Health care providers who invoke conscientious objection to providing or participating in abortion care in Bogotá, Colombia, can be categorized along a spectrum of objection—extreme, moderate and partial—finds a new study published in International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.
The study, “‘The Fetus Is My Patient, Too’: Attitudes Toward Abortion and Referral Among Physician Conscientious Objectors in Bogotá, Colombia,” by Lauren Fink of Emory University, et al., seeks to understand conscientious objection from the perspective of objectors themselves in order to help identify potential interventions to ease the burden of conscientious objection as a barrier to care.
When the Colombian Constitutional Court partially decriminalized abortion in 2006, the Court established a right to abortion in three circumstances: when the life or health (including mental well-being) of the mother is at risk; when a fetal anomaly is incompatible with life; and when the pregnancy is the result of rape, incest or forced insemination.
The Court also outlined guidelines for health care providers who wish to invoke conscientious objection. Individuals can object, but institutions cannot; objecting physicians have a duty to refer patients to another provider; and conscientious objection “may not involve disregard for the rights of women.” Nevertheless, improperly exercised conscientious objection is not uncommon in Colombia, leading many women to seek clandestine abortions, which are often unsafe.
The authors conducted in-depth interviews with 13 key informants and 15 Colombian physicians who self-identified as conscientious objectors to better understand how conscientious objection is exercised.
Read the full article at the Guttmacher Institute.