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Conscientious objection in the UK and Italy: a qualitative study of health providers’ perspectives on abortion

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Conscientious objection in health care

Examining the role of conscientious objection on abortion health services in two European countries provides insight into both policy and science.

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The rise in conscientious objection is seen as a contributing factor to the lessening number of abortion providers in public health services in Europe. Whether or not conscientious objection is affecting other forms of abortion services is unknown. To date, there have been few in-depth studies of gynaecologists' practices and outlooks regarding abortion. For instance, there have been only a few conducted in the United Kingdom and none in Italy. The EU-funded CONOB project changed that by exploring the experiences and attitudes of obstetricians–gynaecologists, residents and medical students towards conscientious objection in both countries. Researchers closely examined just how conscientious objection is viewed by professionals and medical students alike. They also explored how it affects abortion training and facilitation in different clinical settings and geographical areas. Furthermore, CONOB investigated influence according to cultural and religious backgrounds and beliefs. It also examined involvement with political, scientific and religious debates on reproductive health and rights. Findings make a significant contribution to the European scientific debate on this topic. By and large they exhibit new data pertinent in anthropological, public health and policy terms with relevance and immediacy of application.


Conscientious objection, health care, abortion, public health services, gynaecologists, obstetricians, medical students, religious debate

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