Abortion Rights Blog

The national pro-choice campaign

Disappointment as Council of Europe rejects calls to regulate conscientious objection

On Thursday (07.10.10) the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) undercut a resolution intended to regulate the use of conscientious objection by reproductive healthcare providers. The resolution did not pass as proposed and its provisions were severely diluted by a number of harmful anti-abortion amendments.

“It is truly a dismal day in Europe when the lives and health of women take a back seat to political agendas and ideological imperatives,” said Christina Zampas, regional manager and senior legal adviser for Europe at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Today’s disappointing vote shows the growing political power of the anti-choice movement among both governments and civil society, as well as a lack of political commitment to women’s reproductive health by ostensibly pro-choice politicians.”

The resolution would have offered the first set of comprehensive guidelines from a regional or international body on how governments must balance a woman’s right to reproductive health and autonomy with an individual’s right to conscientious objection.

In many member states of the Council of Europe, the practice of conscientious objection in the medical field is largely unregulated. As a result, healthcare providers deny women access to lawful reproductive health services based on moral or religious objections—severely impacting their health and lives.

The PACE resolution as originally proposed recommended that governments develop comprehensive regulations and guarantee the right to conscientious objection only to individuals, not to public health facilities. They also recommended that public facilities provide patients with information on all of their medical options and treatment in cases of emergency regardless of an individual practitioner’s objections.

“When a healthcare worker objects to providing legal reproductive services because of his or her conscience, it is imperative to a woman’s health and life that the government make sure that she can still get the services she needs and is legally entitled,” said Zampas.

Read more about the reality of conscientious objection.