Conscience clauses are clauses in laws in some parts of the United States which permit pharmacists, physicians, and other providers of health care not to provide certain medical services for reasons of religion or conscience. Those who choose not to provide services may not be disciplined or discriminated against. The provision is most frequently enacted in connection with issues relating to reproduction, such as abortion, sterilization, and contraception, but may include any phase of patient care.
Health care providers opposed to abortion or contraception support the clauses because without them, they would be obliged to supply lawful professional services to which they objected, and potentially be subject to disciplinary or legal action for refusing.
Reproductive rights organizations, such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, oppose the provision because they maintain that pharmacists, doctors, and hospitals have a professional duty to fulfill patients' legal medical needs, regardless of their own opinions.
Conscience clauses have been adopted by a number of U.S. states. including Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota. See also .
In many countries procedures such as abortion, sterilization, and contraception are simply banned, but they cannot be banned in the United States due to constitutional law. Conscience clauses are enacted by some states that wish to legislate in this area without violating the Constitution.
Some pharmacies in U.S. jurisdictions with conscience clauses, including CVS and Target, allow pharmacists to choose, without penalty, not to dispense birth control pills. Target requires the objecting pharmacist to recommend another Target location that will dispense the medication.
The clause, although allowing medical professionals not to perform procedures against their conscience, does not allow professionals to give fradulent information to deter a patient from obtaining such a procedure (such as lying about the risks involved in an abortion to deter one from obtaining one) in order to imposing one's belief using deception.
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