Discussions regarding all aspects of abortion are controversial. During the 19th century, the debate on abortion was unheard of as it was considered a taboo. However, interesting developments began to emerge towards the end of the 20th century. In the United States, for example, things changed after the Supreme Court’s Roe V (LaFollette 2017) verdict. According to LaFollette (2017), Wade made a ruling that legalized abortion in the country. Shortly after, many other countries in the world, especially in Europe, also enacted the legislation. As a result, healthcare providers opposed abortion due to religious or moral reasons. Nevertheless, the reaction of the US Congress to the Supreme Court’s decision provided guidance on the issue of abortion. As pointed out by LaFollette (2017), Congress passed legislation that protected healthcare providers who did not want to participate in abortion because of religious or moral beliefs.
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As one would expect, the legalization of abortion had mixed reactions. On the one hand, the pro-life group, led by some health care professionals including nurses, physicians, and pharmacists, championed for their right to make decisions in line with their conscience. On the other hand, the pro-choice group defended the rights of people seeking abortion services. Clearly, the controversies surrounding the issue of abortion as a legal health care service was, and still is, contentious. This paper argues that the right of healthcare providers for conscientious objection to abortion and the right of abortion seekers to access health care service must be respected by all stakeholders involved.
If I was a health care provider my personal views on abortion would negatively affect my work as I would have to choose between my career and my religious beliefs about abortion. I would have taken an oath to help patients receive the best care they can without any form of bias. Additionally, it would be my duty to give all possible actions that a person has, in regard to the issue of abortion, despite my personal beliefs. The contention arises as I would ideally believe that my faith would be jeopardized if, for instance, I agree to perform an abortion or give advice on where a client can acquire such services. In countries that do allow abortion, the law has to be adhered to and I would have to do the abortion or give the needed advice despite my ethical or religious beliefs.
The right to conscientious objection by health care professionals should not be infringed in any circumstances. In his paper titled “My Conscience May Be My Guide, but You May Not Need to Honor It,” LaFollette (2017) explains the difference between the rights to conscientious objection in the military and the health care sector. In the US military, the conscientious objection to war exempts service people from participating directly in combat if that would violate their moral and religious customs. However, LaFollette (2017) notes that the conscientious objection to war has a condition: one must serve in another non-war environment.
Luckily for health care providers, conscientious objection does not come with any underlying conditions. Therefore, one would expect that their decisions not to participate in abortion cases are final. In fact, the arguments made by LaFollette (2017) provide a manifestation of what health care professionals go through around the US and other parts of the world. This paper holds that such cases of intimidation and impunity should not be encouraged in the health sector. However, the rights of patients seeking abortion services must also be respected.
Ely, Rouland-Polmanteer, and Kotting (2018) posit that most abortion seekers suffer from trauma and other mental disorders due to stigma. Arguing from a pro-choice point of view, Ely et al., (2018) submit that abortion seekers, like any other patients, should never undergo mental torture through health caregivers. This implies that patients should be served unconditionally. As such, the antagonism between pro-life and pro-choice groups is unlikely to end anytime soon. One of the way forward on this issue could be to allow each group to have its way. As the manager of a health center, I would approach the situation with an open mind that will help me uphold both my beliefs and my duty as a health practitioner. In this way, I will appreciate the fact that people are entitled to their own decisions as long as they adhere to the law. Hence, although I would not participate in the act due to my personal beliefs, I would allow pro-choice practitioners in my facility to undertake safe abortions and exempt pro-life workers from participating in the act. This action would ensure that I uphold my professional ethical principles as well as my personal ones.
In summary, since abortion is legal and pro-life health care professionals have the right of conscientious objection it, there is a need to create a balance that would ensure that both parties are satisfied. No health care provider should have to lose their job or suffer any other consequence because they acted according to their conscience and religious belief. Similarly, no patient in need of abortion services should have to face trauma and stigma because of their choice. In other words, everyone should be allowed to do what they believe is morally upright without any underlying conditions.
Ely, G. E., Rouland-Polmanteer, R. S., & Kotting, J. (2018). A trauma-informed social work framework for the abortion seeking experience. Social Work in Mental Health, 16(2), 172-200.
LaFollette, H. (2017). My conscience may be my guide, but you may not need to honor it. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 26(1), 44-58.