In the continuing wacky adventures of The Decider before he graciously steps down, MSN has decided to cover Bush's proposal of a bill that would "protecting health-care workers who object to abortion, and to birth-control methods they consider tantamount to abortion".
The Department of Health and Human Services is reviewing a draft regulation that would deny federal funding to any hospital, clinic, health plan or other entity that does not accommodate employees who want to opt out of participating in care that runs counter to their personal convictions, including providing birth-control pills, IUDs and the Plan B emergency contraceptive.
This reminds me of a story that ran in USA today last August (coincidentally enough) about a lesbian couple who had been denied access to artificial insemination because the doctor objected on moral grounds. They sued, not because the doctor rejected the mother-to-be, but because he refused refer them to a hospital where the procedure could be carried out. The article also quoted single mothers who had faced a similar challenge.
As a Christian, I can understand that there are a lot of moral conflicts that could meet any person in any work environment, and for that reason, these proposed regulations could have their pros. However, I fear this:
The regulation would apply to anyone who participates in "any activity with a logical connection to a procedure, health service or health service program, or research activity. . . . This includes referral, training and other arrangements of the procedure, health service, or research activity."
Critics argue that the broad definitions of abortion and the types of workers who could object would cover everyone from the top doctor at a hospital to the janitor.
The regulation could trump dozens of state laws that require health plans to cover birth control, pharmacists to fill prescriptions for contraceptives, and hospitals to offer emergency contraception to women who have been raped, critics said.
"You could imagine a group of people with less than honorable intentions seeking to get hired at a family planning clinic with the specific objective of obstructing access. Under this regulation, there is little you could do about it," said Jill Morrison of the National Women's Law Center.
Most importantly, this:
Others said the rule could have additional implications, including justifying discrimination against gays, single women or others seeking health care.
"As soon as you have a definition in one part of federal law, it can become the inspiration for the reinterpretation of other statutes," said R. Alta Charo, a lawyer and bioethicist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Because of this:
The most controversial section defines abortion as "any of the various procedures -- including the prescription, dispensing and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action -- that results in the termination of life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation."
That definition would include most forms of hormonal birth control and the IUD, which most major medical groups believe do not constitute abortion because they primarily affect ovulation or fertilization and not an embryo once it has implanted in the womb.
Here's where I try to make suggestions, knowing that drafting a bill that doesn't infringe on some person's rights is problematic at best, and that this particular government has been trying for ages to negate the rulings of Roe vs. Wade without thinking about the implications to women's health (see previous post on John McCain's view on current issues).
I'd like to say that if you work in a public institution, you should know that your duty is to serve the people in the best manner possible, and if you cannot provide a service, you should refer that person to someone who can. But I know that some people probably wish to get out of the public heath care system and into a private institution.
All I can say is that restrictions on contraception, abortion, and other things that apply to planned parenting should be limited to private institutions, who can make up their own rules and owe nothing to the public or the government. Governmental institutions should serve the people.
Though military workers may disagree with the war that is currently being fought, it is generally considered their duty to follow orders as long as those orders are lawful. Lawyers are expected to make inquiries into the guilt or innocence of their clients so that no guilty men or women are set free, and no innocents detained, and they are expected to do their best to uphold the law despite personal feelings. Medical workers are expected to uphold their duties, which is to help people solve their health concerns. This does not mean they always have to go against their beliefs, but if they work in a public location they should at least be required to give the people a resource for what they choose to do. The path to contraception should not be closed off for any one party's interest. That doesn't mean that consideration for each party's feelings can't be considered in full.