“The Right to Conscience” by Bernard M. Dickens

Bernard M. Dickens, “The Right to Conscience,” in: Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies, ed. Rebecca J. Cook, Joanna N. Erdman, and Bernard M. Dickens (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014) pp. 210-238, 425-429n. A Spanish edition was published in August, 2016.  Ahora disponible en español.

In this tenth chapter of Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective, Bernard M. Dickens explores variants of the human right to freedom of conscience in abortion debates .  The aim of this chapter is to release “conscience” from capture by those who object to participation in induced abortion. It argues that, while opponents of induced abortion are properly entitled to invoke conscientious objections to participation, others are equally entitled conscientiously to participate in such lawful procedures, to advise patients about the option, and to refer patients to where appropriate services are available. This includes taking such actions in institutions that, for religious or other reasons, oppose such procedures on principle. Indeed, much in the same way that secular health facilities must accommodate providers’ rights of conscientious objection, religiously inspired health facilities must accommodate providers’ rights of conscientious commitment to undertake or make provision for services, and women’s conscientious rights to receive them.

The human right to act lawfully according to one’s individual conscience is not a monopoly of abortion opponents. As a legally protected human right, however, the right to conscience may be considered an entitlement primarily of human individuals, and available to corporate or other institutions on only a limited basis. Individuals may accordingly invoke conscientious reasons to participate, or not to participate, in abortion procedures, and to offer advice and referral without suffering sanctions or discrimination on grounds of their religious or philosophical convictions.

Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies was published in August 2014.  by the University of Pennsylvania Press’s Studies in Human Rights Series.   Table of Contents and other information online.    A Spanish edition was published in August, 2016.  Ahora disponible en español.

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