Protection of Conscience Project
Protection of Conscience Project
Service, not Servitude

Service, not Servitude

Abortion and Conscientious Objection

Nucleus, January, 1999
Christian Medical Fellowship (United Kingdom)
Reproduced with permission

Peter Saunders*

A third of junior doctors are refusing on moral grounds to perform abortions according to a study conducted by the Abortion Law Reform Association (ALRA).[1]In some NHS hospitals all juniors have exercised their right to conscientious objection under the 1968 Abortion Act.

David Paintin, emeritus reader in gynaecology and obstetrics at Imperial College, London, has commented that 'a much wider range of junior doctors are saying that (abortion) is something they don't want to do' because 'they find the idea of the work distasteful'. Jane Roe, campaign manager of the ALRA, has accused the doctors of taking the easy way out.

In 1947 the British Medical Association affirmed the Hippocratic Oath (which forbids abortion) and referred to 'co-operation in the destruction of life by murder, suicide, and abortion' as 'the greatest crime'.

In the 50 years since, however, doctors' involvement in abortion has become first optional and now expected. While some may like to see it become compulsory, this survey of 310 consultants and 226 registrars and senior house officers, may indicate that the tide is beginning to turn.

CMF members have been among those who have sought the protection of the conscientious objection clause over the last thirty years.[2]


1. Norton C. Young doctors refuse abortions. Sunday Times 1998; November 15

2. Saunders P. Abortion and Conscientious Objection. Nucleus 1996; January:9-14