A vote which asserts the right of health workers to conscientiously object to participating in abortion and euthanasia has been welcomed by pro-life groups.
The move came on Thursday in the Council of Europe, a body which makes resolutions that can have influence on European member states.
The vote was on a report which has been criticised for riding “roughshod” over health care workers’ rights to opt out of performing abortions. It was drafted by British representative and former Labour MP Christine McCafferty.
Irish Senator Ronan Mullen and Italian representative Luca Volonte worked to amend the report and protect the right to conscientious objection.
The final resolution recommends that “no person, hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion, the performance of a human miscarriage, or euthanasia or any act which could cause the death of a human foetus or embryo, for any reason”.
Senator Mullen said that the vote was “a momentous victory for freedom of conscience and conscientious objection”.
Mr Mullen commented: “The initial report rode roughshod over the right to conscientiously object to abortion.
“If adopted it would have entailed doctors, nurses and institutions being forced against their consciences and ethos to participate in the procurement of abortion.
“Thankfully, the adopted resolution is a true vindication of the rights of conscientious objectors to abortion, a right long established in both human rights law and medical ethics.”
Christian group CARE said it was “delighted” at the result, saying: “A key constitutional freedom” had been upheld.
Peter Saunders, CEO of the Christian Medical Fellowship, said: “Had the measure been passed in its original form it would have placed pressure on European governments to pass legislation limiting the right to conscientious objection. This will now not happen”
Catholic News Agency reported a French pro-life group had gathered 26,000 signatures, including 4,000 health professionals, for a petition against the original report.
The resolution had been titled “Women’s access to lawful medical care: the problem of unregulated use of conscientious objection” but was changed to “The right to conscientious objection in lawful medical care”.
It was passed at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe by 56 votes to 51.