Physicians and medical personnel conscientious objection to abortion and prescription of the morning-after pill

One of the problems that most concerns healthcare professionals who train at the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), a faculty of Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) in the United Kingdom, is to guarantee conscientious objection (see a recent case HERE) in their clinical practice, especially when related to abortion, because in this field, healthcare workers must often maintain a prudent balance between good medical practice, respect for their ethical principles and the legal risks that this may entail.

As a result of this, the FSRH recently reviewed their directives on conscientious objection, in accordance with ethical principles that they consider universal (see HERE ).

The first guidelines for medical professionals on this issue were published in 1999 and were extended to nurses in 2014.

However, the contents of these guidelines have been under contention by the chief executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship, as he considers that they discriminate Christian doctors, by determining that all doctors — and consequently them as well — are required to prescribe contraceptives if they want to obtain the diploma awarded by the FSRH to be able to carry out their work in medical clinics in the areas of contraception and abortion.

The problem arises because, while some contraceptives with anti-implantation effect,making it difficult for the early embryo to implant in mother’s uterus, especially intrauterine devices and the morning-after pill, so it can be said that they act by destroying an embryo, which poses ethical problems.

Is freedom of conscience of conscientious objector violated?

In relation to this issue, the FSRH says that they do not urge physicians trained there to participate in these practices, but simply to obtain the corresponding qualifications; in practice, though, this is a real obstacle for their professional work.

Therefore, just like physicians who have a conscientious objection to practicing abortions, invoking the 1967 Abortion Act, which guarantees that objection, it is proposed that those doctors who do not wish to prescribe contraceptives, especially those that act by an anti-implantation mechanism, can also invoke it. According to some medical groups (see HERE), a refusal to guarantee this right would be discriminatory for the physicians, who wish to uphold their medical or even religious beliefs (see HERE examples of objective discriminations).


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