Abortion Conscience Clauses

Marc D Stern

Columbia Journal of Law & Social Problems
Columbia Journal of Law & Social Problems

Despite the rulings in Roe and Doe, physicians, nurses, and denominational hospitals opposed to abortions have continued to refuse to perform them. They have argued that Roe and Doe, as judicial interpretations of the fourteenth amendment, do not apply to private activity, and that in any event the free exercise clause protects those who, for religious or moral reasons, object to abortion. These claims are not without difficulties. . . . Since Roe and Doe, Congress and many state legislatures have enacted laws to protect both institutions and individuals who refuse to participate in abortions for religious or moral reasons. These so-called “conscience clauses” limit the power of the courts to compel the performance of abortion where a refusal to participate is religiously or morally based. This article will explore the problems these statutes raise. The conclusion reached is that, for the most part, well-drafted conscience amendments are constitutional.

Stern MD. Abortion Conscience Clauses. Columbia J Law Soc Probl. 1975 Summer;11(4):571-627.