Friday, February 25, 2011

Spirit & Life - The Attack on Conscence Rights

On February 17th, Secretary for Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, announced the cancellation of significant protections for health care workers. Supporters claim that the new regulations leave standing the legal safeguards for those who oppose abortion and sterilization, but they remove the protection for procedures and services like in vitro fertilization, contraception, the so-called emergency contraception that really consists in causing early abortion, and the facilitation of sexual practices that violate natural law.

Supporters of the new regulation insist their objective is to balance the rights of patients and health care providers. But the questions that come up immediately are twofold: First, are the services, the performance of which health care workers are no longer able to refuse, really therapeutic? That is, are they really medically necessary, or are they rather voluntary options of the persons that claim a right to receive? To these questions, the answer is clear: If they are not therapeutic, there is not a right to receive them. To use an example, emergency contraception or any form of contraception cannot be defined as a basic form of health care for women; it is rather intended to avoid the natural and healthy consequences of freely chosen sexual activity.

Second, not only do many of these procedures not heal an illness, they pose a threat to the women who receive them. There is ample evidence that demonstrates that several of those procedures are dangerous for the health of women, besides being lethal to babies, like "emergency contraception." See, for example, here and here.

We have to uphold the right of pharmacists, for example, to refuse to fill or refer for prescriptions for contraception, "emergency" or otherwise. The policy of the American Pharmacist Association that pharmacists can refuse to fill prescriptions as long as they make sure customers can get their medication some other way thus does not seem to be very coherent. It is like stating: "I don't kill people myself but let me tell you about the guy down the street who does."

To refuse these and similar services is not "discrimination", as advocates of the HHS decision have claimed. Unjust discrimination would be refusing to provide a service to which one has a right. But no one has the right to obtain immoral, non-therapeutic medical treatment or medicine.

With the decision of HHS, we have instead unjust discrimination against those health care professionals who will be forced to violate their consciences, to provide treatment that is not lifesaving. The same holds true not only for those directly providing the care, but for all who are involved in serving the patient, directly or indirectly. A receptionist should not be forced to schedule an abortion or any other immoral treatment. A janitor should not be forced to clean a surgical facility where abortions are performed, or any other type of immoral procedures.

Many of the proponents of this assault on conscience and freedom are using the faulty argument that they are doing so to protect the rights of the poor and the underprivileged. But they are just using the poor and underprivileged as a rhetorical weapon in an assault on all of those who have the moral clarity to refuse to help women harm their bodies and in many cases kill children. In reality, what will happen is just the opposite. If the conscience rights of the health care workers are removed, the net social consequence will be that many areas of the country that are already suffering critical shortages of medical professionals and institutions will suffer a greater shortage as more professionals are forced to leave the field in order to maintain their moral integrity.

Protecting conscience rights extends beyond just those who provide direct medical care. The health care worker who executes these procedures does it with the formal cooperation of insurance company staff who provide the economic means to execute these procedures. Insurance workers should not be forced to provide or facilitate insurance coverage for medical procedures that are objectively against natural law, like abortion, contraception or in vitro fertilization. Thus, if the health care worker has the right to exclude himself, the insurance worker has the same right to do so.

Indeed, we have seen several examples of the erosion of freedom of conscience, even beyond the field of health care, over the last several years. We have seen landlords sued for refusing to allow their property to be used for immoral business, or by those living a scandalous lifestyle. We have even seen photographers and caterers sued for respectfully refusing to work for those celebrating homosexual "marriages," even when other vendors were available and willing to provide the requested services.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith teaches, "Among other rights, all persons have the right to work, to housing, etc. Nevertheless, these rights are not absolute. They can be legitimately limited for objectively disordered external conduct." This refusal to cooperate with or to facilitate immoral conduct is not only licit but obligatory.

This decision of the current administration is a further descent on the slippery slope toward a totalitarian society, which we cannot sanction. We look forward to, and will support, an action by Congress to completely guarantee the conscience rights of all health care workers and others whose conscience rights are in jeopardy.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Monsignor Barreiro Signature

Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro-Carámbula
Interim President, Human Life International


LifeLines Episode 4: Why Women Abort

The pro-aborts' own research shows that they are lying when they say that women must have unrestricted access to abortion because of the "hard cases." In truth, the hard cases make up only a tiny percentage of all abortions, and even in these hard cases, one human person is killed, and another is harmed for life.

See the video here...