Conscience exemption laws, which permit refusals of service based on personal or religious belief, echo the formal equality approach embodied in antidiscrimination laws. They attempt to promote individual religious autonomy without taking into consideration the power and information disparities between institutional and individual actors and the harm that refusals can cause. Martha Fineman's vulnerability theory turns formal equality on its head by
dismantling our conception of independent individuals, who are freely able to achieve equal outcomes if they are treated alike, and by explaining that the shared vulnerability of all people requires a responsive state to address unequal access to resources that improve resiliency.
Sarah M. Stephens,
Freedom from Religion: A Vulnerability Theory Approach to Restricting Conscience Exemptions in Reproductive Healthcare,
Yale J.L. & Feminism
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjlf/vol29/iss1/3