There is perhaps no current issue more forefront in the minds of American women today than that of abortion. One one side, there are those who feel that, whether they agree with abortion or not, the decision should lie in the hands of the mother herself. On the other side are those that feel strongly that abortion is an amoral and unethical act, and that the rights of the unborn fetus outweigh the rights of the mother. Historically, abortion has been upheld as a legal right for women in America. However, many religious and special interest groups have been interested in challenging this right. The Affordable Care Act (ACF) has also helped to heat up the debate, as businesses and medical professionals with objections to abortion have been forced to comply with the procedure.
When the ACF was launched in 2010, businesses found themselves responsible for providing healthcare to their employees. They did not have a right as to the type of health care they provided. This meant that the health care provided would give women access to methods of birth control that included abortion and the morning after pill. Hobby Lobby is a corporation that founded on strict religious principles, including the belief that life starts at conception. Thus, by complying with the law, the business would be allowing their female employees access to abortion, something they feel is morally and ethically wrong. They filed a lawsuit citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as precedent. The RFRA was created in 1993 prohibits the government from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion (Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby, Inc., 2015). The company did not wish to deny female employees access to all contraceptives, only those four that worked after the point of conception (abortion and emergency contraception, such as the morning after pill).
Pro-choice advocates hold fast to the belief that women should be allowed access to contraceptive methods of their choice, no matter what. There have been many challenges to allowing women access to abortion, including the Hyde Amendment . The Hyde Amendment made it possible for the government to withhold access to abortion through federally funded insurance programs such as Medicaid (National Women’s Law Center, 2015). Thus, The Affordable Care Act was seen by this group as a triumph in legislature, finally enabling women access to abortion options, despite their financial situation. For Pro-choice groups, the challenge made by Hobby Lobby, Inc. under the RFRA was seen as a giant step back in the progress they felt they had made.
Conscientious objection is another issue that comes into play when discussing abortion. While some actions may be legal according to the law, this does not mean that everyone agrees with the law and should be forced to abide by it. In terms of the Affordable Care Act, businesses owners, such as those who own Hobby Lobby, have a conscientious objection to abortion, and feel it is the moral right to uphold their values and ethics despite the law created by the government in which they own and operate their business. On the same note, medical professionals too often have beliefs that are at odds with their patients and the hospitals and practices they work for.
The issues surrounding abortion are more complex due to the fact that it must take into account not only the rights of the mother, but also of the unborn child. For those that believe life starts at conception, it is a matter of protecting the rights of a child who has not yet been born. The Americans United for Life (2015) is one such organization. the AUL provides legal assistance and to create laws for the protection of unborn children. However, not everyone agrees that life starts at conception. Organizations such as the National Women’s Law Center (2015) view the mother’s rights as superior to the rights of the unborn child. They provide legal assistance and work with lawmakers to ensure the rights of women are upheld, over the rights of an unborn child.
Doctors and nurses have a professional obligation to give their patients the best care that they can. Nurses, as well as doctors, “have a professional obligation to respect patient dignity, promote patient autonomy, and protect patients from harm” (Lachman, 2014, pg. 197). Oftentimes, their personal view of what is best for a patient is challenged by the beliefs of the patient and/or the clinic, practice or hospital they work for. While nurses and doctors are afforded the dignity to refuse to provide an act or service which violates their conscious, it is important that their decision is not based on prejudice, self interest or discrimination.
I feel it is important for the values, morals and ethics of all people to be respected. I feel it is important for medical professionals, especially nurses, to be able to abstain from assisting a patient in a procedure they feel is morally wrong, such as with an abortion. However, it is equally important to respect the rights of women who choose to have the procedure, as it is their right to believe that it is in their best interest to have one. Ultimately, there are going to be those that agree with abortion and those that don’t. According to recent Gallup polls, this number is about half – 51% of Americans claim to be on the Pro-life side, while 42% claim to be Pro-choice (ACLU, 2015). Knowing this, is seems appropriate that there should be accommodations for both sides. Doctors and nurses who, by matter of conscious, simply cannot perform or be present at an abortion should not be forced to. However, for those that have no such objection, they should be allowed to perform the procedure.
At this point, we cannot prove when life begins – whether it begins at conception or at birth is a topic for religion and philosophy, not for science. While I do not believe that those persons or corporations who object to the procedure should be forced to comply with it (as with Hobby Lobby and the ACA), I also do not believe that the procedure should be unavailable to those that need it. As a country, we need to work towards policies that ensure the rights of all American’s are valued.