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The ACOG opinion suffers from gross illogic and ideological bias. It proposes that some moral judgments, namely, positive judgments related to procuring an abortion in emergency situations, not only sanction the choice for the abortion seeker, but apodictically command medical professionals to carry out that choice on the seeker’s behalf, irrespective of their conscientious objections.
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For practical purposes, “conscience laws” are instituted to protect claims arising from negative conscience judgments. I suggest that if some kind of legally protected behavior elicits strong ethical disapproval from a significant percentage of responsible healthcare professionals, then conscientious objection from participation in that behavior should be protected under law. This includes, for example, activities associated with terminating fetal human life (e.g., undergoing, performing, assisting in the performance of, requiring or providing training in the performance of, providing referrals for, paying for, and providing coverage for abortions). It also includes the provision of contraceptive services, which elicits strong ethical disapproval from the largest non-governmental provider of health care in the United States, the Catholic Church.
The ACOG’s opinion motivated the Bush administration in summer 2008 to establish federal regulations meant to ensure that laws on the books protecting the right of health-care workers to conscientiously object to involvement in abortions and sterilizations would be duly enforced. The lame duck administration issued the in December 2008. In March 2009, the new Obama administration began a process of rescission. It argued the regulations were unnecessary because conscience laws were already adequately upheld in U.S. healthcare and that any positive goals they might achieve were likely to be accompanied by unacceptable harms such as restricting access to legal abortion for low-income women. The Obama administration formally the regulations in February 2011.