Refusal to Treat Patients Does Not Work in Any Country—Even If Misleadingly Labelled “Conscientious Objection”


Letter to the Editor: Refusal to Treat Patients Does Not Work in Any Country—Even If Misleadingly Labelled “Conscientious Objection”

On September 6, 2017 · In Perspectives
Christian Fiala and Joyce H. Arthur

We would like to point out some serious problems and contradictions in the study “Regulation of Conscientious Objection to Abortion: An International Comparative Multiple-Case Study,” by Wendy Chavkin, Laurel Swerdlow, and Jocelyn Fifield (Health and Human Rights Journal, vol. 19, no. 1, 2017).

The study purports to show that it is possible to accommodate health care providers’ “conscientious objection” (CO) to legal abortion while assuring that women with an unwanted pregnancy have access to health care services. The researchers examined four countries—England, Italy, Portugal, and Norway—all Western democracies with laws that allow CO for abortion. They conclude that England, Norway, and Portugal are able to permit CO by law and still provide and fund abortion care. Italy is the major exception, where access to legal abortion is seriously compromised due to a very high number of objectors.

Continued at source: Health & Human Rights Journal:

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There is no defense for ‘conscientious objection’ in reproductive health care


There is no defense for ‘conscientious objection’ in reproductive health care

by International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion
Aug 8, 2017

by Christian Fiala, Joyce H Arthur  

European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology


“A widespread assumption has taken hold in the field of medicine that we must allow health care professionals the right to refuse treatment under the guise of ‘conscientious objection’ (CO), in particular for women seeking abortions. At the same time, it is widely recognized that the refusal to treat creates harm and barriers for patients receiving reproductive health care. In response, many recommendations have been put forward as solutions to limit those harms. Further, some researchers make a distinction between true CO and ‘obstructionist CO’, based on the motivations or actions of various objectors.

This paper argues that ‘CO’ in reproductive health care should not be considered a right, but an unethical refusal to treat. Supporters of CO have no real defence of their stance, other than the mistaken assumption that CO in reproductive health care is the same as CO in the military, when the two have nothing in common (for example, objecting doctors are rarely disciplined, while the patient pays the price). Refusals to treat are based on non-verifiable personal beliefs, usually religious beliefs, but introducing religion into medicine undermines best practices that depend on scientific evidence and medical ethics. CO therefore represents an abandonment of professional obligations to patients. Countries should strive to reduce the number of objectors in reproductive health care as much as possible until CO can feasibly be prohibited. Several Scandinavian countries already have a successful ban on CO.”

The main text of the paper opens by saying: “Remarkably, pro-choice researchers and ethicists who support CO in reproductive health care rarely try to defend the practice beyond a simple assertion that individual conscience is an important right. Certainly this is true for everybody in general, but in the field of reproductive health care, there has been little or no recognition of how CO unjustly privileges doctors’ conscience over patients’ conscience, not to mention their life and health[1]. The granting of CO also gives legitimacy to the religiously-based assumption that abortion is wrong − however, providing safe abortion is an ethical practice that has saved the lives and protected the rights of millions of women. Moreover, doctors have obligations to their patients and the public. They occupy a privileged position of trust and responsibility in our society, and profit from a monopoly on the practice of medicine.”

An important argument they put forward is that the “largely religious and non-verifiable basis of CO makes the laws and policies that try to limit its exercise impossible to enforce”. Later, they continue: “Anyone can cite CO and lie or exaggerate. Or be sincere. Who knows? The only way we can judge is in rare evidence-based situations, such as when doctors in Italy and Poland are caught exercising ‘CO’ in public hospitals while doing abortions for profit in private clinics.”

But the crucial question they pose is: Is it possible to protect providers’ claimed right to refuse to treat patients and patients’ right to health care at the same time? Their answer is: the more objectors there are, the less possible it is to protect patients’ right to health care. So they argue that “as a first step towards mitigating the harms of CO, countries could at least require all publicly-funded hospitals to provide abortions, as Portugal has done”. Finally, they call for countries “to steadily reduce the number of objectors and eventually abolish CO, not save it.”

Source: International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion:

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Zika-fighting ‘abortion ship’ detained by Guatemala


Zika-fighting ‘abortion ship’ detained by Guatemala
25 Feb, 2017

Guatemala has detained a ship off its coast offering abortion services to women, ordering the expulsion of the vessel, owned by a Dutch non-profit organization, and its crew members.

The ship, run by Women on Waves, offers free abortions to women living in countries where the procedure is banned. The group carry out terminations in international waters for women up to ten weeks pregnant, and also offer sexual health and contraceptive advice.

The group said the abortion hotline was receiving hundreds of calls from women looking for information and hoping to schedule a visit.

Continued at source: Russia Today:

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Abortion news stories ‘criminalise’ women by using images of baby bumps


by Serina Sandhu, iNews
Tuesday December 6th 2016

Women are being “criminalised” in stories about abortions because the media continues to use images of advanced baby bumps to illustrate them, say campaigners. This does not acknowledge that many abortions take place far earlier in the pregnancy or what women are going through, they argue.

The “totally inappropriate” images journalists used in their stories gave the wrong impression of abortion and associated it with murder, said Dr Christian Fiala, a specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology at the Museum of Contraception and Abortion (MUVS) in Vienna. He is spearheading the museum’s competition to find more appropriate stock imagery for the media to use, in the hope that it will further remove the stigma surrounding abortions.

The aim is to create a free photo collection of images that will illustrate “the critical situation of a woman (or couple) with an unwanted pregnancy in a realistic way”. The museum already provides images of gestational sacs and abortion pills, that are free to use.

[continued at link]
Source: iNews

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Abortion News Without the Stigma


 Abortion-News-logoNew Website Tool Presents Breaking News on Abortion Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, November 26, 2016

People looking for current and past news about abortion rights now have an easy-to-use tool. A new interactive website is available, which posts breaking news on abortion rights from around the world. As well as news, the website also posts opinion, commentary, videos, podcasts, film and book reviews, and other media about abortion.

Please check out the new website here:

“Readers looking for up-to-date information about what’s happening on the abortion issue in countries around the world should find this site a useful resource, said Dr. Christian Fiala, the website’s team lead and a gynecologist who provides abortions. Dr. Fiala explained that everything posted is automatically added to the website’s Archives. “The website is entirely searchable using keywords, and categories such as date, topic, country, and region.”

In addition, readers can subscribe to a news feed, as well as submit news links to be posted.

“A key advantage is that we don’t post anti-choice news or links to other inaccurate pieces that are biased against abortion,” said Joyce Arthur, the website moderator and an abortion rights activist in Canada. “Readers can be assured that they are getting mainstream news from respected sources, as well as informed views from those who support women’s fundamental right to self-determination, including the right to abortion.”

The website is operated by the Initiative for Reproductive Health Information (IRHI) / Initiative zur Information über Reproduktive Gesundheit.



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