Invoking Conscientious Objection in Reproductive Health Care: Evolving Issues in Peru, Mexico and Chile

Posted: 3 Feb 2010  

Lidia C. Casas

Universidad Diego Portales


As Latin American countries seek to guarantee sexual and reproductive health and rights, opponents of women's rights and reproductive choice have become more strident in their opposition, and are increasingly claiming conscientious objection to providing these services. Conscientious objection must be seen in the context of the rights and interests at stake, including women's health needs and right to self-determination. An analysis of law and policy on conscientious objection in Peru, Mexico and Chile shows that it is being used to erode women's rights, especially where it is construed to have no limits, as in Peru. Conscientious objection must be distinguished from politically-motivated attempts to undermine the law; otherwise, the still fragile re-democratisation processes underway in Latin America may be placed at risk. True conscientious objection requires that a balance be struck between the rights of the objector and the health rights of patients, in this case women. Health care providers are entitled to their beliefs and to have those beliefs accommodated, but it is neither viable nor ethically acceptable for conscientious objectors to exercise this right without regard for the right to health care of others, or for policy and services to be rendered ineffectual because of individual objectors.

Keywords: Conscientious Objection, Women’s Human Rights, Reproductive Health Services, Chil, Mexico, Peru, Latin America

Suggested Citation

Casas, Lidia C., Invoking Conscientious Objection in Reproductive Health Care: Evolving Issues in Peru, Mexico and Chile. Reproductive Health Matters, Vol. 17, No. 34, pp. 78-87, November 2009. Available at SSRN:

Lidia C. Casas (Contact Author)

Universidad Diego Portales ( email )

Santiago, Santiag

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