ROME, February 10, 2011 ( – Around the world, pro-life nurses are facing greater restrictions on their ability to act according to their consciences, the president of an international Catholic nursing association said this week. Marylee Meehan, president of the International Catholic Committee of Nurses and Medical-Social Assistants (CICIAMS), told Catholic News Agency at a conference in Rome that in the U.S. conscience rights are nurses’ biggest problem.


Meehan told CNA’s Alan Holdren that nurses fear being fired if they speak out against abortion and other immoral practices. In addition, those applying for jobs in maternity care who admit to being pro-life will often find themselves blocked from serious consideration.

“It’s a problem, when you want to apply for a job and you will not provide abortions, they will not accept you.”

“It takes extreme courage to be a Catholic living the Catholic life in their professional environment,” said Meehan.

The danger of the state imposing its political ideologies on medical workers has been recognized in several jurisdictions around the world. The Irish Medical Council’s 2004 Guide to Ethical Conduct and Behavior, for example, states, “Medical care must not be used as a tool of the State, to be granted or withheld or altered in character under political pressure.  Doctors require independence from such pressures in order to carry out their duties.”

Concerns over conscience rights for health care workers are coming to the fore in the U.S., where actions taken by the Obama administration have aroused opposition from rights groups. In March of 2009, Obama called to rescind a conscience protection clause that was put in place by Health and Human Services earlier in the year, under President Bush. The newly passed national health care law has also been criticized for opening the door to attacks on conscience right.

In December, Dominique Monlezun, National Coordinator of Medical Students for Life, wrote that concerned citizens must “tell President Obama to call off the dogs.” 

“He preaches tolerance but does not tolerate medical professionals who decline procedures on religious or moral grounds.”

Monlezun cited the 2009/10 case of pro-life nurse Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo who was forced to sue New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital after she was forced to participate in a late-term abortion procedure under threat of disciplinary action.

She was threatened with termination and loss of her license. This, despite the fact that conscience rights for nurses are protected under New York state law.

Abortion activists make no secret of targeting conscience laws. The 2009 “Global Safe Abortion” conference held in London by international abortion groups Marie Stopes International and IPAS attacked conscience protections in its report detailing the abortion movement’s global strategy.


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