Countries without CO

Yes We Can!  Successful Examples of Disallowing ‘Conscientious Objection’ in Reproductive Health Care

Christian Fiala, Kristina Gemzell Danielsson,  Oskari Heikinheimo,  Jens A. Guðmundsson and Joyce Arthur
European Journal of Contraception & Reproductive Health Care, Vol 21, 2016 – Issue 3

Reproductive health care is the only field in medicine where health care professionals (HCPs) are allowed to limit a patient‘s access to a legal medical treatment – usually abortion or contraception – by citing their ‘freedom of conscience.’ However, the authors’ position is that ‘CO’ in reproductive health care should be called dishonourable disobedience because it violates medical ethics and the right to lawful health care, and should therefore be disallowed.

Three countries – Sweden, Finland, and Iceland – do not generally permit HCPs in the public health care 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 not only workable but beneficial. It seems to facilitate 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. Disallowing ‘CO’ also protects women’s rights and avoids discrimination and other human rights harms. 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 health care.

Read the entire article here.