The Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues


This essay proceeds in four parts. Summarizing my previous writing, Part II explains that since Roe, the law has systematically favored refusing individuals and institutions. This asymmetry was unjustified, because “[c]onscience equally may compel a doctor or nurse to deliver a controversial treatment to a patient in need.” After Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the asymmetry may deepen. In restrictive states, Part III contends, the crisis of conscience for willing providers will increase, even as rights to refusal expand. Part IV identifies several possible complications for the legal framework governing conscience in medicine. It suggests that as refusal bills broaden, they may (unintentionally) shield providers committed to delivering at least some care. And as abortion bans grow more severe, hospitals once categorized as refusing may find themselves willing to perform life- and health-saving abortions. They may experience irreconcilable tension between abortion bans and their (religious and moral) healthcare mission. Part V turns to issues of conscience in those states seeking to safeguard abortion. It argues that the normalization of refusal and the reach of religious healthcare systems will erect major barriers to the expansion of reproductive healthcare in these states. State policies expanding abortion access will have to be carefully designed around shifting constitutional doctrine related to the religion and speech rights of healthcare institutions.





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Dov Fox

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