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Outlawing Conscience: Why We Need a Conscience Clause


Heather Williams spent five years working as a pharmacist at a Target store in St. Louis. During that time, Target accommodated Williamss desire not to take part in dispensing the morning-after pill the drug that causes the abortion of an embryonic human being. But then Planned Parenthood threatened to boycott the Target chain over Williamss employment so Target fired her.

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Now, there are more than three hundred other pharmacies in St. Louis. So this was not a matter of great public concern. Pharmacists are not the only health-care providers under attack for obeying the demands of their conscience. Catholic hospitals are pressured to offer abortion services. And at some medical schools, students are told it’s not enough to learn how to remove a deceased fetus from a patient: They must also take part in the abortion of live fetuses — even though they are learning nothing new, because the procedure is identical. The reason? It’s indoctrination.

Now, here’s the great irony: These attacks on pharmacists are coming at the very time that the California Medical Association is attempting to bar doctors from getting involved in death-row executions — even if the doctors have no objections to taking part. You can’t kill murderers, but you must kill babies. Health-care providers, it appears, are allowed to have a conscience, so long as those consciences object only to politically correct moral evils.

Some observers, like the Washington Post, argue that the moral objections of pharmacists must be sacrificed if they interfere in medical decisions made between doctors and patients. This argument is both ethically confused and false. For every pharmacist who refuses to dispense the morning-after pill, there are hundreds who will. So what is really going on here?

That is why it’s not enough for abortion promoters that the morning-after pill is legal and readily available. In order to live with their own consciences, they need unanimous assent that abortion is a moral good. And that means silencing those whose words and actions testify otherwise.

What’s going on is an effort to silence any reminder, any public witness, that abortion is a moral evil, an offense against God. On some level, you see, abortion advocates know that killing unborn children is wrong. In Romans, Paul says that even the pagans know God’s moral law because it is “written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness.” Those who become incensed at the witness of people like Heather Williams are caught up in the age-old rebellion of the human race against its Creator. They cannot bear even the mention of the God whom they have rejected, or of His laws.

That is why it’s not enough for abortion promoters that the morning-after pill is legal and readily available. In order to live with their own consciences, they need unanimous assent that abortion is a moral good. And that means silencing those whose words and actions testify otherwise.

But freedom of conscience goes to the very heart our form of free government. This is why we need legislation to protect the rights of those who object to getting involved, not only in abortion, but in embryonic research, cloning, assisted suicide, and assisted reproduction.

You can find out what your own state needs to do to protect the conscience rights of health-care workers by visiting our BreakPoint website ( And explain to your neighbors what’s really going on when abortion advocates try to shut down those who act out of conscience: Those who do are an uncomfortable reminder to others that they are violating the most basic laws of God and of human decency


For further reading and information:

Today’s BreakPoint offer: The Cost of ‘Choice’: Women Evaluate the Impact of Abortion by Erika Bachiochi, ed.

See Americans United for Life’s information page on “Health Care Rights of Conscience Model Legislation.”

See the website for The Protection of Conscience Project.

Pharmacist Conscience Clauses: Laws and Legislation,” National Conference of State Legislatures, updated March 2006.

Dahlia Lithwick, “Wal-Mart and the Death Penalty,” Washington Post, 26 February 2006, B03.

Marc Kaufman, “Plan B Battles Embroil States,” Washington Post, 27 February 2006, A01.

Ellen Goodman, “Dispensing Morality,” Washington Post, 9 April 2005, A23.

Janet Heimlich, “Texas Considers ‘Conscience Clause’ for Pharmacists,” All Things Considered, NPR, 5 April 2005.

Stacy Forster, “Lawmakers Push for ‘Conscience Causes’,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 6 March 2005.

‘Conscience Clause’ Laws Weigh Moral Values,”, 29 August 2005.

Carol Hogan, “Conscience Clauses and the Challenge of Cooperation in a Pluralistic Society,” California Catholic Conference, February 2003.

BreakPoint Commentary No. 050426, “Hassle-Free Tyranny: Pharmacies and Our Religious Freedom.”



Charles Colson. "Outlawing Conscience: Why We Need a Conscience Clause." BreakPoint Commentary March 20, 2006.

The Author

Charles Colson launched Prison Fellowship in 1976, following a seven-month prison sentence for Watergate-related crimes. Since then, Prison Fellowship has flourished into a U.S. ministry of 50,000 volunteers and has spread to more then 50 countries. Beyond his prison ministry, Colson is a Christian author, speaker, and commentator, who regularly confronts contemporary values from a biblically informed perspective. His "BreakPoint" radio commentaries now air daily across the U.S. and he has written 14 books, including Loving God, Answers to Your Kids' Questions, The Line Between Right & Wrong: Developing a Personal Code of Ethics, Against the Night: Living in the New Dark Ages, and How Now Shall We Live: A Study Guide.

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