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In the context of health care, a conscience clause (also known as a refusal clause) allows a health care provider to decline to provide a service he or she believes would violate his or her personal ethics or beliefs. While some historians trace the conscience clause in health care back to the 19th century, when the category of “conscientious objector” allowed individuals to avoid serving in the military based on their personal beliefs, a more proximate cause is the change in abortion laws in the United States following the U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade in 1973. This decision overturned most state laws restricting or banning abortion and set strict limits on how states could regulate or prohibit abortion from that time forward. In ...

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