The Story: In the UK, Christians are protesting new regulations that would force doctors to prescribe treatments and perform procedures---such as abortifacients and gender reassignment surgery---that go against their consciences.
The Background: The General Medical Council, which oversees the licensing of physicians, has issued guidance warning that it would be "discriminatory" for doctors not to prescribe either the pill or morning-after pill because they disagree with people having sex before marriage.
Bishop Tom Williams of the Archdiocese of Liverpool told the Daily Mail that the new guidelines would discriminate against "certain groups of doctors" and risked creating an "atmosphere of fear" in which doctors would be "prohibited from ever expressing their own religion."
Doctors can refuse to carry out some treatments on ethical grounds, such as abortions. But the guidelines say they must always ensure patients are referred on to a colleague who is willing to do the procedure.
However, not all procedures are covered by the conscientious objector protections. The guidelines explain that,
The exception to this is gender reassignment since this procedure is only sought by a particular group of patients (and cannot therefore be subject to a conscientious objection - see paragraph 5). This position is supported by the Equality Act 2010 which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment.
Why It Matters: The UK's Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of nine protected characteristics, including gender reassignment. The result of such legislation, as the General Medical Council is making clear, is that doctors who refuse to mutilate the sexual organs of a human being can be forced out of the healing profession.
As bioethicist Wesley J. Smith says,
Across the West, I am convinced that the Medical and Political Establishments want to drive "pro life" and orthodox-believing "Christian (or Muslim, if they go that far) medical professionals that disagree with the current morality out of medicine. On a broader point, the practice of medicine is being transformed before our very eyes from a "healing profession" into a technocracy in which "service providers" facilitate patient lifestyle choices and fulfill personal desires almost as much as treating and preventing illnesses and injuries.