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Doctors Refusing To Pap Test Unmarried Women

Posted by on Nov. 16, 2009 at 12:34 AM
  • 35 Replies

What do you think about pro-life/anti-choice doctors refusing to prescribe birth control and refusing to perform pap smears on unmarried women?  Their thinking goes like this:  unwed women should not be having sex, so they do not need birth control and they do not need pap smears, since pap smears look for evidence of pre-cancerous growths caused by a sexually transmitted disease (HPV).





Doctors Refuse Pap Test to Unmarried Women, Cite Religious Beliefs

Saturday March 1, 2008

First they came to demand exemptions from abortions, and the government relented. The men in government didn't get abortions and didn't want to make an issue out of it. Then they came to demand exemptions from providing women with contraceptives, and the government relented again. Only unmarried sluts need contraceptives, right? Now doctors want exemptions from providing basic medical tests like pap smears.

Have we finally had enough? Can we finally call a halt to so-called medical "professionals" who are trying to undermine women's health care on the basis of ancient religious dogma? No one is conscripted into the ranks of pharmacists, physicians, or nurses, and those who voluntarily join these professions are not forced into the specialties where they might become involved with women who might annoyingly exercise reproductive autonomy. Why, then, should people who make the conscious and deliberate choice to put themselves in these situations then impose their dogmas on vulnerable women seeking medical care from them?

Pamela Pizarro discusses the revelation by Peggy Cooke, a pro-choice activist in New Brunswick, Canada, that doctors there can refuse to give pap smears to unmarried women:

I contacted Peggy to learn more about what was going on with the doctors refusing to perform pap smears and she responded by saying that in one case it is actually the doctor's receptionist who won't allow her young unmarried friend to make an appointment for a pap smear saying that she is too young and doesn't need one (she was 19 at the time of the incident). The second instance deals with a couple who are doctors, who run a practice together. Known for their religious and anti-choice beliefs, these doctors will not prescribe contraception. The doctor who refused to perform the pap smear works in the same practice.

So when did a test that is used to screen for disease and cancer suddenly become a procedure which doctors can “object” to do? Am I naïve in thinking that pap smears are a medically necessary part of a women’s yearly physical? I wonder if the same doctors refuse men prostate exams on religious grounds, or does morality only apply to women?

Source: Reality Check

When did a basic medical test become something that doctors can object to? When governments gave in to religious lobbying groups that wanted to provide physicians with the power to treat women as less than fully human, less than fully autonomous, and less than fully equal. What we have here are representatives of an outdated patriarchal system presuming to treat women as lesser beings on the basis of assumptions about sexual purity. Women shouldn't be allowed to determine their own futures or take control of their own lives; their existence is justified solely by their ability to reproduce and this, in turn, requires that they remain sexually chaste until marriage — then they must remain sexually available and perpetually open to the possibility of pregnancy. If they attempt to thwart any of this, then they are attempting to thwart the very purpose of their existence.

A pap test is designed to test for precancerous growths and infections regardless of one's sexual activity. Because it is recommended more strongly for women who are sexually active, though, some people think that unmarried women don't need it at all — and are apparently willing to risk these women's lives in the name of standing up for that religious dogma. And why not? Women who are sexually active when they shouldn't be are expected to suffer the negative consequences, including disease and pregnancy. Both disease and pregnancy are consistently treated by anti-choice activists as punishments for illicit behavior; the sexually active women are little more than "sluts" who are getting what they deserve. Why should religiously devout doctors be expected to help women escape their just punishments?

Patricia LaRue, Executive Director at Canadians for Choice, told Pamela Pizarro that doctors in

Canada can refuse to perform absolutely any procedure or test if they claim to have a religious objection to it. It's not just prescriptions for birth control or abortions they can refuse to provide — and now pap smears — but absolutely any part of what would otherwise be considered basic medical care. Women's ability to obtain basic medical services — and make no mistake about it, this affects almost solely women — is held hostage to the religious dogmas created by middle-eastern peasants several millennia ago.

Technically, doctors are supposed to tell patients when they are refusing to do something on the basis of personal religious dogma, but not all do. Patients can't necessarily know when it's happening and, even if they do suspect, many aren't willing to speak out. Doctors are also legally required to give women referrals to other doctors who will provide basic medical care, but once again many don't because that can be regarded as illicit complicity in a moral evil — no less objectionable than providing the service directly oneself.

I don't dispute the idea that if providing the service is morally wrong, then helping the person obtain the same service elsewhere is at least pretty close to being just as morally wrong. If a person is going to get an exemption for the first, it's tough to justify why they should be forced to do the second. The law tries to justify this on the basis of the needs of the patient, but if that's a strong enough reason to force a doctor to help the woman obtain the service elsewhere, then it should be a strong enough reason to force the doctor to provide the service — or get out of that aspect of healthcare entirely.

by on Nov. 16, 2009 at 12:34 AM
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by on Nov. 16, 2009 at 12:37 AM

 Comming from someone who doesnt believe in marriage & will never be married ... i think thats horrible! ...

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by Emerald Member on Nov. 16, 2009 at 12:42 AM

I wonder if these doctors have daughters of their own, and I wonder how they feel about them not getting proper medical care.....

by on Nov. 16, 2009 at 12:49 AM

Well I think thats pretty messed up, but if thats their religious views, they have the right to practice them. 



by on Nov. 16, 2009 at 12:55 AM

why become a GYN if you aren't going to examine and help patients? It's the wrong medical field.

So long as they have a sign or let every new patient know their stance I don't care though: they will eventually lose business.

by the way.. cervical cancer can happen in women without hpv.. if doctors don't check for that, he's an idiot.

by on Nov. 16, 2009 at 12:57 AM

i think they are going to lose a lot of patients..and some other doctor will glady take the patients money. 

by Gold Member on Nov. 16, 2009 at 1:01 AM

 that is absurd.  I was under the impression that once a young lady started having menstrual cycles she needed to start getting annual pap smears.


by Ruby Member on Nov. 16, 2009 at 1:04 AM

lol, okay so I think that is totally over the top. That said the doctor is allowed his or her beliefs I guess.

by on Nov. 16, 2009 at 1:07 AM

It may not seem right, but I do believe that Doctor's should have the right to decide who they grant treatment to.  Philosophical or religious reasons are definitely a part of that.  If by any chance there is few doctors in a small and isolated place, there at least needs to be a call line where women can seek assistance to find another provider.

by on Nov. 16, 2009 at 1:08 AM

Well i'm a christian and i do believe that people should be married before having sex (and yes, i did wait until marriage) but honestly i think the doctors are going too far. they should be giving women the medical care they need. And as far as birth they really want MORE babies being aborted from those women who don't want them but can't get birth control from their doctors?!

by on Nov. 16, 2009 at 1:10 AM

ONLY A LIL OFF TOPIC HERE..thsi whole HPV just that..there are WARTS that are an STD! then there is HPV from having a baby! Its called CELL CHANGES we ALL get them...its a big deal now thats the only difference i dont know anyone with out HPV!!!

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