Louise P King, Rachel L Zacharias, Josephine Johnston
Abstract Respect for autonomy is a central value in reproductive ethics, but it can be a challenge to fulfill and is sometimes an outright puzzle to understand. If a woman requests the transfer of two, three, or four embryos during fertility treatment, is that request truly autonomous, and do clinicians disrespect her if they question that decision or refuse to carry it out? Add a commitment to justice to the mix, and the challenge can become more complex still. Is it unfair for insurance policies to exclude from coverage the costs of giving fertility to those who lack it or restoring fertility in those who have lost it? What does “just reproduction” look like in the face of multifarious understandings of both justice and autonomy and in light of increasingly complex and costly reproductive technologies? In today’s dialogue about reproduction, medicine, and ethics in the United States, old ethical issues—such as whether women ought to be allowed to access pregnancy termination—are more contested than they have been in decades, while new technologies—like those used to edit the genes of human embryos—suggest that our species could face unprecedented questions about who should exist. As we considered the discussions accompanying these issues and contemplated a special report responding to them, we found ourselves consistently circling back to two ethical commitments: respect for autonomy and the pursuit of justice. As one of the nine essays in this collection asks, why should certain women receive help to establish a pregnancy while others are thrown in jail when they miscarry or their child is stillborn? Respect for autonomy is required where individuals have the ability to make fully informed and voluntary choices. Yet does respecting autonomy require acceding to all the choices of patients or consumers of medical care? We consider these and related questions in this special report from the Hastings Center Report..
Extract Conclusion The objective of this Article is not to make a case that multifetal pregnancy reduction should be banned. . . . The procreational autonomy bestowed by the Constitution cannot be extended to permit the unbridled, willful creation and destruction of fetuses. Autonomy does not grant society a license to absolute freedom from intervention in all matters regarding our reproductive capacity. . . .
Assisted reproductive technologies, like other medical technologies, do not exist in a vacuum. The potential economic and social harms that may result from irresponsible practice extend beyond the ART participants. . . . In an era where government silence equals acquiescence and where unregulated technology threatens to devalue humanity, political stalemate is not a valid excuse. Proactive federal oversight is central to cure the problems created over the past twenty- five years by the lack of regulation over ART.
Abstract This Article examines the use by anti-contraception advocates of the claims that “contraception harms women” and “contraception is abortion,” claims made most prominently in litigation challenging Obamacare’s contraceptive coverage requirement. See Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, 134 S. Ct. 2751 (2014). The Article uncovers the nineteenth-century roots of these arguments and the strategic reasoning behind their current revival, to reveal that these claims are part of a broad attack on contraception grounded in opposition to non-procreative sex. In Part II, the Article reviews nineteenth-century reasoning about contraceptives, and then in Part III, discusses the modern revival of this Comstock era mode of reasoning about contraception which connected immorality and illness. Today, however, considerable social acceptance of sex for pleasure (at least for some people in some circumstances) means that straightforward arguments against contraception based on its immorality do not resonate as successfully as they once did. Social conservatives have publicly acknowledged as much, expressing an anxiety about the position of religion as “belief” rather than “truth,” and about a rise in what they call “sexualityism.” As a result, modern opponents of contraception have intentionally attempted to mask outmoded and unpopular moral opposition to non-procreative sex by using scientific discourse, citing the best science “we can currently lay our hands on,” for support. The problem for anti-contraception advocates, as revealed in Parts IV and V, is that the appeal to science is a purely rhetorical move, and their claims are contradicted by the latest scientific evidence. The Article establishes the safety and benefits of hormonal contraceptives to women’s and children’s health. The Article also shows that the claim that five hormonal contraceptives are abortifacients is false. Four out of five do not interfere with implantation of a fertilized egg and so cannot be said to terminate a “pregnancy,” even as redefined by opponents as occurring upon fertilization. Opposition to these hormonal contraceptives is thus not truly based on the view that destruction of a fertilized egg is immoral and should be considered an abortion. Rather, the opposition goes much deeper, stemming from a general objection to all forms of contraception and the ability of women to have sex without accepting the possibility of pregnancy and motherhood. The Article concludes in Part VI with evidence of the benefits of increased access to the most effective forms of contraception. Anti-contraception advocates are deploying woman-protective health arguments to limit access to contraception using a strategy similar to that adopted to oppose abortion. Anti-contraception advocates have melded these arguments to contemporary anxieties about heterosexual women’s ability to survive on equal footing with men in today’s sexual and marital “marketplace” in order to stymie efforts to expand contraceptive access and to further restrict access where possible.
Extract Conclusion . . . Currently, ambiguities in the Maryland statute allow too much flexibility for providers in emergency rooms to refuse to provide or even inform patients about emergency contraception. This kind of state sanctioned refusal serves as the kind of government obstacle the Supreme Court has forbidden in upholding a woman’s right to bodily privacy. The Maryland legislature should act to eliminate the ambiguities in Maryland’s conscience legislation and explicitly protect a woman’s right to access emergency contraception in Maryland emergency rooms. In order to do so, the Maryland legislature should adopt the medical community’s definition for abortion that excludes emergency contraception. The new Maryland conscience statute should also provide explicit protections to patients receiving emergency room care. Physicians should be required to inform patients of emergency contraception if treatment in each particular case is medically indicated. Finally, physicians should be required to treat patients that request access to emergency contraception or to refer them to another provider who is willing to administer treatment within the effective time period of emergency contraception. . .
Extract An appeal to the doctrine of double effect supposes that the end aimed at is morally good. I claim that women who use emergency contraception need only intend the contraceptive effect of the medication, and not any possible abortifacient effect it may have. If one denies that even the former is a permissible end, then the doctrine of double effect makes no difference.
Abstract On the grounds that rape is an act of violence, not a natural act of intercourse, Roman Catholic teaching traditionally has permitted women who have been raped to take steps to prevent pregnancy, while consistently prohibiting abortion even in the case of rape. Recent scientific evidence that emergency contraception (EC) works primarily by preventing ovulation, not by preventing implantation or by aborting implanted embryos, has led Church authorities to permit the use of EC drugs in the setting of rape. Doubts about whether an abortifacient effect of EC drugs has been completely disproven have led to controversy within the Church about whether it is sufficient to determine that a woman is not pregnant before using EC drugs or whether one must establish that she has not recently ovulated. This article presents clinical, epidemiological, and ethical arguments why testing for pregnancy should be morally sufficient for a faith community that is strongly opposed to abortion.
Abstract Pro-life Christian ethicists and medical practitioners have been united in their opposition to abortion, but have sometimes been divided in their ethical approach to hormonal contraception. Even though many Christians believe that birth control may be a moral option, some claim that the “Pill” acts, at least some of the time, as an abortifacient. If true, Christians who hold that human personhood begins at conception would be morally opposed to the use of combined oral contraceptives. This article examines the scientific evidence for an abortifacient effect of such contraceptive agents, and concludes that such an effect is yet unproven. Some of the ethical arguments are also examined, and the author suggests that further research on early pregnancy factor (EPF) may help to resolve this controversial issue.
Abstract Women’s sexual and reproductive rights are an integral part of daily practice for obstetricians/gynaecologists and the key to the survival and health of women around the world. Women’s sexual and reproductive health is often compromised because of infringements of their basic human rights, not the lack of medical knowledge. Understanding the relevance of respecting and promoting sexual and reproductive rights is critical for providing current standards of care, and includes access to information and care, confidentiality, informed consent and evidence-based practice. The violation of women’s rights in their daily lives through common problems such as gender-based violence and discrimination results in serious consequences for their health. Obstetricians/gynaecologists are natural advocates for women’s health, yet may be lacking in their understanding of relevant laws or the limits of conscientious objection. This chapter outlines the framework for sexual and reproductive rights, and explores its relevance to the practising clinician.
Oswaldo Castro, Frederic A Lombardo, Victor R Gordeuk
Extract Real medical care and services always respect human life. No one should be forced to collaborate in abortion (even when it is achieved through the prevention of implantation), lethal research on embryos, euthanasia, or assisted suicide.
Abstract From its emergence, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) has been opposed by religious, feminist, and disability-rights advocates. PGD has developed, however, to extend beyond genetic diagnosis of embryos to diagnose chromosomal abnormalities. Evidence shows that PGD is safe, children born after in vitro fertilization (IVF) and PGD having no higher rate of birth defects than children of normal pregnancies. Laws may accommodate PGD directly or indirectly, but some prohibit PGD totally or except to identify sex-linked genetic disorders. When children suffer severe genetic disorders and require stem-cell transplantation, compatible donors may be unavailable. Then, IVF and PGD of resulting embryos may identify some whose gestation and birth would produce unaffected newborns, and placental and cord blood from which stem-cells compatible for implantation in sick siblings can be derived. Ethical issues concern conscientious objection to direct participation, discarding of healthy but unsuitable embryos, and valuing savior siblings in themselves, not just as means to others’ ends.