Conscience absolutism via legislative amendment

Clinical Ethics 17 (3):225-229 (2022)
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On 30 June 2021, Ohio state Governor, Mike DeWine, signed a Bill which would enact the state's budget for the next two years. In addition to its core funding imperatives, the Bill also contained an amendment significantly expanding entitlements of health care providers to conscientiously object to professional duties to provide controversial health care services. This amendment has been heavily criticised as providing the means to allow health care providers to discriminate against a wide range of persons by denying them access to often contested services such as abortion and contraception. In this paper, we examine the implications of this amendment and situate it in relation to other legislative actions intended to guarantee absolute rights to conscientious objection. In doing so, we argue that the entitlements extended to health care providers by these Bills are overly broad and ignore their potential to allow significant harm to be caused to clients. We then argue that if health care providers should have rights to conscientiously object, then any legislation intended to protect such rights should be limited, specific, and parsimonious. Where it is not, the ideological liberty of HCPs treads dangerously on the physical freedom of their clients.



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Peter G. N. West-Oram
Brighton and Sussex Medical School

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