Conscientious Refusal of Abortion in Emergency Life-Threatening Circumstances and Contested Judgments of Conscience

American Journal of Bioethics 18 (7):62-64 (2018)
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Lawrence Nelson (2018) criticizes conscientious objection (CO) to abortion statutes as far as they permit health care providers to escape criminal liability for what would otherwise be the legally wrongful taking of a pregnant woman’s life by refusing treatment (i.e. abortion). His key argument refers to the U.S. Supreme Court judgment (Roe v. Wade 1973) that does not treat the unborn as constitutional persons under the Fourteenth Amendment. Therefore, Nelson claims that within the U.S. legal system any vital interests of pregnant women must always take precedence over fetuses’ interests. While agreeing with the main thesis of the article, we believe that the author’s argument neither vindicates his claim, nor explains why those who believe that fetuses are equally protectable human beings do not have the right to refuse to perform an abortion in lifethreatening emergency circumstances (AE). Therefore, the main aim of our commentary is to outline, by referring to our earlier works on conscientious objection in health care (Z_ uradzki 2016) and cultural exemptions (Ciszewski 2016), a better and universalizable argumentative path that would lead to the same conclusion.

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