The president of Canadian Nurses for Life believes the financial crisis in provincial health funding underscores the need for legislation protecting health workers from participating in objectionable medical practices.

Mary Lyn McPherson said provincial downsizing, which has resulted in hospitals consolidating abortion services on obstetrical or medical units, presents new dangers to health care workers.

“Canadian nurses have been disciplined, and fired, for even discussing options to abortion with patients,” McPherson said. “Nurses who refuse to perform any health service, are usually not hired, and as hospitals consolidate their abortion services … nurses who refuse to assist with abortions are being left with no other alternative but to resign or be fired.”

McPherson said the new bottom-line ethic in hospital administration is a disturbing trend for workers who support the right to life from conception to natural death. It is not unforeseeable, she suggested, that Canadian hospitals will soon employ only those health care workers who agree to participate in the elimination of patients.

“What will happen to nurses as the cost of caring for the elderly, the disabled and the very ill increases, and a euthanasia ethic comes to the fore?” McPherson asked.

She said the current economic climate makes a conscience clause more urgent than ever. Such legislation would protect from dismissal or disciplinary action any worker with moral or religious objections to certain medical procedures.

Nurses for Life has also seized on the conscience clause debate to encourage new membership. Since 1986, the organization has been seeking protection through Parliament for conscience clause legislation. It believes that the active or passive acceptance of the anti-life mentality, “stands in grave opposition to the moral, ethical and practical aspects of nursing.”