Reaching young people who no longer pray or attend church

[Jack Valero] Look around any congregation at Mass in the UK and there’s one group that’s largely absent – young people. After Confirmation they simply disappear and may or may not return when they get married and have a family of their own.

This week 300 young people from across the world are in Rome to debate the issues and prepare a document that will be presented at the Synod of Bishops convoked by Pope Francis for next October on the topic of ‘Youth, faith and vocational discernment.’ On Monday 19th March the Pope spent the morning with them.

Pope Francis sits among the young people during the pre-synod meeting on 19 March

“Too often we talk about young people without asking what they think,” Pope Francis stated, adding that “even the best analysis on the world of youth, although useful, are no substitute for the need to meet face to face.” There are those who tend to “idolize youth, hoping it will never end,” and others who prefer to keep the young people “at a safe distance,” rather than allowing them to be protagonists of their own futures.

“In the Church this must not be the case,” he said, and “this pre-synod meeting should be a sign of something big: the desire of the Church to listen to many young people, where nobody is excluded.”

This is not just a problem for the UK – a report published today jointly by the Institut Catholique in Paris and the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion And Society based at St Mary’s University in Twickenham, uses European Social Survey data to explore rates of religious affiliation and practice among young adults (16-29 year olds) across 22 countries in Europe.

It is required reading for anyone concerned with the future of faith communities across Europe. Among its key findings are:

  • The proportion of young adults with no religious affiliation (‘nones’) is as high as 91% in the Czech Republic and as low as 17% in Poland. In the UK it is 70%.
  • Around 60% of British, Spanish, Dutch and Belgian young adults ‘never’ attend religious services. And around 65% of British young adults ‘never’ pray.
  • The percentage of 16-29 year-old identifying as Catholic varies between 82% for Poland, down to single digits for Scandinavian countries. In the UK it is 10%.
  • Only 2% of Catholic young adults in Belgium, 3% in Hungary and Austria and 6% in Germany say they attend Mass weekly. In the UK, it is 17%.
  • 21% of British young adults identify as Christian: 7% as Anglicans compared to 6% as Muslims.

Angela Markas an Australian delegate in Rome this week said, “Young people are not satisfied with simple answers, or with answers that their parents gave them. Young people are seeking depth. We want, and are able, to understand the complexity of it all and be able to have a voice.”

Prior to the meeting 150,000 young people answered a questionnaire about their hopes, needs and concerns about the Church and issues in their everyday lives.

The Pontiff mentioned that he had been able to read some of the emails answering the questionnaire sent by the young people for the meeting, and was moved “by the call of some of the young people to the adults to remain near them and help them with the important decisions in their lives.”

Inviting attendees to express themselves “frankly and freely” the Pope finished his address emphasizing, “That’s why we need you young people, living stones of a Church with a young face.”


Posted in Europe, Pope Francis, synod 2018, young people

Catholic Schools – Diverse or Divisive?

[Joe Ronan] In 2017 the 2,222 Catholic schools in England and Wales educated 854,827 students at all ages from primary to sixth form. One in ten schools in England and Wales are Catholic schools.   The Catholic presence in education is not new, or even recent. It can be traced back to the monastic and cathedral schools in the late sixth century onwards which provided the first schools and universities in England.   The Reformation saw Catholic education forced underground or abroad, but in around 1850 schools were re-established and became an important part of the education of the poor and immigrant communities of the new industrial age.

The key part played by church schools, Anglican, Catholic and Jewish, in educating large numbers of children – whose families could not afford private education – was recognised in the 1944 Education Act which saw most of those existing faith schools becoming Voluntary Aided schools, a status which they have to the current day.

The Voluntary Aided schools form an important part of the state school system but are managed separately by their sponsors, and are expected to make a contribution to their capital costs which for Catholic schools today amounts to tens of millions of pounds a year that comes from the Catholic parishes and dioceses across the country. If there were no Catholic schools, this additional money would need to be funded by the state. (Of course Catholics also contribute financially in the same way as the general population in paying taxes which partly go to funding education.)

The schools operate inside exactly the same educational structure as any other state school, but in recognition of the contribution they make are able to manage those parts of the curriculum related to religious education, reflecting the particular ethos of their faith. They also have flexibility in the setting of their admission criteria which allows them to cater particularly for the Catholic population that part funds them.

The Catholic schools are successful and popular with parents. They outperform the national averages for Key Stage 2 by 5% and GSCE results by 4%.

The schools are not however Catholic-only communities. Over 300,000 non-Catholic students attend the schools, some 35% of the total. Nor is the teaching staff exclusively Catholic – 49% are from other faiths or none.

Catholic schools are amongst the most ethnically diverse in the country; some 22% more pupils come from minority ethnic backgrounds than the national average.   Diversity of faith is found too. There were over 27,000 Muslim students in Catholic schools in 2017, as well as Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu and Jewish. The schools will often also reflect the cultural diversity of Catholicism which is present across the world.   They also have larger catchment areas than similar sized non-faith schools, often covering whole towns or districts which again increases the diversity of those attending.

It is against this background that the current controversy on the ‘Faith school cap’ plays out.

In 2010 the then Schools Minister David Laws introduced a cap of 50% on admissions to new academy schools on the basis of the faith of the student. This effectively prevented new Catholic Schools being opened; since a school would normally be proposed to serve areas of large Catholic population, and Catholic canon law forbids Bishops from turning away Catholic pupils solely on the basis of their faith, then the Church felt unable to propose new schools.

For the 2017 General Election, the Conservative manifesto included a promise to “replace the unfair and ineffective inclusivity rules that prevent the establishment of new Roman Catholic schools.” The current Education Secretary Damian Hinds has indicated that this manifesto promise is likely to be put into effect.

This has prompted the recent letter to the Telegraph from 70 signatories including humanists, atheists and some religious groups including the retired Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. In this they argue that scrapping the cap would be “deleterious to social cohesion and respect” and “allows schools to label children…and then divide them up”.

In fact the very popularity of Catholic schools with non-Catholic (and with non-Christian) parents would indicate that the fears for social cohesion and respect, whilst understandable, are not grounded in any reality. If they were, then such effects would have become evident over the last 160 years or so over which Catholic schools have been opened and operated with no such cap. On the contrary, the evidence, both statistical and anecdotal, is that the schools produce excellent results both on educational attainment and in the pastoral provision for all pupils, Catholic and otherwise. If this were not the case then the Ofsted inspection structure would highlight this and direct it to be corrected, since Catholic schools have to meet the same criteria in these respects as all state schools.

The only discrimination that the cap has produced is a discrimination against Catholics – it prevents them making use of schools that they fund both in general taxation and in specific giving and effectively denies them the freedom of choosing to attend a school with a Catholic ethos.   The diversity that the cap was intended to produce has never materialised. This may be due to the fact that the minority faith schools also in theory subject to the cap are only popular with their own communities. The Catholic schools however are already diverse because they are extremely popular with parents of all faiths and none.

The cap in short has been counter-productive. It has prevented the opening of well proven and diverse provision for children of all communities.

A letter from Catholic MPs in response to the Telegraph letter puts the issue in a unique perspective: ‘To argue that the operator of the most diverse existing schools cannot be allowed to open new ones for fears they will not be diverse is entirely illogical.’

Catholic provision has been at the heart of education in Britain for many centuries. It flourishes because it is recognised as an integral and valued part of British life. Catholics are not recognisable in the street as such, we have no distinctive dress or ethnicity, but we take a full part in civic life and contribute to social and economic development wholeheartedly. If you were to ask the average passer-by in what ways they were aware of a Catholic presence in the country it would likely be through the Catholic Schools.

The cap has been a well-intended but flawed attempt to promote diversity. It has had the opposite effect, and it is high time it was consigned to history.


Statistics on Catholic Education are taken from the Catholic Education Service Digest of 2017 Census Data for Schools and Colleges in England, and the similar document for Wales.

Posted in Uncategorized

The financial interests threatening free speech in the UK

[Elizabeth Howard] “Be Here For Me”: this is the name of a new campaign set up to oppose so-called “buffer zones” outside abortion centres.

Several local councils have recently resolved to bring in Public Space Protection Orders, or PSPOs, around abortion facilities. Ealing Council was the first to vote on the issue, and it has been followed by Lambeth, Manchester, Richmond, Southwark and Portsmouth, among others. Lambeth has recently concluded its consultation period on the proposed PSPO; Ealing’s consultation period lasts until Monday 26 March.

PSPOs are essentially like Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) for a public space. They have typically been used to address local problems like street drinking, begging or dog fouling, although the looseness of the legislation introducing them, and the vagueness of many PSPOs themselves, have been widely criticised by civil liberties campaigners like Liberty and the Manifesto Club.

What are the anti-social behaviours which need to be addressed around abortion centres? During its deliberations, Ealing council heard lurid allegations from a local protest group, Sister Supporter, of women being shouted at, called “murderer”, grabbed, and photographed as they entered the Marie Stopes (MSI) centre in Ealing. Yet none of this behaviour has ever been backed up by video evidence, either from MSI’s own CCTV cameras or from the pro-choice campaigners who now mount a twice-weekly counter-protest outside the MSI facility.

Indeed, local pro-lifers strongly suspect that some of the behaviour ascribed to them was in fact carried out by pro-choice protestors; women entering the clinic may not know who is saying what as they go in. For example, the MSI log records an incident where a woman reported being told “Don’t do it” as she entered the building. On that day, pro-lifers were prevented from handing a woman a leaflet by pro-choicers shouting “Don’t take it!”

In a separate incident, a Nottingham hospital apologised to a local pro-life group after telling them to remove a banner outside the hospital which was causing distress to women seeking an abortion. The banner read “NOT YOUR BODY, NOT YOUR CHOICE” and was in fact placed there by a pro-choice group, and aimed at the pro-life witness, not at people attending the hospital.

Pro-life groups such as the Good Counsel Network hold vigils outside abortion centres because they find that it is only there that they can reach women in crisis pregnancies who would like to take up their offer of help. Some of the women attending abortion facilities do not, in fact, want to have an abortion, but feel that they have no choice because of their circumstances, or pressure from their partner or family. The Good Counsel Network offers practical help to women in order to help them keep their babies. Hundreds of women have accepted their help over the years, and these are the women who are at the centre of the Be Here For Me campaign.

In addition to local measures, there is a national campaign underway to introduce “buffer zones” around abortion facilities. Both Marie Stopes and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, abortion providers which carry out the majority of NHS-funded abortions, have urged the government to ban pro-life witness round abortion facilities. Be Here For Me argues that these proposed zones should rather be called censorship zones, since they seek to shut down peaceful, prayerful witness and outreach in these areas.

Sir Edward Leigh MP has shared the story of a woman who accepted the offer of help from pro-lifers. She wrote:

“The potential introduction of buffer zones is a really bad idea because women like me, what would they do then? You know, not every woman that walks into those clinics actually wants to go through with the termination. There’s immense pressure, maybe they don’t have financial means to support themselves or their baby, or they feel like there’s no alternatives. These people offer alternatives.

I had my baby who is now three and a half years old. She’s an amazing, perfect little girl and the love of my life. I want MPs here today calling to introduce buffer zones to realise, that she would not be alive today, if they had their way.”

Bishop John Sherrington has spoken of his opposition to buffer zones, warning that banning pro-life vigils would threaten civil liberties. “In a democratic society the freedom to protest and express one’s opinion is always to be considered in relation to the common good. It should not be necessary to limit the freedom of individuals or groups to express opinions except when they could cause grave harm to others or a threat to public order. There are already proportionate means in current legislation to deal with these situations.

“A blanket introduction of ‘buffer zones’ carries with it the danger of both denying freedom of expression and fostering intolerance towards legitimate opinions which promote the common good.”

Posted in abortion, freedom, life

Pope Francis reveals he meets with victims of sex abuse on Fridays

[Austen Ivereigh] Pope Francis has revealed that “regularly” on Fridays, he meets quietly with a group of survivors of sexual abuse, saying it’s important for him to hear their stories because “what they have been through is so hard, they are destroyed.”


The pontiff also said that clerical sex abuse is “the greatest desolation that the Church is undergoing,” one that expresses both the Church’s fragility as well as its “hypocrisy.”

The revelations come in a record released on February 15 of the pope’s meetings with Jesuits on his trip last month to Chile and Peru. The transcript was approved by the pope and released by Francis’s longtime Jesuit collaborator, Father Antonio Spadaro.

The director of the Vatican Press Office, Greg Burke, released a statement on Thursday confirming the meetings.

“I can confirm that, several times each month, the Holy Father meets victims of sexual abuse either individually or in groups,” Burke said. “Pope Francis listens to the victims and seeks to help them to heal the grave wounds caused by the abuse they’ve suffered.”

“The meetings take place with the greatest discretion,” Burke said, “out of respect for the victims and their suffering.”

Francis said that the Church’s shame over clerical sex abuse was a “grace” that offered a chance for conversion, recalling that he had once been crossing into the Plaza de Mayo during a protest when a couple with a three-year-old child saw him.

“Come back here!” the father told the child, “Watch out for the pedophiles!”

“How shameful I felt! What shame! They didn’t realize that I was the archbishop, I was a priest and… what shame!” Francis told the Jesuits in Lima.

He said some tried to put sex abuse in perspective by comparing the low percentage in the clergy compared to other professions, “but it’s appalling even if it were just one of our brothers!”

He said God anointed a priest “to lead both young people and adults to holiness, but instead of leading them to holiness, destroys them. It’s horrible.”

He then added: “You have to listen to one who has been abused. On Fridays – sometimes this is known, sometimes not – I regularly meet some of them. In Chile I had a meeting. Because what they have been through is so hard, they are destroyed. Destroyed.”

For the Church, Francis added, “this is a great humiliation. It shows not just our fragility but also – let’s say this clearly – our level of hypocrisy.”

He then turned to abuse in a number of new religious congregations, noting that Peru has had several such scandals – including, most notoriously, the Sodalicio de Vida Cristiana, or Sodalitium, which the pope ordered to be taken over by the Vatican.

Among other “painful cases” he said Pope Benedict had to suppress “a large male congregation” whose founder “abused young and immature religious men” and that Francis had suppressed the unnamed congregation’s female branch, whose founder “had also spread such habits.”

He said abuse in such congregations was “always the fruit of mentality linked to power that can only be healed in its malignant roots” and that usually involved a mix of three kinds of abuse: “abuse of authority (mixing the internal forum with the external forum), sexual abuse and an economic mess,” adding: “There’s always money involved. The devil enters through the wallet.”

Extract from an article that first appeared in Crux

Posted in Uncategorized

Fake news and the right to life

[Robert Colquhoun] Fake news has become fashionable to talk about since two of the best known men on the planet, Donald Trump and Pope Francis have both referred to the phenomenon. Pope Francis dedicated his message for World Communications Day to the topic.

Fake news is false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting. It is usually spread to advance ideological agendas, political and economic interests.

In my work to defend the unborn I have seen how prominent fake news is in the area of reporting on abortion in the United Kingdom.

Advocates of abortion in recent years have led a public campaign called “Back Off” to introduce ‘buffer zones’ around the country, to stop Christians praying outside of abortion centres. At the same time, a collection of negative articles have been written about pro-lifers accusing them of harassment, intimidation and provocation.

The problem with many of these newspaper articles is that they simply are not true.


In seven years of organising prayer vigils outside of abortion centres with 40 Days for Life, I am yet to see a single substantiated case of harassment from a prayer volunteer. And yet media outlets have produced a welter of articles about so called ‘harassment’ in recent years.

A South Yorkshire Times article produced a litany of falsehoods about protestors banging on car windows and crying as women walk past them.

A Daily Telegraph story reports unsubstantiated allegations of people being called “murderers” who will “die of cancer.”

An iNews article uses terms such as, “humiliation,” “distress,” “accost,” and “murders.”

When these statements are not fact checked, falsehoods are quickly reproduced in newspapers.

On the other hand, it is rare for newspapers to report of other activities that do happen at abortion centres such as ambulances arriving to pick up injured women and patients who were not allowed to see ultrasound pictures of their child.

40 Days for Life is a locally organised community initiative encouraging Christians to pray and fast for an end to abortion, and to organise a public prayer vigil outside of an abortion centre for 12 hours a day for a 6 week period. Many of these vigils are taking place during Lent.

The prayer vigils represent a peaceful and educational presence, sending a powerful message to the community about the reality of abortion. This mission has helped to save 14,000 lives from abortion. Abortion numbers have declined 17.5% in Twickenham and 13% in Ealing from 2015-2016. Many women feel like they have no choice when they schedule an abortion, and a peaceful presence offering alternatives outside abortion centres is an opportunity that can be positive and life changing.

What is needed in the abortion debate in Britain is balanced journalism, impartiality and honest reporting. When we have news stories that accurately depict the reality of abortion provision and campaigning in Britain, the public will be more informed to understand what is really happening.

Robert Colquhoun is a member of Catholic Voices and Director of International Campaigns for 40 Days for Life.

Posted in Uncategorized

We need an honest debate about the rights of powerful adults over voiceless children and poor women

[Elizabeth Howard] Tom Daly has announced that he and his partner, Dustin Lance Black, are expecting a baby later this year. Every baby is a blessing, and every baby is of inestimable value, but there is much more to this story than that.


No mention is made anywhere in his announcement of who the mother is. Every baby has a mother, but this mother has been completely airbrushed out.

Presumably Tom Daly’s baby will grow up without a mother. If so, this is not because of death or extreme circumstances, but because he or she will be deliberately deprived of one. No matter how much Tom Daly and his partner love the baby their love will never compensate him or her for this enormous loss.

I am donor-conceived (the product of a sperm donor), and I can personally witness to a sense of loss of identity because of having been brought into the world that way. I grew up with a genetic mother and a “social father”. Tom Daly’s child will have two fathers – effectively one biological father and one adoptive father – but will live with no mother, biological or adopted.

Tom Daly’s baby is currently in the womb of an unnamed woman; he or she may be the genetic child of that woman, or the genetic child of another woman, euphemistically termed the “egg donor”; the biological term is, of course, “mother”. The arrangements under which the child has been conceived have not been announced. On the one hand such discretion is natural, and appropriate; on the other, one wonders whether the child itself will be privy to such essential information as which man is his or her biological father, and the name and identity of his or her biological mother.

Moreover, the unseen woman in the situation will be suffering consequences that are ignored in the “good news story” presented to us. Surrogacy itself carries short- and long-term health risks; being an “egg donor” can, ironically, lead to long-term fertility problems for the woman concerned.

Being a surrogate mother can have unforeseen consequences for both mother and baby. The baby can be “quality controlled”, and abandoned if it is deemed to be not up to standard. The case of Baby Gammy demonstrates this issue. Baby Gammy was one of twins born in 2014 via a Thai surrogate. His healthy sister was taken to her intended parents in Australia but Gammy, who had Down’s Syndrome, was left in Thailand. The case highlights the enormous potential difficulties of surrogacy for all parties.

Stop Surrogacy Now is an organisation campaigning for an end to surrogacy in all forms. Their spokespeople have strong statements about surrogacy. “A woman is a human being not a machine,” says Shagufta Omar, President, Pakistan Chapter of the International Muslim Women Union. She continues, “Disconnecting both mother and the child from each other is the violation of the human rights of both.”

“There is no right to a child and rich people must be stopped from using a woman as a living incubator and then taking their baby away and showing it off as their own. We must prevent this reproductive slavery and stop it now,” states Dr Renate Klein, long-time health activist and FINRRAGE (Australia) co-ordinator.

When I first spoke publicly about being donor-conceived, I received many comments from people who thought I was not allowed to feel anger, sorrow or loss about the way I was conceived. Their reaction can be described as “Shut up and be grateful.”

Interestingly, Elton John, who has two children himself via surrogacy, has said it will be “heartbreaking” for his son to “grow up and realise he hasn’t got a mummy”. He has got a mummy, of course, but she has been deliberately removed from him at birth; but at least Elton John recognises that his child will experience grief and loss precisely because of the way he was brought into the world. Very often, donor-conceived people feel that they are not allowed to express these feelings, either out of loyalty to their parents or because those around them cannot relate to the situation and try to silence the person suffering instead of addressing root causes.

There are, of course, people who do not experience any ill effects of being donor-conceived. But there are many who do, and some of us are trying to make our voices heard. The website Anonymous Us has accounts from many people with many different viewpoints. We are donor conceived is another useful resource.

I am sure that Tom Daly and Dustin Lance Black are delighted that there is a baby on the way, and I wish them well. I also wish that, as a society, we could have an honest debate about the rights of powerful adults over voiceless children and poor women.


Posted in Uncategorized

Are medical professions “free”?

[William Kent] On 26th January a new Bill was discussed in the House of Lords – the Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill. This Bill, which proposes to clarify the role of conscience in the medical profession, will continue its progression through parliament over the next few months. The time is right therefore for all of us to reflect on the place of conscientious objection within the field of healthcare and to contribute to the public debate that this new Bill will hopefully stimulate.

The sort of questions that form the context to this newly proposed legislation are: “does a healthcare professional have the right to refuse a procedure if they are morally opposed to it?” or “should a nurse or GP be allowed to avoid any involvement with providing abortions or facilitating the end-of-life if they deem it immoral”? Such lines of inquiry have an ever-growing relevance. In 2014 two Scottish midwives were removed from their profession for refusing to have any oversight over the provision of abortion. They claimed that the conscientious objection clause contained in Section 4 of the 1967 Abortion Act excused them from any involvement. Initially a Scottish Court agreed with this interpretation but following various interventions the case came to the Supreme Court where it was decided that medical professionals could only refuse to be involved if they were required to have a “hands-on role”. Thus, Mary Doogan and Connie Wood, who had served as midwives for years, were removed from their profession for refusing to go against their convictions.

Many have argued that the legal ruling in the midwives’ case has softened the position of conscientious objection within the medical profession and that as a result many potential medics and midwives are now weary of entering such jobs because they are afraid they will be forced to go against their consciences. Many believe that the law needs to be changed to clarify the right of medical workers to conscientious objection – that is why the Conscientious Objection Bill has been introduced into the House of Lords.

The first thing to note is that no one, or rather very few, want healthcare workers to go against their beliefs simply for the sake of it. In this country there is widespread recognition of the importance of freedom of religion, conscience, and belief. Why, therefore, do many deem that it was right for the two Scottish midwives to be struck off from their lifelong profession for following their strongly held convictions? The answer – because they wish to maintain the patient at the heart of healthcare. They believe that if all medical professionals are free to object to involvement with certain procedures then patients will suffer from a diminished quality or access to care. They believe that if a woman wants an abortion then she should not have to face being judged and rejected treatment.

It is important to observe that most proponents of this view do not believe that doctors should be entirely stopped from acting on their conscience, but rather that this should never be allowed to interfere with the rights of patients. Thus, they argue that a doctor is obliged to refer a patient on for a procedure if they themselves are not comfortable doing it. They believe that the current law in this country provides a good balance between meeting the needs of patients and allowing doctors to object in conscience. With cases like Mary Doogan’s, however, it is important to ask if such a balance has properly been reached. If a doctor believes that abortion is the ending of a human life, then even to refer a patient to someone else is a considerable violation of conscience – should they be allowed then to refuse to make even a referral?

Mary Doogan and Connie Woods

What is essential to consider when discussing the role of conscience in the medical profession, and indeed other areas of work and life, is that if a person is forced to go against their conscience their moral integrity is undermined. Freedom is a principle upheld widely throughout Western society, this includes the freedom to hold moral convictions. To undermine someone’s moral integrity, is to undermine their freedom and their ability to determine whether certain actions are permissible or not. Defending an individual’s moral integrity is not the same as arguing that a person can impose their moral code on others. However, it does mean preserving a person from being coerced into acting in way they find objectionable.

Having moral integrity is an essential part of our lives, to undermine it would reduce people to passive rather than active agents. In the case of medicine, undermining healthcare professionals’ freedom to oppose to some procedures reduces them to mechanised dispensary units. How can trust, respect, and authentic relationship be developed between a patient and their doctor if the latter is required to suspend their sense of morality? This side-effect of opposing conscientious objection is, therefore, to reduce the quality and consistency of overall patient care because the healthcare worker is reduced to a passive agent that must meet every request of their patient, even if it violates their deeply held convictions.

Many assume that religious beliefs are the main source behind the demand for conscientious objection and conclude that the law should not be adapted specifically to cater for the needs of religious people, arguing that this is a form of legislative favouritism. However, it is essential to note that freedom of conscience is not only concerned with religious convictions. There are many non-religious examples of why a healthcare professional might oppose to abortion. For example, currently the law allows abortion up to birth for a foetus with a disability. Many doctors see this as discriminatory legislation and may refuse to carry out an abortion after the 24-week limit that applies to an unborn child without a disability. The right to freedom of conscience extends to these circumstances as much as any healthcare professional with religious reasons for opposing certain procedures.

As the debate around conscientious objection reopens in this country, it is essential that the role of moral integrity, the place of freedom of belief, and the true nature of doctor-patient relationships all be duly examined. It is important to defend the right of conscientious objection both to maintain the freedom of individuals and to maintain the quality of the medical profession. Evidence does not suggest that widening the law around conscientious objection will have a dramatic on access to care for patients. If it does, the question should be asked – if so many professionals are opposed to a procedure and would cease to carry it out if a change in the law allowed them to do so, is such a procedure one that should be so readily offered by the health service at all?

Posted in abortion, conscientious objection