Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Doctors who perform abortions are compelled by conscience, just like those who refuse

Date:
September 13, 2012
Source:
University of Michigan Health System
Summary:
Exercising conscience in healthcare is usually defined as refusing to provide contested services, like abortion. But in an article to be published Sept. 13 in the New England Journal of Medicine, a University of Michigan faculty member says doctors can be "conscientious" providers of abortion.

Exercising conscience in healthcare is usually defined as refusing to provide contested services, like abortion. But in an article to be published Sept. 13 in the New England Journal of Medicine, a University of Michigan faculty member says doctors can be "conscientious" providers of abortion.

Related Articles


Lisa Harris, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan Health System, highlights both historical and contemporary evidence that conscience motivates abortion provision. She cites sociologist Carole Joffe's study that shows skilled mainstream doctors offered safe, compassionate care before Roe v. Wade, risking fines, imprisonment and loss of medical license.

"They did so because the beliefs that mattered most to them compelled it. They saw women die from self-inducted abortion and from abortions performed by unskilled providers," Harris writes.

Harris says contemporary abortion providers are motivated by conscience as well: "Though today abortion providers work within the law, they still have much to lose, facing stigma, marginalization within medicine, harassment and the threat of (or actual) physical harm.….However doctors … continue to offer abortion care because deeply-held, core ethical beliefs compel them."

There are legal, clinical and ethical consequences of the false dichotomization of conscience and abortion provision, she says. Harris writes that federal and state laws continue to protect only conscience-based refusals to perform or refer for abortion, offering minimal legal protection for conscience-based abortion provision.

In addition, equating conscience with only the refusal to perform abortion continues to stigmatize physicians who are abortion providers.

"If physicians who offer abortion don't have a legitimate claim to act in 'good conscience,' as do their counterparts who oppose abortion, then the implication is that they act in 'bad conscience' or lack conscience altogether," Harris writes.

Harris says bioethicists have focused on moral claims to refuse care provision, largely neglecting that, as she writes, "moral integrity can be injured as much by not performing an action required by one's core beliefs as by performing an action that contradicts those beliefs."

Harris acknowledges that those who oppose abortion will likely argue that abortion providers have motivations other than conscience. While she disagrees, she says this highlights the importance of distinguishing claims of conscience from other types of claims:

"Certainly, if abortion providers' conscience-based claims require scrutiny, so do conscience-based refusals, to ensure that refusals are indeed motivated by conscience and not by political beliefs, stigma, habit erroneous understanding of medical evidence or other factors."

In addition to calling for recognition of "conscientious provision" of care, Harris calls for a standard curriculum and a standard of care for conscientious refusals.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan Health System. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Lisa H. Harris. Recognizing Conscience in Abortion Provision. New England Journal of Medicine, 2012; 367 (11): 981 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1206253

Cite This Page:

University of Michigan Health System. "Doctors who perform abortions are compelled by conscience, just like those who refuse." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 September 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120913162412.htm>.
University of Michigan Health System. (2012, September 13). Doctors who perform abortions are compelled by conscience, just like those who refuse. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 6, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120913162412.htm
University of Michigan Health System. "Doctors who perform abortions are compelled by conscience, just like those who refuse." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120913162412.htm (accessed March 6, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, March 6, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Bupa Eyes India Healthcare Opportunities

Bupa Eyes India Healthcare Opportunities

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 5, 2015) Bupa is hoping to expand in India&apos;s fast-growing health insurance market, once a rule change on foreign investment is implemented. The British private healthcare group&apos;s CEO tells Grace Pascoe why it&apos;s so keen on the new opportunity. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor in Your Pocket Is Getting Smarter

Doctor in Your Pocket Is Getting Smarter

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 5, 2015) Mobile apps are turning smartphones into a personal doctors, with users able to measure heart rate, blood pressure and even blood sugar. But will it change our behaviour? Ivor Bennett reports from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
AbbVie Inks $21B Deal To Buy Cancer Drugmaker Pharmacyclics

AbbVie Inks $21B Deal To Buy Cancer Drugmaker Pharmacyclics

Newsy (Mar. 5, 2015) AbbVie announced Wednesday it will buy cancer drugmaker Pharmacyclics in a $21 billion deal. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Toddlers Drinking Coffee? Why You Shouldn't Share Your Joe

Toddlers Drinking Coffee? Why You Shouldn't Share Your Joe

Newsy (Mar. 5, 2015) A survey of Boston mothers and toddlers found that 15 percent of two-year-olds drink coffee and 2.5 percent of 1-year-olds. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins