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Conscientious objection to referrals


Christopher Cowley1 has recently put forward three arguments against the legal accommodation of a general practitioner’s conscientious objection (CO) to abortion referrals.i He claims that the adoption of these arguments does not undermine a more general right to CO to involvement in abortion. I argue that Cowley is seriously mistaken. His three arguments, especially the second and third, proceed on a path directed towards the outright rejection of a right to CO in healthcare contexts. A common problem with Cowley’s three arguments is that they overlook the peremptory significance for CO analysis of both the internal, deliberating perspective of those with a CO and the good of moral integrity. This paper supports the view that either there are strong prima facie grounds for holding that a right to CO extends in principle to the issue of referrals or the claim of a general right to CO is easily assailable.

  • conscientious objection
  • referral
  • moral integrity
  • abortion
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