UK Catholic, Muslim Doctors May be Forced to Refer for Abortion
By Hilary White
LONDON, July 4, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The British Medical Association’s (BMA) policy-making body will consider a proposal to remove the rights of conscience that allow doctors to refuse to commit or refer women for abortions. The proposal will be considered at the BMA’s upcoming Annual General Meeting, 7-10 July.
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. Cole’s comments were supported by Dr. Majid Khatme of the Islamic Medical Association, who said Muslim doctors were "very unhappy" about the scheme. "You cannot force me, as a doctor, to do things against my conscience. Something very dangerous is going on," he said.
The motion was proposed for the BMA’s forthcoming Annual General Meeting by Dr. Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat MP and medical doctor who is known to colleagues as "Dr. Death" for his eager support of unlimited abortion and euthanasia. Dr. Harris is a member of the British Medical Association (BMA) Medical Ethics Committee.
Dr. Harris’s motion proposes to change the rules so that doctors with conscientious objection to abortion may not see patients with unplanned pregnancies. The motion would force them to refer women wanting abortions to other doctors. To do this, it proposes to reinterpret the General Medical Council guidance on personal belief and clinical practice.
Catholic doctors said they will argue at the meeting that it would be unlawful to deny the right of conscientious objection that is enshrined in Section 4 of Britain’s 1967 Abortion Act. Dr. Cole added, "A doctor whose conditions of service (were) affected by this might be able to seek redress through the courts."
Cardiff Archbishop Peter Smith, the head of the Department of Christian Responsibility and Citizenship of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said, "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."
The British Medical Association is one of the most ardent supporters of abortion in the UK. At last year’s conference, the membership at the annual conference voted 67 percent to 33 percent to remove the necessity for two doctors to sign approval for abortions.
Dr. Harris also tabled an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, that moves on to the final Report Stage in Parliament next week, to remove the need for two doctors to sign consent to an abortion.