Balancing Providers’ Consciences with Women’s Access
Thank you for your recent feature by Amir Hodžić, “A Look at Conscientious Objection in Croatia” (Vol. XXXVII, No. 1). It brings to light a shocking reality in Croatia: The practice of conscientious refusal has become a political tactic to undermine abortion access. Croatia’s failure to regulate the practice of conscientious refusal has denied reproductive services to many women.
As the United States’ leading organization of physicians providing healthcare to women, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recognizes that the field of reproductive medicine may present personal, moral issues. However, as our Committee Opinion “The Limits of Conscientious Refusal in Reproductive Medicine” clearly states: “[T]he patient’s well-being must be paramount.”
ACOG affirms that respect for conscience is important, but an individual physician’s conscientious objection should never create a barrier to a patient’s access to reproductive healthcare. It is incumbent upon medical institutions and healthcare professionals to ensure nondiscriminatory access to all needed healthcare while minimizing the need for practitioners to act in opposition to their deeply held beliefs. Our commitment to patient care requires it.
We believe that it is possible to advance a medical environment—including through policy and/or regulation—that balances protection of providers’ consciences with the critical goal of ensuring timely, effective, evidence-based and safe access for all women seeking reproductive services. But we should not stand for conscientious objection being used simply as a barrier to care for the women who rely on us.
Senior Manager, Media Relations & Communications
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists