The anti-vaccination movement that gripped Victorian England

BBC News

Greig Watson

The distrust of doctors and government that feeds the anti-vaccination movement might be seen as a modern phenomenon, but the roots of today’s activism were put down well over a century ago.

In the late 19th Century, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in opposition to compulsory smallpox vaccinations. There were arrests, fines and people were even sent to jail.

Banners were brandished demanding “Repeal the Vaccination Acts, the curse of our nation” and vowing “Better a felon’s cell than a poisoned babe”. Copies of hated laws were burned in the streets and the effigy was lynched of the humble country doctor who was seen as to blame for the smallpox prevention programme. . . [Full text]

World Health Organization demands referral for abortion

Safe Abortion: Technical and Policy Guidance for Health Systems, a newly revised publication of the World Health Organization, claims that objecting health care workers have an ethical responsibility to refer patients for abortion, or to provide abortions if referral is not possible.  (Sec. 3.3.6, p. 69, Box 3.2,p. 73).  It also claims that conscientious objection without referral is a barrier to health care and that referral is a legal obligation under human rights law.  Chapter 4 of the text, which is the basis for these demands, was revised under the guidance of the Programme on International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law in the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada (p. 11).  Two professors from this faculty, Rebecca Cook and Bernard Dickens, have been making such claims for years.  They have, in the past, seriously misrepresented the law on this point in an effort to make referral for abortion mandatory.  (See Postscript for the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada: Morgentaler vs. Professors Cook and Dickens, and Conscientious Objection as a Crime Against Humanity.)   The WHO document has been reviewed and criticized by Susan Yoshihara of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, but awaits a critique by medical and legal professionals.