Campaign Life Coalition is adding its name to a drive for a “conscience clause” which would protect health care workers from participating in abortions and other practices which would be contrary to their moral values.

The issue came to a head in August when Catholic nurses at Thunder Bay Regional Hospital reported they were being pressured to assist in abortions. Several of the nurses had been transferred from the city’s St. Joseph’s Hospital as part of the Ontario government’s health care restructuring program.

Pro-life Senator Stanley Haidasz sought passage of a federal conscience clause two years ago but was thwarted by Justice Minister Allan Rock who said such matters fall to provincial jurisdiction. At the time, Haidasz presented a petition signed by 2,000 nurses in support of some form of federal conscience clause legislation.

Campaign Life Coalition is now attempting to raise the issue with the Ontario government. It cites a number of examples of hospitals merging obstetric and abortion services which in turn puts increased pressure of hospital staff to accept any and all assignments.

“Tragically,” CLC says, “many of them are succumbing to this pressure, terrified of being fired in the current healthcare job market.”

In addition to heading up a letter-writing campaign, CLC is urging concerned Canadians to contact their Member of Provincial Parliament in support of a conscience clause. CLC has also asked the social affairs committee of the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops to raise the matter with the Mike Harris Conservatives.

Ontario isn’t the only province seeking some form of conscience protection for health care workers.

The matter has been brewing for a number of years in British Columbia, particularly following the firing of a provincial government employee for refusing to approve payment of an illegal abortion. The provincial government employees’ union failed to support the worker in the case.

Supporters of the conscience clause for health care workers say the proposed legislation would be simple to understand and enforce. The clause would simply stop people from being forced to participate in controversial medical procedures and would prevent discrimination against those who choose not to take part.

Such procedures might include abortion, artificial reproduction, human experimentation and euthanasia. A conscience clause, supporters point out, should not be seen as an attempt to impose one’s morality on the workplace. Instead, it would stop employers from imposing a secular, values-neutral morality on employees by threatening them with dismissal or disciplinary action if they refuse to cooperate with controversial practices.