An ethical issue: nurses’ conscientious objection regarding induced abortion in South Korea

BMC Medical Ethics 21 (1):1-9 (2020)
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Abstract

Background The Constitutional Court of South Korea declared that an abortion ban was unconstitutional on April 11, 2019. The National Health Care System will provide abortion care across the country as a formal medical service. Conscientious objection is an issue raised during the construction of legal reforms. Methods One hundred sixty-seven perioperative nurses responded to the survey questionnaire. Nurses’ perception about conscientious objection, support of legislation regarding conscientious objection, and intention to object were measured. Logistic regression was used to explore the factors associated with support of the legislation and the intention to conscientiously object. Results Only 28.8% of the responding nurses were aware of health care professionals’ conscientious objection. The majority felt that patients’ rights should be prioritized over health care professionals’ conscientious objection. On the other hand, 45.8% supported the legislation on conscientious objection to abortion, and 42.5% indicated a willingness to refuse to participate in an abortion case if conscientious objection was permitted. Religion, awareness of conscientious objection, and prioritizing of nurses’ right to conscientious objection were significantly associated with supporting the legislation. Moreover, religion and prioritizing nurses' rights were significantly associated with the intention to conscientiously object. Conclusions This study provides information necessary for further discussion of nurses’ conscientious objection. Nursing leaders, researchers, and educators should appeal to nurses and involve them in making policies that balance a women's right to non-discrimination and to receiving appropriate care with nurses' rights to maintain their moral integrity without compromising their professional obligation.

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