“Ethicist” says that conscientious objection to abortion should be banned because it might be “murder”

By Jonathon Van Maren

Back in July, I noted that abortion activists in Latin America have become increasingly frustrated with the fact that even where abortion is legalized, very few doctors are willing to carry out the procedure. They want abortions, but many medical professionals are unwilling to violate their religious convictions (as well as the Hippocratic Oath) and involve themselves in the taking of a developing human life. This has led to suggestions that medical professionals be forced into cooperating with abortion regimes.

In Canada, conscientious objection is being tried in the courts, with abortion activists and a handful of medical associations claiming that doctors must at least refer patients to someone who will provide them with an abortion rather than declining to involve themselves entirely. The Irish pro-life movement is also bracing for a brawl with Health Minister Simon Harris, the reptilian turncoat who ran for office on a pro-life platform, as he has given indications that religiously-based medical institutions may not be permitted to opt out of providing abortions under Ireland’s new abortion regime.

And now this, from BioEdge:

Conscientious objection has been a hotly debated topic in bioethics for several years. Yet recent contributions to the literature have been particularly strident. A series of new articles in the American Journal of Bioethics strongly criticise healthcare professionals and institutions who object to abortion, effectively telling them to exit the profession or face punitive measures.

The target article for the edition — a legal perspective on the conscientious objection written by Santa Clara University philosopher and legal scholar Lawrence Nelson — argues that conscientious objectors may be guilty of no less than murder if they fail to help a woman in need of an emergency abortion. Nelson suggests that religious liberty is no justification for refusal to participate in abortion, and he suggests that any laws permitting such conscience based refusals are unconstitutional. He concludes his article by exhorting state authorities to prosecute healthcare professionals and administrators who wilfully deny women access abortion:

“…if the American criminal justice system is to honor its constitutional duty to give women the equal protection of the laws, it should prosecute those who fail to honor their legal duty to provide an abortion when a woman’s life depends on it.”

Several other contributors argue that that there is no moral justification for conscientious objection to the provision of basic medical services. Bioethicists Udo Schuklenk and Benjamin Zolf argue that conscience based refusals put the physician interests before patient welfare, and thus violate one of the basic goals of medical practice. Mark Wicclair, an adjunct professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, argues that conscience based refusals should only be permitted where they do not impede a patient’s timely access to healthcare services.

Rosamond Rhodes (Mount Sinai School of Medicine) and Michael Danzinger (SUNY Downstate Medical Center College of Medicine) argue that both doctors and hospitals are failing to fulfill a moral duty when they refuse to provide medically indicated treatments, such as abortions, for their patients:

“…Doctors who expect patients to suffer affront, inconvenience, or physical harm, so that they may avoid fulfilling their moral duty, act in a way that is incompatible with being a doctor because being a doctor involves the commitment to putting the welfare of patients before one’s own…”

They effectively state that religious healthcare providers that refuse to provide “accepted medical procedures” should exit the health sector:

“…If any religious group finds the performance of legal and professionally accepted medical procedures to be in opposition to their core religious beliefs, they can get out of the hospital business…”

The tactics of those who wish to force professionals and institutions to do their bidding rarely change: Generally, they claim (without the slightest sense of irony) that if pro-lifers and religious people get their way, people will die. This is precisely the lie that resulted in the win for abortion activists in Ireland on May 25: They put up signs all over Dublin and major city centres simply showing Savita Halappanavar’s face, claiming that she died because she was denied an abortion. In reality, every medical examination had already proven that she had died of sepsis, and that an abortion would not have saved her life. But as Winston Churchill once noted, a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on, and many Irish voters decided that abortion must be legalized to save the lives of women like Savita—even though this misconception was based on an overt deceit.

It is important to realize that as abortion regimes grow, conscientious objection will be consistently threatened. Abortion activists want to force complicity, and they will not tolerate dissent. After all, if you’re willing to champion the dismembering of human beings in the womb, you will hardly pause at trampling on the consciences of a few upright physicians.


For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *