Image via WikipediaOne of the last acts that President Bush took in the past few months was to issue a “health care conscience rule” that would shield individuals from performing functions of their jobs that they found “morally objectionable.” Sounds pretty decent, right? I’d hate to be told that my job involved neutering dolphins or that I would be forced to drink alcohol as a pastor? That would be good, right?
Well, it would be, except in the following cases this kind of “conscience” shield are at the intersections of religion and morality.
- As a small case, a Christian bus driver refused to drive a bus that had an atheist advertisement on the side. I think s/he missed a great opportunity to provide a different sort of witness while on the job!
- As a scarily-more-common case, Pharmacists can refuse to dispense birth control or morning-after pills because of their religious beliefs about abortion or contraception.
- And on the ridiculously extreme front, a nurse admitted removing an IUD because considered them to be a type of abortion. Um, besides the medical facts, this is scary!
But under the “conscience” legislation, and under legislation being pushed in a dozen states, these acts are all legal and have been called “moral” because they do not force practitioners to do things against their religious beliefs.
I beg to differ.
So tell me what is moral about this scenario: What if you are the only pharmacist in a rural town…and you refuse to give out birth control? What sort of moral choice are you forcing on people who then have to drive to the next town or county? We in urban America don’t have this difficulty, but it is very real in rural America.
I’ve got a dozen other scenarios, but the round point is this: if you are in a profession, then you have an obligation to act professionally. Any medical person now knows that part of the job of being a pharmacist is dealing with birth control and RU-486s, so if you find that morally-objectionable, work in another field! Because your “morals” are getting in the way of patients’ rights:
“This [‘conscience rule’] is a very significant threat to patients’ rights in the United States,” said Lois Uttley of the MergerWatch project, who is helping organize a conference in New York to plot a counterstrategy. “We need to protect the patient’s right to use their own religious or ethical values to make medical decisions.”
In short, pharmacists have a level of control over their patients’ lives. By choosing to control their actions by refusing to fill prescriptions one finds “morally objectionable” you are exerting power-over a person, which is not the power that Christ calls us to. The Apostle Paul calls us to be made perfect in weakness, in offering ourselves as powerless. This is none of that.
Thoughts on this controversy? If you found yourself in a profession that forced you to make morally-objectionable actions, would you get out of the profession or just stop offering care to those in need?