Should health care professionals be permitted to refuse conscientiously to provide health care services that are legal and that may even be deemed essential (e.g., abortions)? Our research addresses this complex moral and legal question. We aim to conduct rigorous analyses of when conscientious refusals—in particular those that occur in reproductive health care—are morally and legally permissible, and of which policies and educational initiatives we need in Canada with respect to these refusals. Overall, we want to encourage delivery of reproductive health care services that is appropriately respectful of conscience andthat safeguards women’s reproductive health.
We take a feminist perspective on our topic and emphasize that a blanket ban on refusals in reproductive health care is inappropriate from this perspective. The main reason why is that some refusals will promote social justice for women or for other marginalized groups. Putative examples include a refusal by a reproductive endocrinologist to allow oocyte vending to occur at her clinic or not to provide LGBT people with infertility treatments when the unwritten policy of her clinic is to bar these people from it. Although more often than not conscientious refusals interfere with social justice, sometimes they do the very opposite.