This paper offers a qualified defence of physician non-compliance with antiabortion legislation in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The paper examines two ethically troubling trends of post-Dobbs legislation: narrow and vague maternal health exemption clauses and mandatory reporting of miscarriages in jurisdictions where patients may criminal prosecution for medically induced abortions. It then examines and defends a professional obligation on the part of physicians to comply with the law. This obligation, however, is defeasible. The paper then argues that physicians’ obligations to comply with the law is defeated when the law is illegitimate and following the law would constitute bad medical practice. Finally, it argues that the ethically troubling trends in post-Dobbs antiabortion legislation may meet these criteria.
- Abortion - Induced
- Criminal Law
- Ethics- Medical
- Reproductive Medicine
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Correction notice Since this paper first published, reference 12 has been updated.
Contributors JM drafted the sections on risks to patients from maternal health exemptions and mandatory reporting, and contributed revisions and ideas to the remaining sections. PR drafted the remaining sections, was responsible for preparing the final manuscript, and is the guarantor of the project.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.