Conscience Clauses

Society for Humanistic Judaism Speaks Out Against Conscience Clauses


As Humanistic Jews, we believe that every individual and family has the right to make their own choices about reproductive healthcare including contraception, sterilization, and abortion (hereinafter referred to as “reproductive healthcare”).


As Humanistic Jews, we rely upon evidence-based medicine to promote responsible reproductive healthcare policies.


As Humanistic Jews, we believe that healthcare institutions (defined as including but not limited to insurers, managed-care providers, hospitals, pharmacies) should not be able to use religion as a way to deny legitimate and lawful reproductive healthcare and accurate medical information concerning reproductive healthcare to patients who do not share the same religious or moral beliefs.


As Humanistic Jews, we believe that the employees of religious-affiliated institutions (defined as including but not limited to universities, hospitals and faith-based charities) should have equal access to reproductive healthcare as those employees who do not work for religious-affiliated institutions.


As Humanistic Jews, we recognize that individual health care providers, including doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, should not be forced to participate in certain healthcare practices such as abortion, contraception (e.g. morning-after pill), or sterilization procedures that violate their own religious or moral views; yet, we believe that all patients should nonetheless have meaningful access to lawful reproductive healthcare and accurate information concerning such, and should not be prevented or impeded from access due to the religious beliefs of others.


As Humanistic Jews, we are concerned about the expanded use of “conscience clauses” or “refusal clauses” in legislation and throughout the regulatory process that go beyond protecting the religious and moral beliefs of individual healthcare providers and instead act as a way for institutions as a whole, such as faith-based charitable institutions (e.g. food banks, youth organizations, nursing homes, social service agencies, shelters) or religiously-affiliated hospitals, to refuse or impede access to reproductive healthcare to all individuals, including their employees where applicable.


As Humanistic Jews, we are concerned that when a healthcare institution asserts its own “conscience-based” refusal to provide lawful services, it violates the rights and needs of individual patients and their families who may not adhere to the religious or moral-based views of the institution, and who may consider the lawful services the institution is denying to be medically necessary and consistent with their own moral and/or religious code.


As Humanistic Jews, we recognize that patients generally have only one affordable option for health care, usually linked to employment or retirement, and that patients’ reproductive healthcare options and access to accurate medical information concerning such should not be limited or restricted by the religious beliefs of institutions.


THEREFORE, be it resolved that:


  • If an individual healthcare provider such as a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist has a moral or religious objection to providing reproductive healthcare, then a timely referral must be made to another doctor, pharmacist, or medical institution so that the patient can access the same reproductive healthcare in a safe and convenient manner.
  • All religious-affiliated institutions should have to abide by generally applicable healthcare regulatory laws about providing reproductive healthcare to individuals, although any individual healthcare provider can opt out of performing any reproductive service if a timely and meaningful referral is made (as discussed above).
  • Institutions operating with public funds and serving the public such as faith-based charities and religiously-affiliated hospitals should never be allowed to impose institutional beliefs about reproductive healthcare on individuals.
  • While religious-affiliated institutions remain free to oppose certain birth control methods and medical procedures such as abortion, that opposition should not translate into a lack of meaningful access to lawful reproductive healthcare options for their employees.
  • Accordingly, we, the Society for Humanistic Judaism, support an inclusive system that facilitates healthcare opportunities for individuals of all religious or moral beliefs. Thus, we oppose “conscience clauses” that allow religious-affiliated institutions as a whole, as opposed to individual healthcare providers, to be exempt from generally applicable requirements mandating reproductive healthcare services to individuals or employees.


— February 12, 2012