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Polish bishops applaud bill to ban abortions based on disability

Krakow, Poland, Mar 20, 2018 / 12:51 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As pro-life legislation moves forward in Poland, the nation’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference applauded the measure, stressing that every human person has the right to life.

On Monday, a civic draft law called “Halt Abortion” received committee approval from the parliamentary Committee on Justice and Human Rights, by a vote of 16-9. This measure, if passed, would prohibit the practice of eugenic abortions – those chosen due to a congenital disorder or genetic deformity in the unborn child.

“Every conceived child has the right to birth and to life, regardless of innate diseases and genetic defects. The role of the state is to provide protection for every citizen, also in its first stage of life,” said Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Pozan, president of the Polish Bishops’ Conference.

“The right to life is a fundamental human right, there is no doubt in this matter,” Archbishop Gadecki continued in a recent statement.

He voiced gratitude for the committee’s favorable ruling on the draft law, saying, “I would like to thank the parliamentarian Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which, giving a positive recommendation to the civic draft law ‘Halt Abortion’ signed by over 830,000 Poles, confirmed this right.”

Abortion in Poland is currently legal only in cases of rape, incest, if the mother’s life or health is threatened, or if the baby has received a prenatal diagnosis of a disorder or deformity.

According to Reuters, the majority of abortions performed within Poland are due to a prenatal diagnosis of a disability or disorder in the unborn baby. In 2016, 1,042 of the nation’s 1,100 legal abortions were reportedly performed for this reason.

During parliamentary discussion on the “Halt Abortion” bill, MPs quotes article 38 of the country’s Constitution, which states: “The Republic of Poland guarantees to everyone the legal protection of life.”

The “Halt Abortion” bill was introduced by the Law and Justice party (PiS), which has been in power since 2015. The party has sponsored multiple pro-life measures over the years, and has cut off public funding for in-vitro fertilization. They also enacted restrictions on the morning-after pill, which now requires a prescription.

Archbishop Gadecki thanked “many nuns and priests as well as lay people in Poland” for their prayers on the legislation. He said the Church must be “the voice of those who do not yet have a voice.”

“Legal protection of human life is not a question of religion or worldview, but above all a question of science, which clearly shows that human life begins at the moment of conception,” Gadecki said.

“Modern biology, especially genetics, leaves no doubt as to the humanity of the human embryo and its distinctiveness from the moment its genome was conceived.”

The “Halt Abortion” bill will now move forward to the Committee of Social Politics and Family on March 21, and from there will go on to Parliament.


Judge temporarily blocks Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban

Jackson, Miss., Mar 20, 2018 / 12:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal judge granted a temporary restraining order Tuesday against a Mississippi law which bans most abortions after 15 weeks into pregnancy.

It is the most restrictive abortion law in the US.

US District Judge Carlton Reeves temporarily blocked the Gestational Age Act March 20, one day after it was signed by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant.


I was proud to sign House Bill 1510 this afternoon. I am committed to making Mississippi the safest place in America for an unborn child, and this bill will help us achieve that goal.

— Phil Bryant (@PhilBryantMS) March 19, 2018


A suit was filed against the law within hours of its signing by the Center for Reproductive Rights. The center argues that a “state may not ban abortion before viability.” Viability is currently typically placed at around 24 weeks.

Dr. Sacheen Carr-Ellis of the Jackson Women's Health Organization, the state's only abortion clinic, saying a woman at least 15 weeks pregnant was scheduled to have an abortion Tuesday afternoon.

The state argued that it has an interest in protecting the life of the unborn, as well as maternal health.

The law was passed by the state legislature earlier in the month. It permits abortion past 15 weeks when the mother's life or major bodily function is in danger or when the unborn child has a severe abnormality which is incompatible with life outside the womb at full term. Exceptions are not granted for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

Under the law, physicians knowingly in violation can lose their state medical licenses, and receive a civil penalty of up to $500 if they falsify records about the circumstances of the procedure.

State records indicate about 200 abortions a year are performed on women 15 to 20 weeks pregnant; according to the suit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Jackson Women's Health Organization performed 78 abortions past 15 weeks in 2017.

Prior to the passage of the new law, Mississippi barred abortion at 20 weeks into pregnancy. It also requires that those performing abortions be board-certified or -eligible obstetrician-gynecologists, and that a woman receive in-person counseling and wait 24 hours before receiving an abortion.

Signing the bill, Bryant said that “We are saving more of the unborn than any state in America, and what better thing we could do? We'll probably be sued here in about a half hour, and that'll be fine with me. It'll be worth fighting over.”

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">It’s a great day in Mississippi as we move to make our state the safest place in the nation for an unborn child. I was proud to stand with members of the pro-life community as Gov. <a href="">@PhilBryantMS</a> signed the ban on abortions after 15 weeks of gestation. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Tate Reeves (@tatereeves) <a href="">March 19, 2018</a></blockquote>
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Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn said at the signing that the state would be prepared for pay to defend the law in court: “I don’t know if you can put any value on human life. We are all about fighting to protect the unborn. Whatever challenges we have to take on to do that, is something we’re willing to do.”

Pope Francis' Holy Thursday Mass will be at a prison

Rome, Italy, Mar 20, 2018 / 10:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Continuing his custom of saying Holy Thursday Mass outside a sacred place, Pope Francis this year will visit one of Rome’s most well-known prisons, the Regina Coeli, located in the historic Trastevere neighborhood.

The Pope will celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper March 29. During the ceremony he will wash the feet of 12 inmates. He will also meet with prisoners and visit sick inmates in the prison’s infirmary.

Originally the site of a 17th-century convent, from which it gets its name, the Regina Coeli prison was constructed in 1881 by the Italian government after the country’s unification. A women’s prison, called the Mantellate, was later built nearby, also on the site of a former convent.

The prison has been visited by popes on three former occasions: by St. John XXIII in 1958, by Bl. Paul VI in 1964, and by St. John Paul II in 2000.

Like most prisons throughout Italy, Regina Coeli has had issues with overcrowding and inmate suicide in recent years.

For Pope Francis, this will be the fourth time during his pontificate that he has celebrated Maundy Thursday Mass at a prison. The first was in 2013, just after becoming Pope, when he visited the Casal del Marmo youth detention center.

This occasion was notable for being the first time a Pope included females and non-Christians among those whose feet he washed. At the time, liturgical law permitted only men's feet to be washed in the Holy Thursday ceremony.

In January 2016, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments modified the Roman Missal to allow for women's feet to be washed at the Holy Thursday Mass, though it added that those chosen are to be “from among the People of God.”

The Roman Missal's text was modified to say that “those chosen from among the People of God are accompanied by the ministers,” while it had previously read: “the men chosen are accompanied by the ministers.”

“People of God” is an ecclesiological term adopted by the Second Vatican Council's dogmatic constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium, to indicate the Church of Christ, which “subsists in the Catholic Church.”

Pope Francis said Holy Thursday Mass at a center for asylum seekers in Castelnuovo di Porto, a municipality just north of Rome, in 2016. There he washed the feet of refugees, among whom were Coptic Orthodox, Muslims, and Hindus.

In 2015 the Pope went to Rome’s Rebibbia prison, and in 2017 he visited Paliano prison located south of Rome.

In 2014 he visited people with disabilities, saying Mass at the Don Gnocchi center for the disabled.

Pope Francis sends condolences for death of Cardinal O’Brien

Vatican City, Mar 20, 2018 / 07:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday Pope Francis offered his condolences for the death of Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien, the disgraced former archbishop of Edinburgh, who died Monday at the age of 80 in a hospital in northern England.

The Pope's March 20 message was addressed to Archbishop Leo Cushley, who was appointed to head the archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh in 2013 after O’Brien stepped down following his acknowledgment that he participated in inappropriate sexual conduct during his ministry.

In the brief message, Francis said he was saddened to hear of O’Brien’s death and offered his heartfelt condolences to his family and those who mourn him.

“Commending his soul to the merciful love of God our Father, and with the assurance of my prayers for the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and consolation in our Lord Jesus Christ,” he wrote.

The funeral and burial arrangements for the cardinal are still being determined. Scottish newspaper The Herald reported March 20 that the Holy See will be a participant in the decision, as well as Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who the Pope appointed to manage the O’Brien scandal in 2013.

According to The Herald, an archdiocesan spokesperson said O’Brien’s funeral arrangements “will be decided in the days to come.”

“There will be consultation between the Holy See – the Holy Father will have an input – and Keith O’Brien’s family as to where his requiem Mass takes place and when and where he is buried.”
Born in Ballycastle, County Antrim, Northern Ireland in 1938, O'Brien was named archbishop of St. Andrews & Edinburgh by St. John Paul II in 1985.

From 2002-2012, O’Brien served as President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland. He was made a cardinal by John Paul II in 2003 and participated in the 2005 conclave that elected Benedict XVI.

He stepped down as Archbishop of St. Andrews & Edinburgh in 2013 at the age of 74 after allegations went public that he had participated in inappropriate sexual behavior with other men in the 1980s.

After the claims surfaced that February, the cardinal's request for retirement – originally submitted to Benedict XVI in November 2012 for reasons due to age and health – was accepted immediately by Benedict, going into effect Feb. 25, 2013.

O'Brien did not participate in the March 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis, and in May 2013, after speaking with the newly-elected Pope, he left Scotland for a time of prayer, penance and reflection.

Two years later, Francis accepted his resignation of the rights and privileges of cardinal – a rare circumstance which can only be approved by the pope.

The female nuclear physicist who created a fertility app

Stockholm, Sweden, Mar 20, 2018 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Meet Elina Berglund: a nuclear physicist who will be known as the woman who developed the first natural cycle fertility app to have been internationally certified as an effective means of avoiding pregnancy.

“It feels incredibly exciting that there is now an approved alternative to conventional pregnancy prevention methods, and that it’s possible to replace medication with technology,” Berglund told Business Insider.

The app, called Natural Cycles, was founded in Switzerland by Elina Berglund and her husband Raoul Scherwizl. They created the app as a way to go “beyond contraception,” and to “get to know your body and unique cycles,” according to their website.

“At Natural Cycles, we are all about combining scientific research and mobile tech to empower every woman worldwide with knowledge about her body, menstrual cycle and fertility.”

The app works on a sympto-thermal based system. Using mathematics and advanced technology, the app tracks a woman’s recorded daily temperature through an algorithm which determines fertility, making it a competitive alternative to hormonal birth control and contraception for women who would otherwise use them.

This information allows women to know exactly where they are in their cycle, and even considers factors such as temperature fluctuations and cycle irregularities in order to make accurate predictions about ovulation.

While the Catholic Church teaches that the use of contraception is immoral, because it intentionally separates procreation from the sexual act, it does approve of fertility mapping methods like natural family planning. Though Berglund's app was developed to be used as a contraceptive, it can be used as a form of natural family planning.

Natural family planning methods, such as the Billings Method or Creighton Model, help women and families achieve pregnancy – or prevent pregnancy, if there is a just reason to avoid it – by tracking natural cycles, which is similar to the concept behind the Berglund's app.

Business Insider pointed to a clinical study which concluded that the Natural Cycles prevention method is as effective as the pill in spacing pregnancies – without the side effects.

However, getting to this point was not easy for Berglund and her husband. Not long after its founding, the Natural Cycles app began to receive severe investigatory restrictions from the Swedish Medicinal Products Agency.

Eventually, the app recently received official recognition and approval from Tüv Süd, a German inspection and certification agency.

In the future, Natural Cycles has big plans to make up for lost time: they are targeting the U.K. with a big marketing sweep, and have their eyes on the United States – if the app gets approved by the FDA.

The app currently has more than 150,000 users in over 160 countries around the world.


An earlier version of this article ran on CNA Feb. 16, 2017.

Canons of St. John Cantius founder to face review board after removal amid misconduct claims

Chicago, Ill., Mar 19, 2018 / 06:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The pastor of Chicago’s St. John Cantius Church was removed from office last week for unspecified “credible” allegations of misconduct involving adult men, a response the Chicago archdiocese says is typical in such cases.
Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago removed Father C. Frank Phillips, founder of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius and pastor of Chicago’s St. John Cantius Church.
“I am aware that this is difficult news to receive, but the Archdiocese of Chicago is committed to ensuring those serving our parishioners are fit for ministry,” the cardinal said in a statement. “Know that this decision was made after careful consideration. I will continue to pray for you and am confident the Lord will sustain the St. John Cantius community as you make this transition.”
Cardinal Cupich said he had to withdraw the priest’s faculties to minister in the archdiocese “after learning of credible allegations of improper conduct involving adult men.”
Susan Thomas, communications director for the Archdiocese of Chicago, told CNA that the priest is not accused of a canonical crime, known as a “delict,” and to the archdiocese’s knowledge he is not being investigated for a civil crime.

The archdiocese has referred the matter to Fr. Gene Szarek, C.R., the provincial superior of the Resurrectionists, to deal with the allegations and to decide on any further action. Phillips, though the founder of the Canons Regular, is canonically a member of the Resurrectionists.

Phillips’ attorney, Steve Komie of Komie and Associates, told CNA that he has been informed that the Resurrectionist provincial has directed a review board to review the priest’s situation.

“Father Philips has asked me to say that he’s looking forward to the convocation of the board under the decree of the provincial and he’s looking forward to appearing in front of the board, and he’s looking forward to have the board work its way through the claims being currently made,” Komie said.
“He looks forward to the report and in the meantime he’s praying for the peace and reconciliation of all involved.”
“That’s the extent of his statement, because at this time under the rules he is not allowed to comment further,” said the attorney.

In some Catholic circles, St. John Cantius Parish has become well-known for its liturgy and music. It celebrates some Masses in Latin, including the Extraordinary Form.
Phillips had served at the parish since 1988. In 1998 he founded the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, with the approval of Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Francis George and the Congregation of the Resurrection. It follows the Rule of St. Augustine and seeks to “preserve and foster the devotional, musical, catechetical, and artistic traditions of the Catholic Church,” its website says.
Phillips will live away from the parish at a residence to be determined by his order.
Thomas told CNA that removal is “a typical response for misconduct of this nature.”
“Other cases have been handled in the same way,” she said.
The priest was removed in accordance with “the standard Archdiocesan process in addressing allegations of improper conduct with adults.” The allegations do not concern minors.

In 2015, Rev. Marco Mercado was removed from a Chicago archdiocesan parish because of what the archdiocese called an “inappropriate relationship with an adult man.” His priestly faculties were also revoked.

In the same year, Rev. Brendan Curran, O.P, was removed from ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago after he was reported to have had an inappropriate relationship with an unmarried adult woman. In addition to parish ministry, Curran was known as an immigration rights activist in the Chicago area.
Cardinal Cupich has appointed Fr. Scott Thelander, S.J.C., as administrator of St. John Cantius Parish and interim superior of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius.
“He is an experienced pastor who is committed to ensuring that the spiritual, pastoral and administrative services of your parish will continue without interruption,” the cardinal said. “The current services offered at the parish and schedule of Masses will continue.”
The service and training of the Canons Regular and members in seminary formation will continue, the cardinal said.

Supreme Court to hear arguments about California abortion law

Washington D.C., Mar 19, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, to decide if a California law mandating that pro-life pregnancy centers post information about abortion is a violation of the First Amendment and free speech rights.

California’s “Reproductive FACT Act” requires pregnancy centers that do not provide abortion services to display a notice informing patients about California programs that, among other things, can provide a free or low-cost abortion for eligible women.

The law also mandates that any non-medical pregnancy center, such as one that distributes free maternity clothing or baby items to a pregnant woman, must display a notice explaining that it is not licensed as a medical facility in the state of California. There is no current licensing scheme in the state of California for non-medical facilities who distribute baby supplies.

The Reproductive FACT Act was passed in 2015. Pregnancy centers filed suit shortly afterwards. NIFLA argues that pro-life employees at pregnancy centers should not be compelled to share information about abortion services. After a series of appeals, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in 2017.

Pro-life pregnancy centers are often located near abortion facilities and sometimes provide sonograms and other medical care for pregnant women, free of charge. They do not provide abortion services or abortion referrals, and counselors at these centers encourage a woman to continue her pregnancy.

Similar laws, such as one in Baltimore, have been struck down in courts as unconstitutional. 

Is abortion really safe? Critics respond to new study

Washington D.C., Mar 19, 2018 / 04:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A report calling the practice of abortion in the U.S. a safe procedure was published last week, causing multiple critics to question the accuracy of its findings.

The study, “The Safety and Quality of Abortion Care in the United States”, was conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. It ultimately concluded that abortions offered within the U.S are safe medical procedures.

“I would say the main takeaway is that abortions that are provided in the United States are safe and effective,” stated Ned Calonge, co-chair of the committee which authored the report, according to NPR.

However, Dr. Donna Harrison, executive director of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said that abortion is never safe.

“Abortion is not safe for women. Safe means free from risk, free from harm. And abortion harms women,” Harrison told CNA, adding that “abortion is never safe for the unborn child. It is lethal for the unborn child.”

Harrison said that abortion is harmful to women on a number of different levels. First, it can “harm women physically by damaging their uterus, and causing them to have pre-term birth in subsequent pregnancies.”

While the study, approximately 200 pages in length, also reported that complications due to abortions are “rare,” Harrison highlighted a number of risks that are associated with the practice.

“Abortion can harm women immediately with the risks of bleeding and damage to their womb and other pelvic organs,” she said, also underscoring long-term effects such as harming women “psychologically, increasing their risk of suicide, drug abuse, and hospitalization from depression.”

Other harms, such as an increased risk for breast cancer, are also very real, according to Harrison, since abortion affects the maturity of breast tissue development, prematurely halting the production of milk and making the tissue more susceptible to cancer.

However, the report claimed that abortion does not effect a woman’s well-being or overall health, saying there is no evidence that breast cancer follows abortion.

“A politically motivated study doesn’t change the reality that abortion hurts women,” Harrison said.

The study also made claims that some state laws which regulate the practice of abortion can cause a road block to “safe and effective care.”

The report pointed to various state laws which require doctors to notify their patients about the risk of breast cancer when receiving an abortion, or requiring a 24-hour waiting period before going through with the procedure. Other states require an ultrasound before an abortion, while some states only allow physicians to perform the termination.

These regulations, according to the study, hinder the effectiveness of abortion and could “put the patient at greater risk of an adverse event.”

Abby Johnson, president of the pro-life organization “And Then There Were None,” said these state requirements “are not a hardship” and would not cause additional harm to the mother.

“None of the provisions made by the states, who have the right to regulate abortion, are to make abortion unsafe or inaccessible,” Johnson noted.

“Any surgery requires pre-op. Abortion should be no different,” she continued.

The study also made claims that nurse practitioners should be able to perform the procedure, saying it would not be necessary for the termination to be strictly performed by a licensed physician.

However, Harrison called this casual view of a significant medical procedure “irresponsible,” according to NPR.

“The tendency to look at abortion as though it were not a serious medical procedure is irresponsible,” Harrison said.

Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life of America, noted some discrepancies in the report’s findings.

Hawkins said “there is no national reporting law requiring that the outcome of abortion be tracked.” In fact, Hawkins noted that all abortion data within the U.S. is voluntarily reported by the abortionists themselves, which could leave room for a significant bias in overall reporting.

“One must assume that the public relations gloss on the report covers up the reality that we can’t determine all the harms of abortion in the United States because we only know what abortionists want to tell us,” Hawkins said in a recent press release.

“What we have is the word of abortion partisans, and not real, verifiable data,” Hawkins continued, saying, “if abortion is so safe, then let’s have a national abortion reporting law that tracks all abortions and all abortion outcomes.”

How the Big Easy celebrates St. Joseph

New Orleans, La., Mar 19, 2018 / 03:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic culture is everywhere in New Orleans. Mardi Gras is the city’s defining celebration. The city’s cathedral is one of its most well-known landmarks. And in the days leading to March 19, the people of New Orleans take up a Catholic tradition that began in the Middle Ages - they build “St. Joseph altars.”

This year, nearly 60 New Orleans Catholic schools and parishes have constructed devotional altars, as an expression of gratitude to St. Joseph, and as a labor of love for parishioners, friends, and neighbors.

"The original [St. Joseph’s] altar was built by the people of Sicily in thanks for his prayers to bring an end to their famine," said Sarah McDonald, communications director of Archdiocese of New Orleans.

"Today, they are considered a labor of love. As you are supposed to be working on the altar you are praying to St. Joseph to bless your family and to hear your intentions and pass them on," she told CNA.

The tradition began in Sicily, where St. Joseph's intercession is said to have helped the island through a severe famine almost 1,000 years ago. According to legend, people thanked St. Joseph for his prayers by building prayer altars, on which they placed food, pastries, flowers, wine, and, especially, fava beans.

The beans, which are said to pair well with Chianti, were the first crop Sicilians are believed to have grown once their drought ended.

The altars became a custom in Sicily. They came to New Orleans during a wave a Sicilian migration in 19th century.

"In New Orleans we have a very large Sicilian immigrant population coming over in the late 18th century/early 19th century, and with the Sicilian immigrants came the tradition ... of St. Joseph's altars,” McDonald said.

McDonald said the altars were first built in people's homes, for celebration with neighbors and families. They have now moved to parishes and are even found in some businesses, including grocery stores and concert venues.

Constructed over several days, the altars typically are made in the shape of a cross, with three tiers to represent the Trinity. A picture of St. Joseph is placed on the top tier. Altars are typically blessed by a priest.

The altars are covered with baked goods, flowers, candles, fruits, vegetables, and meatless meals. Many of the pastries and cookies have a symbolic meaning: some cookies are shaped as carpenter's tools or the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The food is an expression of gratitude for the local harvest, McDonald said, noting that after the festival canned goods and money are donated to those in need.

To complete the day, many parishes stage a reenactment of the Holy Family's search for shelter in Bethlehem, after which a feast is served.

Called "Tupa Tupa" or "Knock Knock," the custom has children representing the Holy Family knocking on the parish door looking for shelter. Two times the procession is denied shelter, and on the third knock everyone is let in for the feast.

UK bill seeks to protect conscientious objection for medical practitioners

London, England, Mar 19, 2018 / 03:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A bill in the British Parliament would clarify the rights of conscientious objection for medical professionals, protecting them from participating in medical procedures to which their beliefs are opposed.

The Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Act 2017 would defend healthcare workers in England and Wales from partaking in the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, IVF or similar fertility treatments, or abortion if they have a conscientious objection to doing so.

The bill, now at the committee stage in the House of Lords, was introduced by Baroness Nuala O’Loan, a peer from Northern Ireland, who believes medical professionals should not be discriminated against for their personal beliefs.

O’Loan said the bill seeks to “affirm as a matter of statute that no one shall be under any duty to participate in activities they believe involve the taking of human life,” according to News Letter UK.

“Conscientious objection is a matter of liberty, equality and morality,” said O’Loan, who denied claims that the bill’s underlying motive is to restrict access to abortion or other medical procedures.

The protection of conscientious objection dates back to 1757 in the UK, and was again defended in the Human Rights Act 1998, which proclaims that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

During the two world wars, more than 76,000 conscientious objectors in the UK were accommodated for their beliefs on war and killing, according to Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton and member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

“Reasonable accommodation of conscientious objection is therefore a long-respected matter of liberty and equality in this country, and this respect should be as relevant as ever today,” said Bruce, who is advocating for the bill’s passage.

The bill would bar employers from discrimination or victimization of employees who make use of conscientious objection, and medical practitioners would be able to demonstrate conscientious objection simply by stating so under oath.

A 2016 report by the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group found that some doctors and nurses have faced discrimination in their workplace due to their personal beliefs against certain procedures. O’Loan particularly noted a legal case involving midwives Mary Doogan and Connie Wood, both of whom refused to supervise abortions because of their personal beliefs.

O’Loan also noted many other aspiring healthcare workers who want to pursue a career in obstetrics or gynecology, but do not do so because of their personal objections to abortion.

Some opposition to the bill has arisen from various groups, including the British Medical Association, which has filed a brief against the bill, saying objections to abortion will risk “patient access to safe and timely care.”

Other objections have been raised in the House of Lords, where some peers voiced concern over privileging religious beliefs.

However, Bruce noted that conscientious objection is not only a product of religious beliefs, but can also be formed on other bases.

“Conscience can equally be informed by a person’s philosophy, morality, beliefs, or scientific understanding,” Bruce remarked.

“To suggest that, for example, conscience is something applicable only to those with religious beliefs would be a grossly restrictive understanding of the concept,” she continued.

Toni Saad, a medical student at Cardiff University, noted that conscientious objection will not affect a doctor from doing what is best for their patient.

“I doubt there is any conscientiously objecting doctor who believes he is not acting according to his patient’s best interests,” Saad wrote at The Spectator Feb. 23.

The bill, Saad said, “deserves the attention and support of those interested in liberty and tolerance, and those in a position to establish these in our statute books.”

If the measure is passed, it would affect all healthcare workers on the registers of the General Medical Council, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the Health and Care Professions Council and the General Pharmaceutical Council in England and Wales.

The bill was introduced in the House of Lords and has passed its first and second readings. It is scheduled for a committee debate March 23. It would then face further scrutiny in the House of Lords before passing to the House of Commons, the consideration of amendments, and then the royal assent.

“Baroness O’Loan’s Bill is both timely and welcome, seeking as it does to clarify and affirm that, as a matter of law, no one with a conscientious objection should be compelled to be involved in activities which they believe involve the taking of human life,” said Bruce.

“[The bill] would be a concrete example of our commitment to a diverse and inclusive society, and would serve to strengthen the morale of those involved in healthcare, something surely no one – in all conscience – could deny is a good thing.”