BRATISLAVA, Feb 24, 03 ( – Slovakia and the Vatican, which in November 2000 signed a general bilateral treaty, are now planning a new document to cover “reservation of conscience.”  The new document will recognize the rights of Slovak citizens to refuse to carry out obligations imposed by the state, without incurring any penalty. It will cover such issues as conscientious objection to military service, the withdrawal of children from sex-education classes, and the refusal of teachers to give sex instruction. It will also protect workers who do not wish to work Sunday shifts (a major grievance in Slovakia is that certain enterprises- usually foreign or multi-national- have threatened staff with dismissal if they do not work Sundays). And, even more sensitive an issue at present, it will entitle doctors to refuse to carry out abortions.  The liberal abortion law currently in force in Slovakia dates from Communist times. However, the Christian Democratic Party, a junior member of the current ruling coalition, has challenged the legitimacy of this law, on the grounds that it contradicts the clause in the Slovak constitution guaranteeing the protection of human life. The constitutional court is due to rule on the issue at the beginning of April, and the legal challenge has inevitably sparked off a sharp debate.  Should the Slovak laws which currently ban euthanasia and human-cloning experiments be revoked, the measure will safeguard doctors who are opposed to such procedures.


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