Conscientious objection and emergency contraception

American Journal of Bioethics 7 (6):8 – 14 (2007)
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Abstract

This article argues that practitioners have a professional ethical obligation to dispense emergency contraception, even given conscientious objection to this treatment. This recent controversy affects all medical professionals, including physicians as well as pharmacists. This article begins by analyzing the option of referring the patient to another willing provider. Objecting professionals may conscientiously refuse because they consider emergency contraception to be equivalent to abortion or because they believe contraception itself is immoral. This article critically evaluates these reasons and concludes that they do not successfully support conscientious objection in this context. Contrary to the views of other thinkers, it is not possible to easily strike a respectful balance between the interests of objecting providers and patients in this case. As medical professionals, providers have an ethical duty to inform women of this option and provide emergency contraception when this treatment is requested.

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Robert F. Card
University of Rochester