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UK Service Users' Experiences of and Views on Healthcare Practitioners' Right to Conscientiously Object to Abortion.

Self, B (2023) UK Service Users' Experiences of and Views on Healthcare Practitioners' Right to Conscientiously Object to Abortion. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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The fourth section of the 1967 Abortion Act states that individuals (including healthcare practitioners) do not have to participate in an abortion if they have a conscientious objection to this procedure. A conscientious objection is a refusal to participate on the grounds of conscience. It may be informed by religious, moral, philosophical, ethical, or personal beliefs. Recently, Northern Ireland introduced The Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2022, part 7 of which mirrors the 1967 Abortion Act’s conscientious objection clause. Currently, no research has been conducted on service users’ views on conscientious objection and there has been very little investigation into the impact of conscientious objection on service users in the UK. This perspective is imperative in understanding the real-world consequences and impact of conscientious objection and should be considered when creating policy and guidelines. I undertook this research from a liberal feminist stance. I provided a platform for women and those who can become pregnant to share their experiences and views at a time when their voices are largely excluded from the great tradition of Western political philosophy and law-making processes. I interviewed 25 UK service users from urban and rural areas using a hybrid approach. I combined the principles of narrative and semi-structured interviews. I analysed the data using found poetry and a reflexive liberal feminist thematic analysis. My findings indicate that conscientious objection could work in practice. However, it is currently failing some individuals, as healthcare practitioners do not always inform service users of their objection, or that they are able to access an abortion, and how to access one (indirect referral). Participants did not experience burdens such as long waiting times and were still able to access legal abortion. However, they did experience negative emotional effects, as they were often left feeling scared, angry, and hopeless when they were not referred. Moreover, participants’ views on conscientious objection in the UK varied considerably. The majority supported the most common approach within the literature and in practice, whereby healthcare practitioners can object so long as they refer and inform the service user. However, the opinion that healthcare practitioners should not be allowed to object or should be able to object without referring the service user to another healthcare professional and informing them of their right to an abortion was also evident. The importance of my research lies in elucidating the impact that conscientious objection is having on service users in the UK, and in highlighting service users’ views on conscientious objection.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: abortion; conscientious objection; found poetry; semi structured interviews; narrative interviews; human rights; bioethics
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
Divisions: Nursing & Allied Health
SWORD Depositor: A Symplectic
Date Deposited: 27 Nov 2023 16:15
Last Modified: 27 Nov 2023 16:16
DOI or ID number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00021637
Supervisors: Fleming, V and Maxwell, C
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/21637
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