Alberta’s conscience rights bill

Western Standard
Reproduced with permission

John Carpay

Alberta’s conscience rights bill Bill 207 enshrines “freedom of conscience and religion” – protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms– for Alberta’s health care providers. For many years, Premier Jason Kenney has consistently and publicly supported protecting freedom of conscience, so nobody should be surprised if he supports this Private Member’s Bill.

Bill 207 will not limit patient access to abortion. Firstly, abortion does not require a referral, as any abortion clinic will tell you when you call and ask. Secondly, even if abortion did require a referral, if one physician refuses to provide such referral then the patient would simply go to another doctor. Inconvenient? Yes, absolutely. In a free country, the right to honour one’s conscience trumps someone else’s interest in not being inconvenienced.

Forcing someone to do something that they believe to be wrong is serious business. It is also a hallmark of totalitarian states. But in free and democratic societies, the government will bend over backwards to avoid coercing citizens to participate in what they see as evil. This is why the Charter describes freedom of conscience and religion as “fundamental,” and mentions it ahead of the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

When a democracy is at war, the pacifists who oppose killing another human being will not be required by government to serve on the front lines and shoot at foreign troops. A democracy can continue with its war efforts without requiring every citizen to be willing to kill enemy soldiers.

Just because pork is legal and popular does not mean that all butchers should be forced, by law, to sell it. Some Muslim and Orthodox Jewish butchers will refuse to handle or sell pork, and no doubt this refusal will inconvenience some customers. The disappointed customers will need to go elsewhere, upon learning that the store they travelled to does not carry what they want.

The BC Human Rights Tribunal recently issued a pro-freedom ruling that female estheticians could refuse to wax the male genitalia of Jessica (Jonathan) Yaniv, for religious and other reasons. Yaniv will be inconvenienced by having to locate a waxologist who is willing and able to provide a Brazilian bikini wax for male genitals. But not forcing women to handle male genitalia is more important than sparing someone the inconvenience of going elsewhere.

Put simply: in a free society, you do not have the right to require other people to do things that they do not wish to do. In a free country, nobody has a legal right to be free from the inconvenience of needing to look elsewhere for a product or service. This respect for freedom is consistent with – or is supposed to be consistent with – the philosophy of the United Conservative Party.

Bill 207 protects doctors from being required to assist their patients in committing suicide, as one example of a medical service that some doctors see as wrong. Many non-religious doctors believe on conscientious grounds that suicide is not a valid or legitimate medical treatment.

Providing a referral is active participation. This is why the Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario prohibits doctors from performing female genital mutilation (FGM) and also prohibits doctors from referring for this medical service. If it’s wrong to remove portions of a young girl’s genitals, then it’s also wrong to refer her to another doctor who will provide that same service.  As in Ontario, Alberta’s College states that “no physician should perform such procedures, irrespective of cultural norms in other societies, and no physician should be complicit in allowing such procedures to go ahead.” To refer for FGM is to be complicit in FGM. Requiring doctors to refer for a service they believe to be wrong is to violate the conscience of doctors.

And yet the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons requires doctors to refer for assisted suicide. Bill 207 addresses this problem by protecting the fundamental Charter freedoms of doctors and other health care providers. A vote for Bill 2017 is a vote for freedom.

No case to answer in UK’s odd female genital mutilation imbroglio

BioEdge

Michael Cook

An unusual criminal investigation in London of high-profile doctors for female genital mutilation (FGM) has collapsed. FGM is usually carried out in secret amongst communities from the Middle East and Africa. However, this procedure was described in a medical journal and involved leading British physicians.

In 2011 a surgeon, Professor Joe Daniels, and a psychiatrist, Professor David Veale, published an article in The Archives of Sexual Behaviour about a clitoris removal operation on a 33-year-old Western patient. She had already had labia reduction surgery but still thought her genitals were “ugly” and “hated the look of them”. So Veale gave his approval as a psychiatrist and Daniels did the operation.

Upon reading the article, another academic, Professor Susan Bewley, was outraged and urged the Crown Prosecution Service to investigate because it appeared to breach the UK’s law banning FGM. However, surgery of this kind is permitted for medical or psychological reasons and eventually the police declared that there was no case to answer.

Professor Veale told the Evening Standard that he was utterly opposed to FGM.

“FGM and cosmetic surgery are completely different. To me it’s completely clear. FGM is an abhorrent practice conducted on girls against their consent motivated by a desire to control female sexuality, but [cosmetic genital surgery] is provided for adult women with capacity to consent and motivated by a desire to improve their appearance and sexuality. It’s no different to any other cosmetic surgery…

“I don’t like the procedure. But the bottom line for me is freedom of choice. You have a freedom of choice if you have capacity for consent to do what you wish with your own body.”

Professor Bewley was disappointed, fearing that it might be impossible to prosecute over FGM:

“It makes a mockery of the law. It’s extraordinary. Despite the police having spent three years investigating, it’s puzzling that the CPS has decided against pressing charges. Does this mean all female cosmetic genital surgery, maybe even on minors, is exempt? The CPS decision-making looks inconsistent. Inevitably doctors are left confused and patient safety is unclear.”


 

No case to answer in UK's odd female genital mutilation imbroglioThis article is published by Michael Cook and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation to BioEdge. Commercial media must contact BioEdge for permission and fees.

African church leaders worry about the ‘medicalization’ of female genital mutilation

Religion News Service

Fredrick Nzwili

NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) International rights groups, churches and activists are escalating campaigns against female genital mutilation now that a new practice has emerged in which girls are checking into hospitals to have the procedure.

In what being referred to as the medicalization of FGM, doctors, nurses and other health practitioners are secretly performing the procedures at the request of families.

“Like abortion, they are performing FGM for the money in hospitals and other places,” said the Rev. Richard Nyangoto, a Roman Catholic priest in Kisii County, an area in the country’s southwest where FGM is widely practiced.

“Taking it to hospital does not make it right,” added Nyangoto. “It’s evil.”

Health care providers now perform up to 18 percent of FGM cases and the trend is growing, according to the World Health Organization. . . [Full Text]