Conscientious objection is a human right that is exercised when the content or the duties imposed by a legal regulation is opposed to someone´s ethical norms or moral convictions. The objection, therefore comes into play when there is a clash – sometimes dramatic-between the legal rule which imposes an action and the ethical or moral rule that opposes such action.
When somebody, for ethical, religious or ideological reasons, opts for the “no” to the law, it is because he considers it a duty of conscience (an axiological mechanism), different from the purely psychological approach of the common criminal, who breaks the rule by disgraceful interests. Convictions supporting that objection should settle in a system of values sufficiently consistent and sincere, as set out in the case law of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
It is not an anomaly in the context of democracies and, although it does not have a specific regulation in most of the legal systems, it is considered a derivation of the fundamental right to ideological and religious freedom (art. 16, 1 CE). This has been expressly recognized, by the Constitutional Court as well as to the objectors to militar service, to doctors and other medical staff with regard to abortion.
As for pharmacists, the recognition of this right had not been necessary, in part because until recently there was no chance for them to cooperate in abortion or other ethically comparable practices. The situation has changed with the ECP, which, in many cases, acts as abortifacient; which forces this group to fight for its recognition, as once did doctors.
The context of conscientious objection extends beyond the health field (the penalty of death, torture and other inhumane or degrading practices, the struggle for peace, euthanasia, the defense of the family, freedom of education, etc.), where rules can be enacted or actions can be promoted by the authorities against freedom of conscience.