Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 4, 2007
Conscience rights of pro-life doctors come under fire from abortion group
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
"If you take away the conscience and the right to object of a Catholic physician, you are taking away their integrity."
- Dr. Rene Leiva
"If you take away the conscience and the right to object of a Catholic physician, you are taking away their integrity. Without that, what is left? Anything can come after that," he said.
NAF, an organization that represents abortion providers in Canada and the United States, described the so-called conscientious objector clause as a "violation of the CMA's own Code of Ethics" in a May 9 letter to the CMA.
"Your policy treats women unfairly and impedes women's access to critical health care guaranteed through the Canada Medical Act," NAF president and CEO Vicki Saporta said in the letter.
"A physician's religious and moral beliefs should not jeopardize a patient's access to medical care," she said.
"If doctors do not wish to refer and inform patients about their comprehensive medical options, including abortion care, then they should not participate in the public system," she wrote.
Leiva sees referring a patient for an abortion as nearly equivalent to the act itself. As a native of El Salvador, he used the analogy of a death squad asking him to show them where someone was hiding.
"Well, I'm against you killing the poor. But by the way that person is over there, I'm referring that person to someone who will kill that person," he said.
In a May 16 news conference on Parliament Hill, NAF board chair Dr. Pat Smith raised concerns that abortion is not part of "core training" at medical schools.
"Medical schools must provide training opportunities for medical students to ensure that future generations of Canadian women have access to quality abortion care," she said.
Leiva sees this as immoral. If medical schools make abortion part of the core curriculum, not only Catholics and other Christians, but all people who uphold the old Hippocratic Oath, would not be able to become doctors.
Canadian Physicians for Life is mobilizing pro-life doctors to write to the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) in favour of the current policy.
"If the CMA's policy were to be changed so that doctors were compelled to make abortion referrals against their conscientious/religious beliefs, Canada may one day find itself without any practicing pro-life doctors," said a May 14 email written by administrator Barbara McAdorey on behalf of Canadian Physicians for Life's board.
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