Thursday, March 26, 2009

It Was Never About Choice

Imagine that the President of the United States created a program whereby doctors would be randomly chosen from within their communities to assist in the execution of prisoners. In cooperation with state governors who added similar plans, the nation would require all doctors and nurses to register to participate in these executions either by administering the lethal injection, monitoring the death, signing the death certificate, or otherwise facilitating in the process of ending the life of a convicted criminal. If a doctor or nurse were to be selected to help kill a prisoner, he/she would have no recourse--he/she would have to help, or face being fired, fined, and having his/her medical license terminated.

Imagine, further, a public sentiment that was overwhelmingly in favor of prisoner execution, so much so that these killings took place on a daily basis. At any time, any person who practiced medicine in any capacity might be summoned, and it was just too bad if he/she conscientiously objected to the death penalty. De facto approval of the death penalty would be a requirement for being a doctor or a nurse, and anyone who disapproved would be held to be unworthy to practice medicine in the first place.

That is exactly the situation that is about to happen--exactly, except that it is the unborn who are being killed. And doctors and nurses who object to these killings and refuse to participate in them are bracing to face the consequences:

The Obama administration will soon face a decision, bound to be controversial, on how to balance two important principles: freedom of conscience for healthcare workers versus unfettered access to healthcare, especially reproductive services.

Should physicians, for instance, be able to decline to provide birth control services, without referring patients to other providers? Can an emergency-room doctor who believes that emergency contraception is morally wrong refuse to tell a rape victim that it is available?

In its 11th hour, the Bush administration last December issued a "conscience rule" to protect healthcare providers who decline to participate in services they find morally objectionable, such as abortion. That regulation would cut off federal funding to state and local governments, hospitals, clinics, and other entities that fail to accommodate workers' beliefs.

The Obama administration announced its intent to rescind the rule, but it is seeking public comment by April 9 before making a final decision. President Obama has pledged to seek common ground on contentious "life" issues.

Several federal laws have been passed since the 1970s to protect conscientious objection in healthcare, but women's health advocates and other groups say the new rule goes beyond the laws in ways that could limit access to services and endanger women's health. The attorneys general of seven states also filed suit to block its implementation.

Religious conservatives, in turn, insist the rule is essential because healthcare workers, they say, are increasingly pressured, penalized, or fired for exercising their conscience right.

The Christian Medical and Dental Associations (CMDA) highlights examples on its website, including doctors who say they were forced out or had to resign from jobs because they refused to give contraceptives to unmarried women, or to refer patients to others for abortions.

More information and videos are here, at the USCCB website.

We're seeing increasing hostility in America toward anyone who lives according to traditional religious values. Catholics make an easy target: everyone knows what Catholics are supposed to believe, and despite the numbers of "I'm Catholic, But..."s out there there are still a lot of us who take our Church's teachings on the sanctity of life very seriously. But in addition to Catholics, sincere Christians with traditional understandings of morality from many different denominations are under fire as well; the degree to which a Christian is likely to find himself or herself at odds with the culture--and maybe, for those in healthcare, soon, the law--is directly proportional to the degree to which his or her own deeply held beliefs reflect the moral understandings of two thousand years of Christian history.

But this is an unprecedented attempt by the government to interfere with religion. And it matches a growing refrain I've heard in conversations about abortion, gay marriage, and the like, especially those held at Crunchy Cons where many of the commenters do not adhere to traditional Christian morality. It is this: "Sure, you should be free to practice your religion. And you are. You can go to church every Sunday (or synagogue every Saturday, or mosque every Friday, etc.). Nobody will tell you what you can or can't do in your church or place of worship. But when you leave the church building, you have to live according to the law--and the law says abortion is legal, morning after pills are legal, gay marriage (in two states anyway) is legal--so if you don't want to have anything to do with these, don't work in health care, don't work in the wedding industry, don't work for a corporation, etc. If you do, though, then you have to park your religion at the door, and do whatever the law allows; your religious freedom doesn't trump everybody else's freedom to go to Hell in the manner of their choice. You say your religion refuses to allow you to help other people commit serious sins? Too bad--find another job."

This is, of course, diametrically opposed to every sane understanding of religious liberty. The idea that freedom of religion means only the freedom to worship, but then requires the believer to violate his conscience in favor of any or all of the evil laws of the body politic, is noxious to anyone who believes in the concept of religious freedom.

Increasingly, though, in America, freedom of religion means freedom from religion. There is a notion that the unbeliever's freedom to remain un-bothered by religious behavior on the part of believers trumps any right the believer has to avoid committing sin and strive to follow God, to love Him with his whole heart, his whole mind, his whole soul, and his whole strength, and to love his neighbor as himself.

But if we love our neighbor, we cannot, must not, help him to sin. If we do so accidentally or inadvertently it is not a sin for us, though we might mourn it sincerely--but if we deliberately and freely choose to help our neighbor to sin we have sinned, and have, if the matter is serious, jeopardized our own soul as well as his.

For the medical professional, the dilemma is very real: they are not free to refuse to help the person sin, but are being coerced with threats of fines, punishments, firing--even losing their ability to practice medicine, and thus to earn their livelihoods, altogether. Yet against these dire temporal consequences they have to weigh God's law, their horror at abortion and especially at being asked to help procure one in some way, and their awareness of the deep injustice of their situation, in which people who have no business asking them to violate their consciences are actually demanding that they do so.

That this could happen in America betrays the pro-abortion lie, that abortion is all about "the right to choose." The right of religious people to choose not to kill the innocent unborn must be trampled underfoot so that the false and wicked "right" to "choose" to murder babies via abortion can prevail. Any true freedom that interferes with this diabolical "right" must be abrogated or eradicated; abortion becomes a kind of "super-right" while the ordinary right to act according to the dictates of one's own conscience is stripped away.

The "right to choose" is about to become the duty to kill. And God help those who will stand up and refuse; God help us all.

1 comment:

Ann said...

Well put once again. My husband is one of those ER docs who won't prescribe the morning after pill. He could lose is livelihood. We all need to make sure we contact our legislators and let them know how we feel. Doing nothing but complaining will only make it worse. Let's act people.