8. Yes We Can!  Successful Examples of Disallowing ‘Conscientious Objection’ in Reproductive Healthcare

Christian Fiala, Kristina Gemzell Danielsson, Oskari Heikinheimo, Jens A. Guðmundsson, and Joyce Arthur. IN PRESS, European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Healthcare. 2016. tandfonline.com

Abstract: Three countries – Sweden, Finland, and Iceland – do not generally permit HCPs in the public healthcare system to refuse to perform a legal medical service for reasons of ‘CO’ when the service is part of their professional duties. We investigate the laws and experiences of these countries to show that disallowing ‘CO’ is workable and beneficial. It facilitates good access to reproductive health services because it reduces barriers and delays. Other benefits include the prioritization of evidence-based medicine, rational arguments, and democratic laws over faith-based refusals. Most notably, disallowing ‘CO’ protects women’s basic human rights, avoiding both discrimination and harms to health. Finally, holding HCPs accountable for their professional obligations to patients does not result in negative impacts. Almost all HCPs and medical students in Sweden, Finland, and Iceland who object to abortion or contraception are able to find work in another field of medicine. The key to successfully disallowing ‘CO’ is a country’s strong prior acceptance of women’s civil rights, including their right to healthcare.

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