Prescriptions Denied

ByDan Harris

RICHLAND, Pa., Nov. 17, 2006 — -- After Tara Harnish was raped outside her home in rural Pennsylvania, she felt victimized again when she went to the hospital and was refused the morning-after pill.

Her doctor, Martin Gish, said emergency contraception violated his religious beliefs, leaving Harnish to find another doctor for the prescription.

Harnish said her reason for wanting the pill was clear. "Who wants to carry their rapist's baby? Who wants to do that?" said Harnish.

Gish declined an interview with ABC News but told a local newspaper that this case created a dilemma for him as he weighed Harnish's distress against the rights of the life that may have been conceived when she was raped.

Dr. Cynthia Jones-Nosacek supported Gish's decision, and is part of an increasingly vocal group of Christian doctors who call themselves conscientious objectors. They refuse to provide abortions, sterilizations and contraception.

"I think a doctor should have the right not to be forced to practice medicine in a way that would go against their moral beliefs," Jones-Nosacek said.

In other cases, doctors have refused to remove ventilators or feeding tubes from terminally ill patients, and refused to prescribe Viagra to unmarried men.

In California, Lupita Benitez is suing a doctor who wouldn't give her fertility treatments because she's a lesbian. "I believe they are playing the role of God by deciding 'you can have children; you can't,'" Benitez said.

She then found another doctor who agreed to help her give birth to her son, Gabriel.

In 49 out of 50 states, laws protect doctors who refuse to administer certain treatments because of their religious beliefs. But some states now debate whether these doctors can be fired.

"I think the patient has the right to expect the best care available but also to expect that a doctor has certain moral beliefs," Jones-Nosacek said.

And those moral beliefs may be increasingly challenged as medical technology advances, creating new collisions between patients' rights and their doctors' religious freedom.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events