(Sept 2017) “Conscientious Objection” Clause in 1967 Abortion Act is Obsolete

Submission to the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health (APPG)

September 1, 2017
From: Christian Fiala and Joyce Arthur

Thank you for the opportunity to make a submission. We would like to summarize the problems with allowing so-called conscientious objection” (CO) and why it is harmful and inappropriate in health care, explain how CO was only included in the 1967 Abortion Act for pragmatic reasons to get the law passed, and argue that the clause allowing CO is obsolete and no longer needed.

CO is wrong and inappropriate in health care. The refusal by some HCPs to treat women with an unwanted pregnancy is misleadingly called “conscientious objection”. Individuals are being allowed to boycott a democratically decided law because of society’s deference to religious beliefs and traditional views that assign women to a childbearing role.

This points to an improper and unethical basis for CO in reproductive health care—one that has little in common with the military CO it is dishonestly named after. Objectors to military service must justify their stance, are often required to undergo a rigorous review process, and may be punished or required to complete an alternate service. In contrast, healthcare professionals (HCPs)
usually face no obligation to justify their refusals, rarely face any disciplinary measures, retain their positions, and even have their objection protected by law and policy.

Read full submission: APPG-PDRH