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Right Conscience – Conscience Rights

December 30th, 2008 • Contributed by Lon Newman
Posted in: Abortion, Abstinence, Action, Birth Control, Emergency Contraception, Policy, Sex Ed

Digg This!

As the fable goes, an eagle is brought to earth by an arrow fletched with his own feathers.

Listening to the spokesperson for Pro-Life Wisconsin as he defended the new ‘right of conscience’ regulations on Wisconsin Public Radio last week reminded me of the wisdom of the tale.

For 30 years, regulations and federal laws have struck a delicate balance between the rights of patients to receive health care and the rights of health care providers. The new regulations, issued by Health and Human Services Secretary Leavitt, expand the rights of health care providers so extensively that the rights of the patient to receive care are obliterated. The new regulations give the right to refuse to provide health care to all virtually all employees for any health care service they might ‘morally object to.’

Matt Sande, speaking on behalf of Pro-Life Wisconsin, defended the broadest possible right to refuse saying: “These rights aren’t qualified in any way. That’s as it should be. We just have to work around it. We may not understand or agree with an individual’s objection, but we must protect and defend them. . . If we pick and choose which rights we protect, then we won’t have rights for anyone.”

Would this right to refuse apply to physicians who provide abortion services in South Dakota who have been required by state law to inform their patients that terminating a pregnancy is ending a separate, unique human life and that consequences may include depression and suicide? These physicians certainly have moral objections to the content of that message. Health and Human Services Secretary Leavitt has said that, where state laws and the rights of conscience regulations are in conflict, the federal government will help “bring the state into compliance.”

Would volunteers at federally funded abstinence-only “crisis pregnancy centers” have federal civil rights protection for refusing to give out inaccurate and incomplete information [Waxman Report] about the effectiveness of condoms to prevent pregnancy and HIV transmission? As he described patients who ‘may have to go somewhere else,” Mr. Sande said; “One person’s convenience should not trump another person’s right of conscience.”

The moral of the fable is that we are often the source of our own destruction.

The first weakness of the ‘rights of conscience’ regulation expansion is an assumption that only anti-abortion and anti-family planning advocates have moral convictions. The probability that health care employees will refuse to comply with anti-choice or anti-contraception requirements has been overlooked.

The second weakness is a faith-based denial that absolute rights do not exist on this earth. Individual rights require constant, vigilant, rational and empathic balancing. Whether it is the right of a patient to informed consent or the right of the state to protect a fetus, purity is an impossible standard.

The Obama administration must immediately refuse to enforce these regulations and Congress must immediately begin the process to rescind them. In this case, ideologues have given their enemies the means of their own destruction and the regulations must be brought to earth.

One Comments

  1. Susan said:

    And how often do we hear of a young mother–beside herself–depressed and commits suicide or is at the brink of that disaster. Or the pregnant woman who can’t see a way out and commits suicide rather than bring another life into the world. Every situation is unique–and health care workers should not be the judge and jury, but provide the necessary services.

    January 6th, 2009 at 1:50 am #

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