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Letter to the Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE)

Forthcoming Assembly Debate on “Women’s Access to Lawful Medical Care: The Problem of Unregulated Use of Conscientious Objection”

To Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE)

Council of Europe

Avenue de l'Europe

F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex




We are writing with a view to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's (PACE) upcoming debate on "Women's access to lawful medical care: the problem of unregulated use of conscientious objection". Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch urge you to support the draft Resolution and Recommendation presented by the Assembly's Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee (contained in Doc. 12347 of 20 July 2010).

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch share the deep concern expressed by the Committee about the increasing and largely unregulated occurrence of conscientious objection, especially in the field of reproductive health care, in many Council of Europe member states.

As the draft Resolution and Recommendation highlight member states should develop and apply clear and comprehensive regulations for conscientious objection to ensure that international and regional human rights standards are fully respected and healthcare providers adhere to authoritative medical codes of ethics.

Any comprehensive approach to regulating conscientious objection must include regulations clearly defining conscientious objection, the entitlements and duties of healthcare providers exercising their individual right to conscientious objection and patients' right to information, diagnostic care and decision-making on the full range of lawful medical treatments. And it must provide for implementation and enforcement procedures in the form of oversight and monitoring mechanisms which allow patients to make complaints and access remedies.

The PACE Resolution and Recommendation, as currently drafted, include recommendations to this effect and would make an important contribution to filling an existing gap.

By adopting the draft Resolution and the draft Recommendation in its current form the Parliamentary Assembly would send a clear signal to member states about the need to ensure the full enjoyment of women's rights to access lawful medical care in a timely manner.

Thank you for considering this important matter.

Yours sincerely,

Widney Brown
Senior Director International Law and Policy -- Amnesty International

Marianne Møllmann
Advocacy Director for Women's Rights - Human Rights Watch

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