been soundly defeated at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) this evening. In a vote of 56 to 51, the PACE rejected the proposal of Christine McCafferty, a British politician and abortion activist, to “regulate” conscientious objectors to abortion across Europe.

The McCafferty Report, titled “Women’s access to lawful medical care: the problem of unregulated use of conscientious objection,” had been identified by pro-life advocates as the latest in a string of EU and PACE efforts to establish abortion as a universal human right.

As of tonight, Resolution 1763, re-titled “The right to conscientious objection in lawful medical care,” instead of creating a requirement for doctors to participate in abortion, actually affirms their right to refuse. The provisional edition published tonight reads, “No person, hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion, the performance of a human miscarriage, or euthanasia or any act which could cause the death of a human foetus or embryo, for any reason.”

Irish senator Ronan Mullen and Luca Volonte of Italy, led the assembly in passing a series of amendments which totally reversed the thrust of the report. The changes forced McCafferty and other pro-abortion Assembly members to vote against their own proposal.

Sophia Kuby, a pro-life advocate and head of the group European Dignity Watch that has been lobbying hard against the McCafferty Report, told LifeSiteNews.com tonight that the surprise turn-around “is a victory for common sense and for freedom” and “a great victory for Europe.”

“Europe has made clear tonight that freedom of conscience constitutes a pillar of a democratic society that needs to be defended, at times also against a radical minority that wishes to limit freedom and impose a unique pro-abortion thinking in Europe,” Kuby said. 
  
“It is a great sign of hope that a majority has clearly voted against a radical pro-abortion, anti-freedom, anti-diversity lobby that tries to establish unhealthy and suffocating legislation.”

The Resolution’s second paragraph affirms the universal right to freedom of conscience, saying, “The Parliamentary Assembly emphasizes the need to affirm the right of conscientious objection together with the responsibility of the state to ensure that patients are able to access lawful medical care in a timely manner.”

It says that the PACE is “concerned that the unregulated use of conscientious objection” may affect low income women or those living in rural areas, but went on to affirm that “in the vast majority of Council of Europe member states, the practice of conscientious objection is adequately regulated.” It “invites” the 47 member states to “develop comprehensive and clear regulations” that protect the right to freedom of conscience.

Anthony Ozimic, communications manager for the London-based Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said, “This evening witnessed an incredible victory for the right of staff in medical institutions to refuse to be complicit in the killing of unborn children and other unethical practices.

“SPUC is immensely grateful to the large number of our supporters who lobbied the assembly in recent months, as well as to Senator Mullen, Mr. Volonte and the assembly-members who supported them.”

A the World Prayer Congress for Life in Rome SPUC's John Smeaton announced the result of today's vote one-half hour after it had taken place. The message was greeted with loud cheers by conference participants, a number of whom, including Smeaton, who had been key players in efforts to defeat the McCafferty Report. 

Canadian gynecologist Dr. Robert Walley, who conducts international medical aid projects and networks with international pro-life physicians, told LifeSiteNews, "tell your readers that there are two gynecologists here who will sleep much better tonight." Walley and many of the Rome conference participants have been very anxious about today's vote. 

See the
final amended resolution as passed today.