Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name



Political Science

Degree Program

Political Science, MA

Committee Chair

Merry, Melissa

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Moyer, Laura

Committee Member

Moyer, Laura

Committee Member

Soldat-Jaffe, Tatjana

Author's Keywords

free exercise of religion; medical conscientious objection; medical objection; conscientious objection; religious freedom restoration act


Conscientious objection has a long tradition of legal and social recognition in America. It evolved as a subset of the constitutional free exercise of religion, and encompassed medical practice as well as the military after Roe v. Wade in 1973. Its constitutional protection abruptly changed with a Supreme Court case in 1990. Thereafter, medical conscientious objection – the exemption from performing certain acts by medical professionals – was regulated largely by legislation. Many of the conflicts arose and were resolved at the state level. Yet there is little study at the state level of why conscientious objection is protected or not. After an overview of the legal background to the issue, this thesis examines some factors that influence the enactment of state Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs) and “Must Fill” pharmacy requirements. Using the religion analytical tools of “belonging, believing, and behaving” applied to all 50 states, the thesis concludes that there are strong positive relationships between the religiosity of a state’s population and its enactment of a RFRA, and strong negative relationships between religiosity and the enactment of a “Must Fill” requirement.