Conservative MPs John Oostrom and Alan Redway recently agreed to present a draft “conscience clause” on behalf of Nurses for Life to the federal Justice Committee.  Nurses for Life have sought legal advice on this matter and is seeking broad public endorsement of such a conscience clause.

In Canada, health care workers have often been excluded from operating rooms and gynecology wards where abortions are performed unless they agree to participate in the procedures.  As professionals, they have the right to avoid following unethical orders and hospital policies; however, they may face the prospect of not being hired, or being transferred or fired for their ethical decisions.  On the other hand, some supervisors do accommodate their employees or students who refuse to assist in abortion procedures.  Conscientious objectors who are exempted from such participation sometimes face discrimination from other employees.

Nurses for Life sees the current review of abortion legislation as a significant opportunity to obtain the protection required by health care workers.

The Illinois Right of Conscience Act has, since 1977, prohibited discrimination against any person who refused to participate in any was in any or form of medical care contrary to his or her conscience. Disqualification from medical or nursing training programmes, coercion, and imposition of liability for refusing to act contrary to conscience are also prohibited.

The United Kingdom’s Abortion Act of 1967 states, “no person shall be under any duty…to participate in any treatment authorized by this Act to which he has a conscientious objection.”

Neither law relieves health care personnel of the obligation to provide emergency care.  Similar legislation exists in 44 American states, as well as the United Kingdom, France and Germany.

The group is asking for letters supporting conscience clause legislation to be sent to the Minister of Justice, Hon. Ramon Hnatyshyn, and the Minister of Health and Welfare, Hon. Jake Epp, at the House of Commons, Ottawa, K1A 0A6.  Letters to the editors of newspapers would also be helpful.