Conscientious Objection and Reproductive Health Service Delivery in Sub-Saharan Africa
AbstractLack of access to quality reproductive health services is the main contributor to the high maternal mortality and morbidity in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). This is partly due to a shortage of qualified and experienced health care providers. However conscientious objection amongst the available few is a hitherto undocumented potential factor influencing access to health care in SSA. Provision of certain reproductive health services goes counter to some individual’s religious and moral beliefs and practices. Health providers sometimes refuse to participate in or provide such services to clients/patients on moral and/or religious grounds. While the rights to do so are protected by the principles of freedom of religion, among other documents, their refusal exposes clients/patients to the risk of reproductive health morbidity as well as mortality. Such providers are required to refer the clients/patients to other equally qualified and experienced providers who do not hold similar conscientious objection. Access to high quality and evidence-based reproductive health services by all in need is critical to attaining MDG5. In addressing factors contributing to delay in attaining MDG5 in SSA it is instructive to consider the role of conscientious objection in influencing access to quality reproductive health care services and strategies to address it.
Keywords: Conscientious objection, reproductive health service delivery, impact, sub-Saharan Africa
(Afr J Reprod Health, 2012; 16:15-21)
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