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Is it ethical for a general practitioner to claim a conscientious objection when asked to refer for abortion?


Abortion is one of the most divisive topics in healthcare. Proponents and opponents hold strong views. Some health workers who oppose abortion assert a right of conscientious objection to it, a position itself that others find unethical. Even if allowance for objection should be made, it is not clear how far it should extend. Can conscientious objection be given as a reason not to refer when a woman requests her doctor to do so? This paper explores the idea of the general practitioner (GP) who declines to make a direct referral for abortion, asking the woman to see another GP instead. The purpose is to defend the claim that an appeal to conscientious objection in this way can be reasonable and ethical.

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