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The majority of Poles are against conscience clause


Recently almost 3 thousand Polish doctors signed the “Declaration of Faith of Catholic doctors and medical students regarding human sexuality and fertility”. The document states that the human body is sacred and is inviolable from conception to natural death and begins with the words “I believe in one God, the Lord of the Universe, who created males and females in his own image,…, If such a man chooses to violate the basic beliefs of the 10 commandments, by committing acts such as abortion, artificial inception, euthanasia or using contraception, then they reject the Creator himself”. The signatories commit to prioritise the divine law in their professional work.

As the Declaration openly calls for violating reproductive rights, it caused outrage not only within the civil society, but also in Polish society. The result of the latest CBOS survey prove there is low acceptance for this type of action and the doctors’ use of conscience clause.

The survey shows that the majority of Poles do not believe that doctors have the right to deny performing certain medical services due to their personal beliefs. There was even less understanding for the proposed use of conscientious objection by pharmacists, according to which they could refuse to sell prescription drugs, such as contraceptives.

More than half of Poles (52 percent) believe that a doctor cannot, calling upon their own conscience, refuse to perform an abortion in a situation where it is legally allowed. Furthermore, nearly two-thirds of respondents (62%) believe that a doctor cannot even refuse to issue a referral for abortion, when a woman, according to the law, qualifies for such service.

In addition, nearly three-quarters of respondents (73%) believes that even in the so-called conflict of conscience, a doctor cannot refuse to issue a referral for prenatal testing when there is an increased risk of genetic or developmental defect of the fetus. Almost three-fifths of respondents (59%) did not accept the doctor’s denial of the in vitro fertilization treatment, if the couple is eligible for such treatment. The majority of respondents (55%) also believe that the doctor conflict of conscience cannot refuse to prescribe contraceptives, if there are no medical contraindications.

Contrary to what groups wanting to limit women’s access to reproductive health care claim, the level of acceptance for the doctor’s refusal to provide services when they conflict with his conscience is very small – and varies from 12% (in regard to the referral for prenatal testing when there is an increased risk of genetic or developmental defect of the fetus) to 32% (in terms of legal abortion).

The vast majority of respondents (76 percent) is also against the use of a conscience clause for pharmacists. Only 12 percent of respondents would allow for refusing to sell contraceptives when it is against the pharmacist’s conscience. Interestingly, even among those who generally oppose the use of contraception, a clearly dominant view is that the pharmacists should not refuse to sell them (55 percent).

Source: Federation for Women and Family Planning, CBOS survey results

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