GSL Online

Gender & Sexuality Law Online is a webjournal published by the Columbia Law School Center for Gender & Sexuality Law.

Tug of Rights: How Excessive Conscience Allowances to Physicians and Pharmacists Tug at a Woman’s Right to an Abortion

Author: Afiya Pascall, LLM 2010

Abstract: This paper considers the tug of rights between a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion and a physician’s or pharmacist’s right to object, on the basis of conscience, to assisting in the procurement of an abortion. It considers the contours and legal justifications of the respective rights and points out recent attempts by states, in particular, the state of Mississippi, to reinforce the right of members of the medical profession to object to assisting with an abortion in ways that have great potential to deprive the woman of her right to choose to abort. The paper also looks at the development of jurisprudence under the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution to demonstrate the prevalent view that the autonomy and self-determination that warrants a woman’s choice to abort deserves as must protection as the medical professional’s inclination to act according to the dictates of his conscience. It also considers the proper limits of conscientious objection and points out the real danger that a passionate objector may act excessively and in a manner that actually imposes his view upon the woman. The paper scrutinizes the Mississippi Health Care Rights of Conscience Act to show its deficiencies in excessively reinforcing the medical professional’s right to conscientiously object, by allowing unrestrained refusals to counsel, advise or refer and not mandating that medical professionals provide notice of their inclination to object to carrying out their duty to assist with the procurement of an abortion.

Full Article: Tug of Rights: How Excessive Conscience Allowances to Physicians and Pharmacists Tug at a Woman’s Right to an Abortion

Subjects: Reproductive Rights


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