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Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2011 May;113(2):163-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ijgo.2011.02.002. Epub 2011 Mar 21.

Conscientious commitment to women's health.

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  • 1Faculty of Law, Faculty of Medicine and Joint Centre for Bioethics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.


Conscientious commitment, the reverse of conscientious objection, inspires healthcare providers to overcome barriers to delivery of reproductive services to protect and advance women's health. History shows social reformers experiencing religious condemnation and imprisonment for promoting means of birth control, until access became popularly accepted. Voluntary sterilization generally followed this pattern to acceptance, but overcoming resistance to voluntary abortion calls for courage and remains challenging. The challenge is aggravated by religious doctrines that view treatment of ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion, and emergency contraception not by reference to women's healthcare needs, but through the lens of abortion. However, modern legal systems increasingly reject this myopic approach. Providers' conscientious commitment is to deliver treatments directed to women's healthcare needs, giving priority to patient care over adherence to conservative religious doctrines or religious self-interest. The development of in vitro fertilization to address childlessness further illustrates the inspiration of conscientious commitment over conservative objections.

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