Conscientious Objection and Health Care: A Reply to Bernard Dickens

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Bernard Dickens seeks to undermine the legal and ethical protections accorded to health care workers and hospitals conscientiously objecting to abortion. First, he appeals to the rationale of antidiscrimination laws as a basis for arguing against conscientious objection. Second, he argues that conscientious objection undermines the rights of patients and their autonomy. Third, he holds that conscientiously objecting doctors have a duty to refer patients for abortion. Fourth, he believes that Kant’s principle of respect for humanity as an end in itself is violated by conscientious objection to abortion. Fifth, Dickens quotes remarks by Pope John Paul II as support for the idea that physicians should not conscientiously object to abortion. Finally, he posits that institutions, such as Catholic hospitals, have a responsibility to provide abortions. I argue that all of the arguments offered by Dickens against conscientious objection are unsound.


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Kaczor, Christopher. “Conscientious Objection and Health Care: A Reply to Bernard Dickens.” Christian Bioethics: Non-Ecumenical Studies in Medical Morality 18, no. 1 (April 2012): 59–71. https://doi.org/10.1093/cb/cbs008.