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"When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." Elizabeth Cady Stanton



Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Conscientious Objection

A survey conducted in the UK found that a growing number of med students believe that doctors should be able to refuse to provide treatment that they object to on moral, cultural, or religious grounds. An article The Guardian mentions procedures such as contraception, or treatment of someone who has overdosed on drugs or alcohol, but focuses primarily on abortion, which elicited the strongest response.

The survey found that:
- almost a third would not perform an abortion for a congenitally malformed foetus after 24 weeks
- a quarter would not perform an abortion for failed contraception before 24 weeks
- a fifth would not perform an abortion on a minor whose pregnancy was the result of rape

Research Dr. Sophie Strickland says "In light of increasing demand for abortions, these results may have implications for women's access to abortion services in the future."

The article goes on to describe how this has become an increasing worry in some health care circles in the UK. First off, obviously I think that's awesome - though of course, it would be better if the demand for abortions decreased along with the availability of abortion services. The scary part is what the pro-choicers have to say about this:

"Abortion is taught increasingly infrequently in medical school, and students may not be required to engage much with the reasons why a woman may find herself with an unwanted pregnancy and the distress this may cause. All of us involved in women's reproductive healthcare need to ensure that young doctors understand why women need abortions, and that this is a profession to be proud of." - Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service

"Once qualified as doctors, if all these respondents acted on their conscience and refused to perform certain procedures, in may become impossible for conscientious objectors to be accommodated in medicine." - Dr. Strickland

Now in the cases of the treatment of individuals who may die from overdosing on drugs, obviously doctors should be required to perform life-saving procedures. It is the purpose of a doctor to save lives, after all. But the article focuses primarily on anti-abortion views, and that is where these quotes become a little frightening.

Never mind that it is inconceivable to my mind how the abortion profession could be something to be proud of ...! How can anyone be proud of terminating pregnancies when the vast majority of abortions are performed on women and babies who are perfectly healthy? I don't see how anyone, pro-life or pro-choice, could think that that is a good thing, because to my mind it indicates that other options are not widely available to these women, who then feel like abortion is their only "choice".

But to suggest that doctors should be forced to perform a procedure that they believe kills a unique individual ... that is horrifying indeed.

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