Strasbourg, France, Oct 9, 2010 / 05:51 am
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, an influential advisory body to European Union member states, voted on Thursday to make substantial changes to a resolution which could have curtailed health care workers’ rights to opt out of performing abortions. Representatives from Ireland and Italy pushed for amendments to protect conscientious objectors, forcing the resolution's original authors to vote against the final version of their own proposal.
The new resolution, adopted on Thursday evening by the assembly, represented an almost complete reversal of U.K. representative Christine McCafferty's draft recommendations. Her report had described “unregulated use of conscientious objection” as dangerous, and called for a set of controls intended to “oblige the healthcare provider to provide … treatment to which the patient is legally entitled despite his or her conscientious objection” in cases of emergency or severe inconvenience.
Irish representative Ronan Mullen, and Italy's Luca Volonte, led the opposition to McCafferty's report. Mullen pointed out in the debate that the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child explicitly recognizes the rights of unborn children. The Irish representative also reminded members of the parliamentary assembly that conscientious objection is a basic principle of human rights.
By the end of Thursday's debate, Mullen and Volonte's initiative had brought about a complete reversal of the U.K. representative's intentions. The resolution's new text struck out several paragraphs on the supposed danger of “unregulated” conscientious objections, replacing them with a strong assertion both of caregivers' rights, and the real nature of the procedures to which many object.