A defense of conscience in healthcare

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review


Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. In “A Defense of Conscience in Healthcare”, Dr. George reacts to Ethics Committee Opinion #385 of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Among other things, the opinion proposes that physicians in the field of women's health be required as a matter of ethical duty to refer patients for abortions and sometimes even to perform abortions themselves. Dr. George first responds to this imperative by challenging the nature of elective abortion itself as normal healthcare, based on the implicit judgment that pregnancy, when unwanted, is in effect a disease. In fact, the issues in dispute are philosophical; they cannot be resolved by science or methods of scientific inquiry. If this is the case, there is therefore no justification to compel morally sincere physicians who disagree with this judgment to violate their conscience or else leave the practice of medicine entirely. The ACOG statement fails to acknowledge the widespread debate about abortion in our society and the moral sincerity of pro-life practitioners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-20
Number of pages5
JournalEthics, Medicine and Public Health
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Policy


  • Conscience
  • Duty
  • Healthcare
  • Physicians
  • Pro-life practitioners


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