Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Walking moral tightropes

    I was interested to see that the Equality and Human Rights Act had been cited in letters to an (unnamed) hospital which subsequently accepted the right of two Roman Catholic nurses not to participate in a clinic inducing terminations through the use of abortifacient drugs . I was quite surprised that the hospital had not been aware that their demands amounted to discrimination, I believe that Roman Catholics working as pharmacists can refuse to see the morning after pill on similar grounds and doctors can refuse to participate in abortions. It does demonstrate the act is not always used to support "liberalism"  or persecute Christians as some commenters suggest. I also note that the EHRC is asking for guidance on four cases brought by Christians - although it seems to be seeking guidance as to whether the law overstepped the mark in the Shirley Chaplin case, but seems to be asking for confirmation that it was correct in the case of McFarlane and Ladele.
I do agree that medical professionals should have the right to decline to participate in terminations if this goes against their conscience. My main reasons for this is that, if someone believes abortion is murder then this directly infringes one of the ten commandments and  so individuals can claim they would be being forced to act against central tenets of their faith.  I do not believe, however, that it should extend to the right to refuse before or after medical care to a patient undergoing a termination. I also think that giving chemists the right not to sell the  morning after pill can raise more problems than it answers and it is itself , quite rightly, subject to guidelines that seem to be being enforced more rigorously at the moment (sorry for linking to The Christian Institute!)
I was also interested to read an article by Benn Quinn, written in The Guardian online some weeks ago, alleging  bad practice at faith based abortion services. I thought of blogging about this, I did not, partly because it was difficult to know how accurate the allegations were, or how widespread any bad practice is. I also was unsure to what extent clients who approach such organisations already know of their underlying ethos? Again, such organisation offering "advice" takes us into grey areas. It is clearly unacceptable for any organisation to give women inaccurate information in an attempt to sway their decision in the way that has been alleged. I also think any client has the right to know and understand that it is a pro life, Christian organisation and that that is may be likely to influence the type of advice that they receive. I hope that all such organisations are upfront about this?
 I find the issue of abortion a harrowing and difficult one and am always aware of the strong feelings and sensitivities it evokes. As so often happens in these cases, the law seems to have to perform a careful balancing act between very disparate rights and beliefs.

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