To guarantee the “right to terminate pregnancies in public hospital,” the Spanish Ministry of Equality is preparing the creation of a registry of medical doctors, nurses and other staff who are conscience objectors.
The proposed list is part of a reform of the country’s abortion law, which was passed in 2010.
To date, almost 86 percent of the abortions performed in Spain are done in private clinics that have agreements with the public health system. The current abortion law includes conscientious objection as an individual right of healthcare providers, but it must be done “without undermining access and quality of care.”
Several bishops have expressed their opposition to a registry, arguing that it could eventually be used to justify not hiring a medical professional.
“That would certainly be an attack on the freedom of the person,” the Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela, Julian Barrio, told Europa Press on Tuesday, before entering the general assembly of the Spanish bishops’ conference, held this week in Madrid.
Barrio says “there should not be” a registry of doctors who do not want to perform abortions, “because freedom of conscience is something that must always be respected”.
Similarly, the Archbishop of Pamplona, Francisco Perez, argued that “conscientious objection is a right and a sign of freedom.”
“If we are in a State of law, it must be respected,” he stressed, saying that each doctor should have the freedom to “always act in conscience to do good and avoid evil.”
Pope Francis recently told journalists the Catholic Church teaches that abortion is “a murder.”
The Argentine pope has referred to conscientious objection as a “human right,” and in 2016, warned against what he called an “educated persecution” of Christians today, saying Christians are not only under threat by those trying to kill them, but also by those who want to limit their freedom and their right to conscientious objection.
Several other bishops in Spain have expressed their concern over the proposed modifications of the Sexual and Reproductive Rights law in the country. The bishop of León, Luis Ángel de las Heras, criticized the fact that the government wants to put “obstacles in the way of free expression.”
“On the one hand, sometimes they themselves do not comply with the laws and, on the other hand, they want to impose on the rest of us a series of impediments so that we can’t express ourselves freely,” said De las Heras.
Likewise, the bishop of Getafe, Ginés García Beltrán, defended conscientious objection as “a fundamental right” that is “above some laws.”
Speaking in the week, during the presentation of the latest Report on Religious Freedom in the World by the Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, Archbishop of Valencia, had said that “when freedom of religion and conscience is not adequately respected, there is no democracy. Some legislation tries to limit conscientious objection and no one protests. And Spain is being attacked in its most basic roots, in its fundamental human right prior and previous to any democratic system.”