BOGOTA – Last week, the Highest Administrative Court (Consejo de Estado) of Colombia granted the fundamental right to freedom of conscience to private medical institutions by overturning a decree issued by the Ministry of Health in 2013. The authorities had advised that all hospitals, whether private, religious or public, were obliged to offer abortions upon request; no conscientious objection would be permitted.
“Nobody should be forced to choose between their conscience and their profession,” said Neydy Casillas, Legal Counsel for ADF International in Latin America, who filed an amicus brief in the proceedings.
“The Court’s decision to grant conscientious objection rights to religious medical institutes is an important step towards the fundamental right to freedom of conscience. The Ministry of Health wanted to impose its abortion-agenda not only on individual doctors and nurses, but on religious organizations in general. This is wrong. Citizens’ deeply held convictions should be reasonably accommodated by the state and their employers.”
A landmark ruling defending fundamental rights.
Colombia allows abortion in cases of rape, incest, fetal malformation, or if the health of the baby or the mother are at risk. When the decree obliging all hospitals to provide abortion services without exception was issued by the Ministry of Health in 2013, the Catholic hospital San Ignacio filed the case with the Highest Administrative Court, arguing that the health authorities had ignored their fundamental rights to freedom of conscience and religion.
“Obeying the Ministry of Health’s order would have forced Christian hospitals and their medical staff to violate their deeply held convictions. Ultimately, religious organizations would have been forced out of the provision of medical services, leaving millions of Colombians without access to health care. The Court put an end to this worrying development. Freedom of conscience is a fundamental human right guaranteed by every major human rights treaty,” added Casillas.
Find this release in Spanish here