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Protection of Conscience Project

Service, not Servitude


Re:The Limits of Conscientious Refusal in Reproductive Medicine

ACOG Committee on Ethics Opinion No. 385: November, 2007

In October, 2005, a letter from the President of the ACOG to US Senators included a request that conscientious objectors to abortion be forced by law to facilitate the procedure by referral. Perhaps recognizing that the letter had failed to make an ethical case for mandatory referral, the ACOG Committee on Ethics released an opinion that purported to do so. The opinion, in conjunction with a bulletin from the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG), poses a significant threat to freedom of conscience for American physicians specializing in obstetrics and gynaecology. See The Limits of Conscientious Refusal in Reproductive Medicine

Reponses to ACOG Committee on Ethics Opinion No. 385

Christian Medical Association

  • . . .The way things are going, some would actually force out of the profession those physicians who have moral objections to procedures like abortion, and that loss of physicians, especially obstetricians and gynecologists who, as you know, are already leaving a practice because of malpractice insurance costs, would have a severe impact on the delivery of healthcare. . .
    Presentation to President's Council on Bioethics

Christian Medical Association et al

  •  . . . The ACOG statement suggests a profound misunderstanding of the nature and exercise of conscience, an underlying bias against persons of faith and an apparent attempt to disenfranchise physicians who oppose ACOG's political activism on abortion. . .
    Joint Letter of Protest

Christian Medical & Dental Associations

  •  . . . Healthcare professionals and patients must be made aware that such opinions, if accepted by the profession as a whole, will have a devastating effect on the practice of medicine. Mandating such an approach would have the effect of making healthcare professionals mere technicians, stripping from them the ability to apply moral reasoning to their practices.
    Critique of ACOG Committee Opinion #385

American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists

  • . . .We find it unethical and unacceptable that a small committee of ACOG members would pretend to provide the moral compass for 49,000 other members on one of the most ethically controversial issues in our society and within our medical specialty-and that without ever consulting the full membership. . .
    Response to the ACOG Ethics Committee Opinion # 385

Catholic Medical Association (USA)

  •  . . .the Opinion not only fails to provide helpful guidance, but is so flawed that it threatens the reputation of ACOG itself. The Catholic Medical Association urges ACOG to rescind this opinion immediately. . . The Opinion contains a seriously flawed and gratuitously condescending approach to conscience.
    Letter of Protest

American Health and Human Services Secretary

  • . . . It appears that the interaction of the ABOG Bulletin with the ACOG ethics report would force physicians to violate their conscience by referring patients for abortions or taking other objectionable actions, or risk losing their board certification. . .
    Full text of letter

Christopher Kaczor

  • . . . the balance struck by the committee between the right of conscience of physicians and the reproductive health care of women so emphasizes patient autonomy that it turns physicians into medical automatons forced to act against their best ethical and medical judgment. . .
    Pro-Life Doctors: A New Oxymoron?

Paul Adams

  • . . . None of this has anything to do with imposing my views on the client, as anti-exemptionists and militant secularists often claim. . . . "Conscientious objection. . .implies the physician's right not to participate in what she thinks morally wrong, even if the patient demands it. It does not presume the right to impose her will or conception of the good on the patient."  . . .
    Attacking the conscience rights of their own members

Robert P. George

  • . . .The ACOG Committee report is an exercise in moral philosophy. It proposes a definition of conscience, something that cannot be supplied by science or medicine. It then proposes to instruct its readers on "…the limits of conscientious refusals describing how claims of conscience should be weighed in the context of other values critical to the ethical provision of health care." . . .
    Aborting our physicians' rights of conscience
  • . . . Dr. Edmund Pellegrino asked me to offer a formal comment on Dr. Lyerly's presentation of her committee's report. I was happy for the opportunity to call her and her colleagues out on their attempt to use their special authority as physicians to force fellow physicians to practice medicine in accord with the their contestable - and contested ­ philosophical, ethical, and political judgments. And make no mistake about it: at every key point in the report, their judgments are contestable and contested. . .
    Personal Opinions and Ideology, Not "Science"

E. Christian Brugger

  • . . .In this essay, I will elaborate the ACOG account, juxtapose it to what I call the "classical account" as defended in Western philosophy, and finally answer the question whether healthcare providers have a right to refuse to treat some patients. . .
    Abortion, Conscience and Health Care Provider Rights


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