Healthcare Ethics in the Era of Dobbs v Jackson
(The Overturning of Roe v Wade)
By Tarris (Terry) Rosell, PhD, DMin
Rosemary Flanigan Chair at the Center for Practical Bioethics
The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Dobbs v Jackson decision overturning Roe v Wade has resulted in a barrage of emotions. One feels either outrage or celebration or confusion, depending on perspectives, convictions, commitments, and personal experiences. In the midst of emotions reside ethically complex questions requiring sober thoughtfulness and civil discourse. What happens now? What should be done? And is there any common ground upon which we might stand together as an otherwise divided society? I believe there are matters of morality related to pregnancy on which we all might agree. These are summed up in the following five statements.
1) Healthcare professionals ought to continue providing the best care possible for their patients—all of them. No patient should be harmed or die in the confusion resulting from changes to federal, state, or institutional rules pertaining to pregnancy or the termination of a pregnancy.
2) Societal leaders ought to develop and support laws and policies that are sufficiently nuanced as to result in the best care possible for all patients. This means avoiding the sort of collateral damage that comes from insufficiently nuanced laws and policies which fail to take into account the diversity of situations facing women of child-bearing age.
3) Evidence and experience will demonstrate that the best prevention for problem pregnancies includes funded policies that reduce poverty, offering accessible and affordable prenatal and pediatric healthcare, providing generous parental leave, and ensuring quality childcare options for working parents. We ought to advocate for and support such measures as moral imperative.
4) As societies, secular and religious institutions, and individual citizens, we ought to be committed to the care and welfare of all children, and those who birth them, ensuring their wellness by all means necessary.
5) Given that there are diverse perspectives, convictions, and commitments regarding the morals of pregnancy, we ought to promote and practice mutual respect for difference, including the right of conscientious compliance or refusal.
In the era of Dobbs v Jackson, these are morals on which we all might stand.