November 19, 2008

Riddle Me This...

Hatched by Dafydd

The Bush administration has provoked a "furor" by promulgating a new rule designed to protect health-care professionals from being forced to perform or assist in abortions, sterilizations, or other medical procedures that might shock their consciences:

The proposed rule would prohibit recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses and other health care workers who refuse to perform or to assist in the performance of abortions or sterilization procedures because of their "religious beliefs or moral convictions."

It would also prevent hospitals, clinics, doctors' offices and drugstores from requiring employees with religious or moral objections to "assist in the performance of any part of a health service program or research activity" financed by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Opponents of the new rule offer two main objections:

  1. First, that it's unnecessary and duplicative, as federal law already protects such employees. "Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 already prohibits employment discrimination based on religion, [Reed] Russell said, and the courts have defined 'religion' broadly to include 'moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong, which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views.'" [Russell is legal counsel to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.]
  2. And second, that it would deny women access to abortions. "[President-elect Barack] Obama has said the proposal will raise new hurdles to women seeking reproductive health services, like abortion and some contraceptives."

Perhaps I'm just being unusually dense today, but -- don't those two arguments completely contradict one another?

If federal law already protects health workers' right to refuse to participate in abortions, some contraceptive procedures, and human research if they have "religious or moral objections;" if that is already the law, and this rule adds nothing; then how can the rule possibly "raise new hurdles?"

I have the distinct impression that in fact, argument number 2 is correct, while argument 1 is simply made up on the spot to try to make the rule appear redundant. The article itself says as much, though not so clearly:

Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, said that in recent years, "we have seen a variety of efforts to force Catholic and other health care providers to perform or refer for abortions and sterilizations."

But the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, 28 senators, more than 110 representatives and the attorneys general of 13 states have urged the Bush administration to withdraw the proposed rule.

Pharmacies said the rule would allow their employees to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives and could "lead to Medicaid patients being turned away." State officials said the rule could void state laws that require insurance plans to cover contraceptives and require hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims.

The Ohio Health Department said the rule "could force family planning providers to hire employees who may refuse to do their jobs" - a concern echoed by Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

In other words, no matter what federal law says, in practice, the right of medical workers to refuse to perform tasks that violate their religious or moral precepts is not really universal; it only applies in a very narrow set of circumstances that usually leaves the religious health-care provider unable to refuse to perform the "procedure." Once again, I believe the pro-abortion Left is being disingenuous to the point of mendacity.

As it happens, I support abortion rights -- up until a particular point of foetal development which usually occurs near the beginning of the third trimester; prior to that development, I don't consider the nascent human being to be a "person" who has any rights. My objection to fraudulent rhetoric is not a back-door scheme to outlaw all abortions; I want to see abortion unfettered until that developmental point. Any conservative worth his Saltines would call me "pro-abortion," and I wouldn't object.

But I despise argument by hysteria, argument by "noble falsehood," and argument by tendentious befuddlement... each of which I see being used by the pro-abortion side in this donnybrook.

Here is the real argument opponents of the new regulation have, and I wish they would just straightforwardly make it, instead of resorting to subterfuge:

The [Connecticut] state attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, said the proposed regulation "would blow apart solutions and compromises that have been reached by people of good will in Connecticut and elsewhere."

This is a very reasonable argument, and honest and well-informed people can stake out either side of it. One can argue that abortion is such a contentious issue, with disputants disagreeing on when personhood or even human life begins, that it should only be resolved by compromise at the state level. Or one could argue that if, in fact, a foetus is morally equivalent to a born baby, then there can be no compromise about abortion... which in this formulation is tantamount to infanticide. The beauty of federalism is that different states can come down on different sides.

But sooner or later -- and it's been 35 years since Roe v. Wade first "blew apart solutions and compromises" that people of good will had hammered out -- our society is going to have to grab the bull by the tail and look the facts in the face: We must eventually decide the epistemological question of how we are to decide, in a case by case, state by state basis, whether a particular pregnancy is a person with the right to life... or a living but dependent entity that has not yet attained personhood, and therefore has no rights.

Until we hold that national dialog (in individual states), we will continue to straddle the barbed-wire fence... which is a very painful, not to mention awkward and perilous, social posture to maintain. And that means the courts must get the hell out of the way and allow the democratic branches of government to do their jobs.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 19, 2008, at the time of 4:53 AM

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The following hissed in response by: David M

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 11/19/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

The above hissed in response by: David M [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 19, 2008 9:42 AM

The following hissed in response by: BigLeeH

This is one of those issues where the militantly secular left uses the issue of government funding to drive a wedge between the essentially libertarian free-traders on the right and the traditionalist/religious right. Normally, the libertarian theorists would support the doctors and hospitals who wish to avoid offering services they consider immoral -- on the theory that it's their hospital and they ought to get to set its policies. But once the hospital starts to accept government funds the libertarians, understandably, start to lose sympathy. He who pays the fiddler calls the tune, and it strikes the libertarians as only fair that when hospitals line up at the public trough they have to follow the government's rules. They see the pain felt by religious medical facilities as a incentive for them to stay off the government budget -- and as fair punishment if they don't.

The problem is that there is a tipping point where the government has vacuumed up enough of the money available for a particular activity that it is very difficult to do business without accepting some of it. Religious hospitals have two primary goals: to heal the sick and to support their faith. They may support limiting the size of government but that's not a key element in their agenda, nor should it be. It is silly to expect them to go out of business on principle rather than take government money if the non-government money has all been confiscated.

I know many, otherwise conservative people who lose all sympathy for the latest target of government oppression when they hear that the people in the crosshairs "take government money." Oh well, they say, if they want to do X then they shouldn't accept federal funding (where X is some minor excursion from political correctness). But there comes a point where the government is so ubiquitous that that is like saying that people can't follow their own consciences if they are going to continue to breathe the federal air.

The above hissed in response by: BigLeeH [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 19, 2008 10:03 AM

The following hissed in response by: antimedia

I don't believe that an employee should have the right to refuse to perform a service or sell a product based upon their personal beliefs. If they oppose engaging in activities that support abortion, then they should not work for businesses that do engage in that support.

However, I think the owner of a business, be that a medical clinic, an individual doctor or a private hospital, a pharmaceutical chain or privately-owned drug store has every right in the world to refuse to engage in such activities, and no amount of government regulation should prevent them from doing so.

Of course, in the real world we live in, it's a moot point. Try explaining to the owner of a private bar or restaurant why he or she is not allowed to permit smoking in their establishment, even though they own the place.

The fact is we have allowed government to insert itself into our lives to the point that we no longer have true freedom. We have a cheap facsimile made to delude people into thinking they are free when in fact they are enslaved by the state. Property rights are now meaningless. The "greater good of society" is all that matters, and the true believers will brook no dissent.

The above hissed in response by: antimedia [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 19, 2008 10:41 AM

The following hissed in response by: Xpressions

That should be their right, and the liberal illuminati should respect it, like people respect their pro-choice views.

The above hissed in response by: Xpressions [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 27, 2008 9:06 AM

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