Bush: One More Way to Screw Women? Do It!

President Bush is physically and mentally incapable of passing on a chance to screw somebody over.  Doing so in the waning months of his presidency through “Midnight Regulations” is like an early Christmas for him.

Take, for example, the proposed rule “Ensuring That Department of Health and Human Services Funds Do Not Support Coercive or Discriminatory Policies or Practices In Violation of Federal Law.”

Well, that sounds innocuous.  No one likes coercion or discrimination!

But what should this rule turn out to be, than a vehicle to allow certain Christians the right to refuse reproductive health services to women in any and every conceivable scenario?

Funny, the title of the rule doesn’t mention this.  The description fails to clearly identify the groups whose rights are being expanded, and the groups whose rights are shrinking.  And… there are already several federal laws in place protecting “conscientious objectors” from being coerced into performing medical services they deem unethical or immoral, including the Church Amendments, section 245 of the Public Health Services Act and the Wheldon Amendment.

Why would we need another regulation to do the same thing?  That’s were this proposed rule gets interesting.  From the text of the rule: “There appears to be an attitude toward the health care professions that health care professionals and institutions should be required to provide or assist in the provision of medicine or procedures to which they object, or else risk being subjected to discrimination.”  “Appears to be”?  What is that?  Somebody’s casual observation or anecdotal knowledge of an “attitude” they don’t like is enough to require presidential action?  That sounds… odd.

“In general, the Department is concerned that the development of an environment in the health care field that is intolerant of individual conscience, certain religious beliefs, ethnic and cultural traditions, and moral convictions may discourage individuals from diverse backgrounds from entering health care professions.”  Uh huh, suddenly we care about “ethnic traditions” and diversity in the health care field.  Right.  We all know the crap that’s about to follow is going to actually be about protecting a certain segment of the Christian community.  Anything else is incidental.

Oddly, though the precedents cited in the proposed rule are all related to abortion and sterilization, this rule doesn’t actually specify that it only applies to these things.  Instead, “…we propose that the term “health service program” should be understood to include an activity related in any way to providing medicine, health care, or any other service related to health or wellness…”

And this ain’t just about doctors: “…the Department proposes to include participation in any activity with a reasonable connection to the objectionable procedure, including referrals, training, and other arrangements for offending procedures.  For example… an employee whose task it is to clean the instruments used in a particular procedure would be considered to assist in the performance of the particular procedure.”

So as you can see, this means that anyone with even the most tenuous connection to a given health service can refuse to perform just about any health service in any situation so long as they say they object to it on religious grounds. And if they object to a certain health service, they will not even be required to refer their patient to someone who can provide the service. It isn’t hard to imagine scenarios where lives could be at stake with these shenanigans.

This ain’t just about abortion any more.  If this rule goes into effect, anybody can object to participating in any part of any health service provision and expect to keep their job.  I wonder if certain groups of people, with members of said group currently in political power, will disproportionately enjoy the effects of this rule?  I wonder if certain groups of people, currently out of favor with those in political power, will disproportionately suffer from this broad “right to refuse”?

“This regulation does not limit patient access to health care, but rather protects any individual health care provider or institution…”  Oh.  Whew, I was worried.

But wait!  From the LA Times:

Last year, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology said a “patient’s well-being must be paramount” when a conflict arises over a medical professional’s beliefs.

In calling for limits on “conscientious refusals,” ACOG cited four recent examples. In Texas, a pharmacist rejected a rape victim’s prescription for emergency contraception. In Virginia, a 42-year-old mother of two became pregnant after being refused emergency contraception. In California, a physician refused to perform artificial insemination for a lesbian couple. (In August, the California Supreme Court ruled that this refusal amounted to illegal discrimination based on sexual orientation.) And in Nebraska, a 19-year-old with a life-threatening embolism was refused an early abortion at a religiously affiliated hospital.

“Although respect for conscience is important, conscientious refusals should be limited if they constitute an imposition of religious or moral beliefs on patients [or] negatively affect a patient’s health,” ACOG’s Committee on Ethics said. It also said physicians have a “duty to refer patients in a timely manner to other providers if they do not feel that they can in conscience provide the standard reproductive services that patients request.”

Well, what does the American Medical Association think? They do tend to favor the interests of doctors.

From the LA Times: “The American Medical Assn. and the American Hospital Assn. in October urged HHS to drop the regulation.”

Ah hah. Now we see exactly where this is going. So we can expect more incidents like those cited above with this proposed rule tipping, nay, slamming the balance between rights of the patient and rights of the medical worker way over to the side of the medical worker. And rather unambiguously, the patients whose rights will be overridden seem to be overwhelmingly female, with a small but significant number of LGBT patients to boot.

I feel like we’re right back at the culture war crap that I was discussing in my series about Demographic Winter. It’s the same shit!

In the lofty language of the proposed rule, it isn’t immediately clear who exactly stands to gain and who stands to lose. But when these concepts start to play out in real life, an undeniable picture forms. Socially conservative Christians want more latitude to discriminate against women and gays in health care and get away with it. So Bush & Co. draw up a broad bill that conceals this very specific agenda at the same time that it supports it.

The WSJ says: “It will take effect 30 days after being issued. That means that if the Bush administration issues the regulation this week, it will become final before Mr. Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 20, and his administration won’t be able to undo it easily.”

As wonderful commenter Terabithia on Feministing put it:

Its like if I took a job at starbucks and then announced that caffeine is against my religion and I will only take orders for the decaffinated beverages. Instead of telling me I have to do my job or leave, Starbucks would be required to either hire another person to look over my shoulder and do the parts of my job I won’t do, or allow customers to be refused their orders. Only instead of caffeine, replace it with time-sensitive critical medical care.


For more information:
You can find a PDF of the proposed rule at ProPublica
“Broader medical refusal rule may go far beyond abortion” from the LA Times
“The Abortion Wars Get Technical: Women have few rights at all when doctors can legally misinform them or deny service entirely” from Newsweek
“Bush-Era Abortion Rules Face Possible Reversal” from Wall Street Journal
Feministe discussion: “Sorry, ladies, but your vagina conflicts with my morals.”

20 thoughts on “Bush: One More Way to Screw Women? Do It!

  1. I struggle to see where freedom of conscience fits into your scheme of things. Isn’t it possible in nearly all cases to accomodate both the woman’s access to abortion and the doctor’s freedom of conscience? (This is not just a matter of religion of course. Some atheists believe our endowment of rights begins at conception.)

    I just stumbled on your site so don’t know your general view of things. I myself am a moderate with plenty of criticism for both extremes. One such for some extreme lefties is that they do not want to merely secure rights for a few. They want to control the thoughts of everyone. In this example, for some extremists it isn’t enough that women get ready access to abortions. Some will not tire until all doctors condone abortion and those that do not conform should be driven underground and never heard from.

  2. @ Dave: Welcome to the Czech!

    Re: “Freedom of Conscience”… perhaps you missed this part of my post:

    “there are already several federal laws in place protecting “conscientious objectors” from being coerced into performing medical services they deem unethical or immoral, including the Church Amendments, section 245 of the Public Health Services Act and the Wheldon Amendment.”

    I have not argued against the existing laws, only this new regulation.

    Dave: “Isn’t it possible in nearly all cases to accomodate both the woman’s access to abortion and the doctor’s freedom of conscience?”

    This doesn’t really apply, as the vast majority of abortions are performed by abortion doctors, who clearly do not object. What gets creepy, and means bad news for women controlling their own bodies, is when medical professionals start to redefine abortion, pregnancy and conception to mean that EVERY method of contraception is abortion, and then based on their scientifically erroneous opinions, refuse health services to women.

    The new regulation allows such health care workers not only to refuse related services, but also to refuse to refer the patient to someone who will. This is unquestionably over the line. I don’t think much of the “refuse-and-refer” solution to this issue, but to refuse service and referral is to put one’s personal opinions above the health and safety of the patient. In some cases, this could mean forcing pregnancy on a rape or incest victim.

    Dave: “They want to control the thoughts of everyone. In this example, for some extremists it isn’t enough that women get ready access to abortions. Some will not tire until all doctors condone abortion and those that do not conform should be driven underground and never heard from.”

    I am not familiar with who you are talking about here. What example are you referring to? Who wants to control thoughts? Where have you heard someone say that all doctors should perform abortions? Who are these extremists? Please provide links so I can learn more and respond.

  3. I did miss that, my apologies. And thanks for the welcome.

    So you don’t think much of refuse-and-refer. Do you mean that you tolerate it out of respect for freedom of conscience? What would you prefer?

    Surely you’d agreed that some contraceptions methods are abortifacient, that is, they stop the growth after conception, not before while other methods clearly prevent conception from occurring at all. I thought those distinctions were rather clear and widely accepted: the morning after pill is abortifacient, the pill is not. I did not read the new reg, but it would seem appropriate to accomodate the conscientious objections of pharmacists for widely acknowledged abortifacient drugs.

    The “controlling thoughts” faction is more apparent with our neighbors up north, and it is on the issue of homosexuality, not abortion. The Canadian Human Rights Commission is now pursuing prosecution for clergy who merely say that homosexual rights are immoral. I hope that we love freedom of speech enough in the US that those kinds of things won’t happen, but I’m not certain.

    In New Zealand, btw, doctors and nurses can no longer refuse to do abortions.

    I don’t have links for those – not much time…..


  4. The morning after pill (Plan B) does not cause an abortion because that is not how that pill works. Please refer to the plannedparenthood.org website about emergency contraception for details about how the morning after pill works (which deals with hormones). The box the pill comes in and the information inside repeatedly state that it will not work if you have already conceived.

    I have heard people say things about how some pills supposedly prevent a fertilized egg from implanting and thus it is an abortion. The Planned Parenthood website points out that this has not been proved to happen with the morning after pill (Plan B). The mayoclinic.com website discusses both types of morning after pills (Plan B and others), also clearly stating that such pills are not causing abortions.

    That was something of tangent for me. Sorry! Regarding the issue of women being able to receive a variety of reproductive health services. I was not aware that all women have such ready access to such healthcare services. What about low income women? What about women who live in areas which are not close to such service providers? What about women who, for whatever reason, can not travel to reach those providers? What about women whose insurance does not cover other healthcare providers outside of the one who refused to provide her with services? What about women who are not aware of other healthcare providers? What if all the healthcare providers close to a woman refuse to offer her the services she requests? The idea that all women can just have birth control or abortions on demand is not the case.

    I am also curious as to why a healthcare service provider’s beliefs trump a women’s right to medical services regarding her reproductive health. If someone holds a particular belief regarding reproductive health issues, than live they can live that belief out in their own lives. Why do they get to dictate how others live their lives in terms of reproductive health? If someone does not approve of a particular legal health service I want for my own body, that is fine. I am not asking for approval or acceptance. I am asking for that service. It is my body and I should be able to make my own choices about how I want it treated. It is not up to others to put their morals on me or make such choices for me. I do not subscribe to their beliefs, but I am not asking that they personally take up my beliefs for their own bodies and health, so why are they asking that of me?

    I honestly do not know in what other jobs it would be legal to refuse services that are within the realm of my career field due to a personal belief and also refuse to inform individuals of where they can go to receive the services they seek.

    Regardless, in the end it is about women getting the health treatment they have a right to and they should be able to have services available to them no matter what their income, location, and so forth.

  5. Shannon,

    I’d be happy to know plan B does not kill an embryo. Thank you.

    As for other professions, it is very common for a lawyer to turn away work that he thinks is immoral even when the would be client disagrees. Professional engineers refuse to build a structure that they believe is unsafe even if the client disagrees and is willing to pay for it. Accountants commonly refuse to cook books even when their client thinks it’s overly prudish and is willing to bear the responsibility. Likewise, you should not demand a doctor to do an abortion even if you don’t think it is killing anyone. It may be inconvenient, but other accountants can be found. You may have to look around, but another engineer will have a different opinion, and it may be expensive but you can surely find lawyers of easy virtue.

    Like you said, it’s your body, do whatever you want to it with it. But, if you want help from another person, then you’d better respect that person’s rights too. Some doctor somewhere is willing to do whatever you want. But, you have no right to demand it of every doctor everywhere.

    As I said, I am a moderate with criticism for both the left and the right. My friends on the right are hysterically frightened because they fear Obama’s ascendancy marks the beginning of new age of persecution against Christians. I’ve been telling them that they are paranoid. But here you are Shannon, a hair’s breadth away from saying that an Orthodox Catholic Doctor must either renounce their faith and perform what they believe is murder, or be forced out of their livelihood. I hope I’m wrong about that. I’d call that religious persecution.

    This is important too: Abortions are not “health care” in the same sense that an emergency apendectomy is. Pregnancy isn’t a disease, nor is it an emergent condition that must be remedied immediately. Furthermore, the abortion isn’t even denied entirely. It is merely delayed, usually only a matter of hours.

    So…..it is an elective procedure delayed, not health care denied. Subtle changes in language like “denying healthcare” are the stuff that propaganda is made of, and propaganda is the stuff that persecutions are made of.

    I might agree with you on one point. There may be some situations where the inconvenience may become too much. I imagine a scenario where there is only one doctor in an isolated area hundreds of miles from another doctor. What if you can’t find a doctor who is willing to do abortions in say, Minot, ND? Force all doctors everywhere to enter a lottery where the loser is forced to move there and do abortions? What do people in Minot do when they have to drive hundreds of miles for gastric bypass, or cosmetic surgery? I’m not trying to be smart aleck. It is an interesting question. Why should abortion be some kind of special class of healthcare that must be available at greater convenience and lower cost, and even as you seem to be saying, without regard for the conscience of the Doctor?

    There are religious beliefs that I find very repugnant. Likewise, you may think it horrible that some believe life begins at conception. But you should love freedom enough to defend their right to live by that belief.

  6. I need to digest your comments before I give a more in-depth reply, but I do not tolerate having words put in my mouth. Please refrain from claiming that I said or indicated certain things which I never did. I do not appreciate this. I never said a doctor must be forced out of their livelihood.

    All of those job examples you give do not deal with the entire life and health of individuals in the extremely intimate way that a woman’s reproductive healthcare options do. Trying to compare building unsafe bridges to women’s bodies and who controls them is a comparison that does not involve the same kinds of issues.

    You also barely addressed my major issue – what if a women can not find the services she needs and wants?

    It IS denying healthcare to not provide the service and not give referrals. Could you please explain to me how it is not a denial of services? How is it propaganda? Telling someone you will not provide a service, lying about providing services, and not providing another place to obtain the service would mean no service – thus a denial.

    Could you also explain what you mean when you keep talking about how it is not a denial, but a matter of it being delayed? If the woman can not find another place or no place will provide the service or other places are not feasible, how is it delayed? It may not happen at all because of the denial of services! (By a few hours? I am not sure you understand how women’s healthcare clinics work).

    You asked why abortion (which is not entirely what this post is about) is a special class of healthcare that must be available at greater convenience and lower cost without regard for the conscious of the doctor? I did not say without regard anywhere. What if you turn that question around? The rest of a woman’s life should be put into risk because of the doctor’s beliefs? Who is the doctor to decide if an abortion is ok or not? It is the patient’s health – that is the service they provide healthcare. Not belief preservation and enforcement. Forcing a woman to go through a pregnancy and have a child she does not want could cause countless problems for the woman, the child, and those around them. Besides, if she really wants an abortion, she will find a way to have one, it just may be incredibly dangerous.

    And yes, an abortion (and reproductive health) IS most definitely a healthcare issue and not one that is of lesser value or degree. As someone with a uterus, I am aware of that on a daily basis. It is not always elective. It is not an easy decision. The women who have one do so for reasons which are not trivial (and are no one’s business, but obviously with the expense, extreme pain, stigma, and so forth, it is not a procedure done without some thinking involved).

    Pregnancy could indeed be thought of as a harmful bodily state. It can make you sick. Your body can reject the fetus. The fetus takes the nutrients your body takes in. The fetus sucks 1-2% of the calcium in your bones (there is an old saying ‘for every child, a tooth’). Just googling different phrases about maternal and fetal bone issues provided several sites discussing the longterm effects of this. It is a parasitic relationship due to the fact that if the fetus were to be removed, it could not survive. This, again, is something of a tangent, but I am trying to make a point that you should not so lightly brush off the various health issues going on. (Of course, there are numerous other health issues with pregnancies besides the ones I mentioned).

    Anyway, I believe the original blog post was about women’s reproductive health in general, not just access to abortions.

    There is a lot more to say on this topic, but I should let myself mull it over more before I keep rattling on!

  7. Czech and Shannon,

    Both of you clearly have convictions that you believe are firmly based in solid morality. Surely you understand that other people have convictions too and that humans will never be in unanamous agreement about what those should be. If you want the freedom to live the life you choose for yourself, you should protect that same freedom for others even if you disagree with them.

    Back to our dilemma….

    My overarching point here is that two rights in conflict are common and in our democracy we strive to balance them by drawing a line somewhere. In this case the conflict is between the right to freedom of conscience and the right to access to abortion/contraception/rape response and fertility services.

    I am curious where you would draw the line. It must go somewhere between never available and available for free at every street corner from everyone in the health field.

    New Zealand has drawn the line at a ridiculous extreme – they have no regard for freedom of conscience, not for Christians anyway. (Czeck, I’ve only heard that by word of mouth – I’d be happy to be proven wrong.)

    Czeck made it clear that she (I think I saw that you were a she somewhere) would at least grudgingly accept the current legislation which allows doctors to refuse and refer with abortion. I would draw the line pretty close to that myself.

    Normal contraception and fertility services are just a little stickier. Keep in mind that these are not energency situations and the woman is in perfect health and in no danger – she just wants help from someone else in regulating how or if she will conceive. By and large, I don’t think it is necessary that every hospital should be forced to offer those services on demand. Catholics believe that life begins at conception and should only happen naturally (in that way they’re oddly sort of like groovy-back-to-nature-types) and so Catholic hospitals should not be forced to offer those services. It isn’t too much of a burden to these women (or transexuals, or whatever) to go across town to the less prudish hospital.

    Rape response is an emergent situation and so dealing with that is much more difficult. Maybe doctors and nurses who are unwilling to cause abortions even at that very early stage should stay out of emergency rooms, or never be the only ones on the floor. That isn’t too much of a burden for them. That’s not so bad. But what if, rather than be forced to behave against their convictions, Catholic hospitals decide to close their emergency rooms altogether? That’s not so good. People would surely bleed to death in ambulances that have to drive farther. Maybe you have a small clinic right next door under other management that is less prudish. I dunno.

  8. Shannon,

    I surely did not mean to put words in your mouth. I did say your were close to saying that, not saying it yet and I also hoped you did not mean that. My hope here is to have a respectful discussion with people I’m likely to disagree with. I’m trying, really.

    You were the one who brought up other professions in support of your claim that health practioners should not be allowed to opt-out for moral reasons because other professions don’t do so. You were wrong about that. I can be wrong without being angry. Can you? No big deal. I did not think they were exact analogies.

    I’ve been able to tell you where I think the woman’s right to access should be accomodated. Can you tell me where the doctors right to freedom of conscience can be accomodated. Can you come at this issue from more than one side?

    A good friend of mine is an extreme lefty midwife who would take your side in most of this discussion. But she frequently exclaims in anger “pregnancy is NOT a disease!”

    You are right that I only barely addressed the issue of what if a woman can’t find the services she needs or wants. I don’t know the answer and happy to discuss it. I’d like to discuss it in a broader context though. What happens when anyone can’t get the services they want? Then, what serives should get extra attention and why?

  9. Thanks everyone for keeping this convo respectful. In our culture women’s reproductive health is indeed a flashpoint of contention.

    A couple points before I address Dave’s main point.

    1. It has never been proven that contraception, including EC, destroys an embryo post-conception yet pre-implantation. Some consider this to be theoretically possible with EC, however. Of course, pregnancy is defined starting at implantation, because it is impossible to detect an un-implanted embryo, and it is not sensible to treat all women as though they are 2 days away from being “fully” pregnant. So the quibble is about the tiniest of unproven-yet-guessed-at details. Strangely, until the 20th century Catholics believed that the fetus gained personhood at “quickening”, approximately what we would call “viability” around 22 weeks at the earliest. I’m not sure why they changed their definition of fetal “life”, but I’d be interested to find out.

    2. I second Shannon, abortion is a health care issue, especially but not exclusively when the life or health of the mother is at stake. Pregnancy an child birth take a huge toll out of a woman, and can leave a woman with a variety of problems, i.e. post-partum depression, fistula, etc.

    3. I am tentative about refuse-and-refer for most of the reasons Shannon pointed out. In large cities it might work, but even then low-income women may not have the option of taking more time off work and spending more money with another health care provider. In smaller communities, or deeply conservative communities, it has already been shown that a woman may be left with no options when seeking contraception or abortion.

    Ok, so now to address Dave’s inquiries.

    If what you say about Canada and New Zealand are true, it sounds like they have gone too far. But I don’t know all the facts, so if you could provide links that would be super helpful.

    “My friends on the right are hysterically frightened because they fear Obama’s ascendancy marks the beginning of new age of persecution against Christians.”

    77%-84% of Americans are Christian, including Obama. There are more Christians in the world than members of any other religion. 42 of our last 43 presidents were Christian (Lincoln was arguably not). Christianity is the only religion that has a federally-recognized religious holiday: Christmas. So who do they think is going to be persecuting Christians? The .5% who are Muslim? The 10-14% who are not religious?

    “Freedom of Conscience”

    I do not think that all doctors should be required to perform abortions. My opinion is that abortion doctors are best equipped to perform abortions. In the case of emergency, if a woman comes into the ER with a situation where her life is in danger and she needs an immediate life-saving abortion, we reach a tough situation. Dave & Shannon, what do you think should happen here?

    Refuse-and-refer: refusals are typically based on misinformation (when it comes to contraception) or prejudice against AIDS or trans patients (regarding their prescriptions).

    These do not strike me as matters of “conscience”.

    For people who’s religious beliefs require no contraception at all, I am divided. A meat market that sells only halal meat advertises prominently that it sells only halal meat. Perhaps a strict Catholic pharmacy should also provide the public with prominent signage indicated that it will fill only “catholic-approved” prescriptions. (Of course, 96% of married Catholics use birth control, so even most Catholics wouldn’t be able to fill all their prescriptions at such an establishment.)

    At the same time, we arrive at the situation where a woman has access to only one pharmacy which is not openly advertised as religious. Who’s morals should come first? The woman’s morals or the pharmacist’s? Again, I am divided. I lean towards the woman, but I have not made a final ‘decision’. My reason for leaning towards the woman is that health care professionals have dedicated themselves to serving the health of their clients, and to do so selectively seems to contradict the profession they have chosen. (See the Starbucks example in my post.) To knowingly choose a profession where you will regularly refuse to serve your customers because of your religious beliefs seems ill-advised for everyone involved.

    How to legislate these competing morals is so sticky that I have no forthright answer.

  10. And thank you Czech,

    Some quick responses – I won’t have much time for this today, sorry.

    At first glance I at least mostly agree with most of what you wrote. We can probably find some common ground. Ain’t that cool ?!!

    I can probably answer most of your Catholic questions off the top of my head, but not that one. I do recall that the biology of it all and when it was known has come into play as the definition changed. I think Aquinas (13th century?) and his contemporaries thought that the sperm was an intact human. Now the biology is well known and that at the moment of conception it is, genetically speaking, fully human and lacks only nuturing to come to full term.

    So, at what moment do we get our endowment of rights? Some pro-choicers say “at viability” others “at birth”, but it seems to me that the effect of their (probably your) position is “when the mother says so”. That’s a reasonable way to order a society I suppose. (Wasn’t it ancient Rome where the father could reject a baby for any reason he saw fit and leave it to die?)

    Back to an incomplete answer to your question about Catholics. I do know that the teaching now says “we are fully human from conception onward.” I know plenty of Catholics, Christians and others who aren’t so sure about that, but they value life so greatly that they conclude that the benefit of the doubt belongs to the embryo. Pro-choicers value individual freedom so strongly that they give the benefit of the doubt to the woman.

    Who would persecute the Christians? Well, probably other Christians I suppose. I’d guess that many of those people in NZ and Canada are Christians too, but they favor “correct thought” over individual freedom (maybe I’ll have time to be ‘super helpful’ on those points in a few days).

    Btw, Catholics have always taught that if a mother will die without an abortion (ectopic for example), then do the abortion.

    When it comes to your questions about ‘how much accessibility is enough?”, I’d like to see your thoughts played out in the larger context: how much accessibility should we expect for everyone for any procedure? Shouldn’t immediate life threatening procedures be more readily availlable? Why should some procedures be subsidized by the state and others not?


  11. Oh. And I agree that abortion is a healthcare issue. The wording I took issue with is that the refuse-and-refer policy does not “deny healthcare” it only “postpones abortion”. Then we are at those accessibility issues.

  12. Just a some quick comments (I’ll try to comment more on all of this when I can). Pro-choicers do indeed value life. In fact, they value it so much that they would like to see people have choices and have a good quality of life.

    Also, I have to agree that if you are in the healthcare field, shouldn’t you provide just that – healthcare? I still believe one of the biggest issues here is access to the services (see the many issues I listed along with mollusk’s points). It is not postponing a service if the individual can not access it.

    This is most definitely a sticky issue and I am not saying I love trampling on people’s beliefs (of course not!). I suppose I see it this way – the risks for the healthcare service provider for providing contraceptives or abortions which they do not want to versus the risks of the women who were raped or have an unwanted pregnancy or wish to prevent an unwanted pregnancy or can not viably care for a child (for whatever reason) or would suffer extreme emotional/mental harm due to a pregnancy or would be seriously physically harmed/die due to the pregnancy.

    I am also curious – whose beliefs are we giving preference to here and why? It would appear to be one religious group (that has interpreted writing in their scared book a certain way… as an ex-Catholic, I do not recall if there actually is a section in the Bible detailing that contraceptives and abortion are immoral). Why this one religious group over others? Because it is the majority (even though mollusk mentions that the majority of them do indeed use some form of birth control and of course members of that faith have had abortions). So a group with traditionally patriarchal views should dictate who has control over individual women’s bodies even if those women do not subscribe to that belief system?

    Yes, I am biased (as we all are). As an atheist, pro-choice woman who does not want children and thus worries constantly about her reproductive health, I want reasonable (as in location and price) choices available to women. I agree with mollusk in that I am not sure why you would be in healthcare if you wish to refuse such services. Instead, I would also second that they should have separate places which openly advertise that they will not carry or provide certain reproductive healthcare services. If there are at least two places – one that does provide the healthcare services and one which does not – then I see that as more reasonable (so long as the one which provides the services is not difficult to get to and is not pricey).

    Little sidenote, spontaneous abortions are estimated to happen in up to 61.9% in conceptuses with 91.7% of women not being aware of it because of how early in the pregnancy they occur (according to Wikipedia – an article is cited which I may have to check out). According to the AAFP, up to 20% of known pregnancies end in spontaneous abortions while Wikipedia estimates it at between 10%-50%. This documented medical fact is not something new to me and several articles discuss this (simply googling the term will provide plenty of information, but I am sure you could find more scholarly sources as well since I had a class which examined this issue). In other words, women’s bodies self-abort embroys and fetuses which are not viable (often due to chromosome issues/disorders) at high rates. Women’s bodies are selective about which pregnancies to continue, filtering out those which are not viable. Interesting!

  13. Dave: “So, at what moment do we get our endowment of rights? Some pro-choicers say “at viability” others “at birth”, but it seems to me that the effect of their (probably your) position is “when the mother says so”. That’s a reasonable way to order a society I suppose. (Wasn’t it ancient Rome where the father could reject a baby for any reason he saw fit and leave it to die?)”

    Opinion aside, most fed and state law is pretty clear: at birth. Citizenship to the US, and the rights granted therein, come at the earliest at birth. It’s been that way since the founding of our country.

    Even if we wanted to move citizenship up to fetal viability, 22-24 weeks at the earliest, 98.9% of abortions occur before this point, and the remaining 1.1% occur in most cases because of extreme emergencies which (I’m guessing) the vast majority of Americans would agree with.

    Moving citizenship up even earlier would have interesting moral repercussions outside of women’s reproductive care… re: being forced to sacrifice your body for another person who depends on your body’s resources to survive.

    Shannon: “If there are at least two places – one that does provide the healthcare services and one which does not – then I see that as more reasonable (so long as the one which provides the services is not difficult to get to and is not pricey).”

    Yeah, but how could you legislate something like that?

    “as an ex-Catholic, I do not recall if there actually is a section in the Bible detailing that contraceptives and abortion are immoral”

    No, abortion and contraception is not prohibited in the Bible.

    “Why this one religious group over others?”

    Catholics are not the only Christians who are supposed to be anti-abortion and/or birth control. Not to argue that we should favor a group of religions in our laws either, but just saying.

    Dave: “When it comes to your questions about ‘how much accessibility is enough?”, I’d like to see your thoughts played out in the larger context: how much accessibility should we expect for everyone for any procedure? Shouldn’t immediate life threatening procedures be more readily availlable? Why should some procedures be subsidized by the state and others not?”

    When I’m talking about accessibility, I’m talking specifically about contraception in pharmacies and EC and life-saving abortions in the ER. I didn’t specify that earlier, so I can see where the confusion comes from. I do not suggest that abortion be more accessible than any other medical procedure.

    Dave: “Back to an incomplete answer to your question about Catholics. I do know that the teaching now says “we are fully human from conception onward.” ”

    So if these supposedly inflexible morals have been subject to change over time, they are, in fact, flexible after all. This historical acknowledgement makes me wonder whether it isn’t cultural vogue more than eternal morals dictated from God to deny women reproductive services.

    “Who would persecute the Christians? Well, probably other Christians I suppose.”

    Great! Then I hope the persecuted and the persecuting Christians can work it out together and leave me and other non-Christians out of it!

    “Btw, Catholics have always taught that if a mother will die without an abortion (ectopic for example), then do the abortion.”

    I did not learn that in my 13 years of strict traditional Catholic schooling. The possibility of life-saving abortion was never raised in my church or school. Can you link to some official Catholic document to support this statement?

  14. Gee Czeck, you keep giving me homework.

    on aborting ectopic pregnancies from http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac0898.asp : “First, while the Church opposes all direct abortions, it does not condemn procedures which result, indirectly, in the loss of the unborn child as a “secondary effect.” For example, if a mother is suffering an ectopic pregnancy (a baby is developing in her fallopian tube, not the womb), a doctor may remove the fallopian tube as therapeutic treatment to prevent the mother’s death. The infant will not survive long after this, but the intention of the procedure and its action is to preserve the mother’s life. It is not a direct abortion.”

    There’s a bit of hair splitting about direct and indirect going on there, but I always took it to mean “no mother is expected to sacrifice her life for the sake of her unborn baby.” Even if the church might quibble about certain situations, I doubt all but the most extreme Catholics would.

    Yeah, your bit about inflexible and flexible teaching is a good one that troubles a good many faithful Catholics. The Church has an answer – it always does :) – that I’ve always found to be rather amusing. I could give you that answer now but I’m behind on my homework already. I will say that I don’t think the church will ever change it’s teaching on the sanctity of life – certainly not in our lifetimes.

    “I do not suggest that abortion be more accessible than any other medical procedure.” Good. We can agree there. I can also agree that all pharmacists should be expected to dispense contraception as long as it isn’t abortifacient. About what is or what isn’t abortifacient, I’m not so interested in discussing. Catholic hospitals do good work and we should be gald to have them even if they need a bit of accomodation. We don’t need Catholic pharmacies though.

    I mention Catholic teaching here only because I know it rather well and it is at least defined and knowable (no other religion is as legalistic, well documented, and agreed to internally). But objection to abortion is not just a matter of religion. There are even atheists who think abortion is wrong and should be outlawed, though I’ll admit they are probably rather few. And Czeck, if you want me to footnote everything I’ll have to give up :)

    Czeck, you discussion of citizenship is all fine. My question though wasn’t about what is legal, but what is right. It was rather rhetorical though and likely beyond the scope of a combox convo.

    So, I’ll try to summarize what I think we covered trusting you’ll correct me if need be: We both agree that there should be life saving abortions in every ER, non-abortifacient(whatever that is) contraception at every pharmacy, and no health practioner should be forced to perform abortions. That still leaves some fine points that we could try to tackle and some disagreements too, but…… Zowie! This is a Triumph! Two people with very different POVs, values, and beliefs can find common ground on a topic like this. Thank you. Really.

    I suppose we could regret it took so many keystrokes to get here, but I prefer to dwell on the positive.

  15. Shannon,

    I think I understand your concern that when the accessiblitiy of abortion is poor enough, then it is in effect denied. I doubt that it is the case very often, but still, I take your point.

    Maybe this might help a little. Try to understand the healthcare provider whom you disagree with. They really do want to provide healthcare. If they believe the fetus is a human, then aborting it is nothing like providing care at all. It is like doing the greatest harm immaginable.

    I know you disagree, and maybe they are wrong, but can you try to understand them?

    I can try to understand you. For example, a doctor in an isolated community maybe should not be allowed to be as prudish as one in a city where women have greater access.

  16. I just stumbled across something that explains well what I’ve been trying to do here. It is from someone who teaches philosophy at a texas university:

    “One thing I demand of my students is that they are able to understand the objections to their position on any issue. The sign of this understanding is that they can state the objection in a form that the person who holds that position would recognize it as their own. I hold up for them St. Thomas as a model. Thomas always states the objections to his position before he even states his own position. And Thomas was good at stating the position of others accurately; it is one of the keys to his genius.”

    “The truth is, we don’t really understand our own position on anything until we understand fully the objections. Indeed, since we often don’t understand fully our own positions, we can’t even begin to understand anybody else’s.”

  17. Indeed. I spend a lot of time reading opinions that differ (in varying levels of drasticness) from my own. Diversity of opinion is vital to a healthy society. I typically feel the need to argue against opinions that I think would be harmful to society or a subset thereof.

    Thanks for participating in a constructive conversation, Dave. I appreciate your respectful tone, and your thoughtful contribution to the discussion.

    Feel free to most on more topics in the future, if you like!

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