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Regulation of conscientious objection to abortion: an international comparative multiple-case study

Wendy Chavkin, MD, MPH, Physicians for Reproductive Health, 2015

Project abstract

Conscientious objection (CO) is the refusal to participate in an activity that an individual considers incompatible with his/her religious, moral, philosophical, or ethical beliefs. In recent years a variety of healthcare professionals have invoked CO as grounds for refusing to provide abortion care, which has impeded access to services. While CO to abortion is reportedly widespread in practice, only a limited number of countries have regulated the practice, attempting to balance the competing interests and rights of healthcare providers who object with those of women who seek abortion.

I propose an exploratory, comparative multiple-case study to assess country-based efforts to regulate CO, and whether such efforts have led to improved access to abortion services. The goal is to inform policymakers and other interested stakeholders about the efficacy and political acceptability of different regulatory approaches to CO to abortion. In the proposed study, the team will conduct a series of semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders from both sides of the debate in four European countries with legalized abortion, legal or formal regulation of CO, and public healthcare systems. Data analysis will identify common themes and assess which strategies appear most promising for regulating CO while simultaneously respecting individual clinicians’ rights to exercise conscience.


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