MP McCafferty Attempted to Restrict Freedom of Religion and Conscience

Country: European Institutions (EU, ECHR,

Date of incident: October 7, 2010

Former British MP Christine McCafferty urged the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to recommend limitations to conscientious objection when it comes to abortion. The draft report contained a limitation of freedom of conscience to individuals. Objecting individuals would have faced restrictions and blacklisting. The draft, aiming at discriminating against Christians, was voted down on October 7th.

The draft report called "Women’s access to lawful medical care: the problem of unregulated use of conscientious objection" focussed “especially on the field of reproductive health care” for women, i.e., mainly on abortion, but it also concerns some other practices such as assisted reproduction and sterilization. The report also mentioned “pain-relief by life-shortening means for terminally ill patients” i.e., active euthanasia.

Among its more unacceptable provisions, this Council of Europe draft document asked the European Member States:

- to “oblige the healthcare provider to provide the desired treatment to which the patient is legally entitled [i.e. abortion] despite his or her conscientious objection”,

- to oblige the healthcare provider to take part indirectly, in all circumstances, in abortion and other critical medical practices despite his or her conscientious objection,

- to oblige the healthcare provider to prove “that his or her objection is grounded in their conscience or religious beliefs and that the refusal is done in good faith”,

- to deprive “public/state institutions, such as public hospitals and clinics, as a whole”, from the “guarantee of the right to conscientious objection”,

- to create a “registry of conscientious objectors”,

- to create “an effective complaint mechanism” against conscientious objectors.

Read the full text of the draft report here:

On October 7, the highly controversial draft report, which aimed at discriminating against Christians, was tightly voted down and changed to a resolution which protects freedom of conscience. The new text can be viewed here: