Conscience Meets Access

by Ellen Kolb | April 4th, 2018

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Conscience Meets Access

In the days lead­ing up to the adop­tion of the lat­est spend­ing bill in Wash­ing­ton, my social media feeds were full of posts from a vari­ety of pro-​life groups address­ing one topic: includ­ing pro­tec­tion of med­ical con­science rights in the spend­ing bill. To any­one unfa­mil­iar with the fed­eral bud­get process, an appro­pri­a­tions bill would sound like an odd place to men­tion con­science rights. But as we know, all kinds of odd­ball things work their way into bud­get deals.

As it hap­pens, the con­science pro­tec­tion act pro­moted by pro-​lifers was not included in the spend­ing bill approved on March 22. I would have shrugged — a pro-​life ini­tia­tive rejected in Wash­ing­ton? so what else is new? — but for a sim­i­lar dis­ap­point­ment closer to home. A week before the fed­eral spend­ing bill was adopted, a bill to pro­tect the con­science rights of med­ical pro­fes­sion­als was rejected in my state’s leg­is­la­ture by a two-​to-​one margin.

Lest you think this is a par­ti­san prob­lem, note that the GOP holds majori­ties in the leg­isla­tive bod­ies at issue here.

I was at the hear­ing for the state-​level bill. The thrust of the oppo­si­tion to con­science leg­is­la­tion boiled down to this: abor­tion is health care, and those who don’t want to par­tic­i­pate in abor­tions have no busi­ness in the med­ical field.

The argu­ment was couched in terms of denial of access: if a phar­ma­cist doesn’t want to hand out an abortion-​inducing drug, that might pre­vent or delay a woman’s abor­tion; if some doc­tor refuses to par­tic­i­pate in abor­tion, he might let a hem­or­rhag­ing woman bleed to death. (Non­sense, but some leg­is­la­tors swal­lowed that whop­per whole.)

The sup­port­ers of con­science leg­is­la­tion tes­ti­fied to the pri­macy of con­science, which our own state’s con­sti­tu­tion explic­itly rec­og­nizes as a nat­ural right, not one that needs to be granted. They cited the First Amend­ment of the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion. They spoke of their reli­gious and eth­i­cal beliefs and how they shouldn’t be fired for stick­ing to them.

Access” met con­science, and “access” won.

These state and fed­eral votes were hardly the last word. They’re intrigu­ing, though. They indi­cate to me that hos­til­ity and indif­fer­ence to con­science rights are alive and well, even in more-​or-​less respectable cir­cles. For­tu­nately, there are peo­ple push­ing back.

I kinda liked Car­di­nal Dolan’s push­back on the fed­eral vote.

The fail­ure of Con­gress to include the Con­science Pro­tec­tion Act in the 2018 omnibus appro­pri­a­tions bill is deeply dis­ap­point­ing. The CPA is an extra­or­di­nar­ily mod­est bill that pro­poses almost no change to exist­ing con­science pro­tec­tion laws on abor­tion — laws that receive wide pub­lic and bi-​partisan sup­port. The CPA sim­ply pro­poses to pro­vide vic­tims of dis­crim­i­na­tion with the abil­ity to defend their rights in court to help ensure that no one is forced to par­tic­i­pate in abor­tion. Those inside and out­side of Con­gress who worked to defeat the CPA have placed them­selves squarely into the cat­e­gory of extrem­ists who insist that all Amer­i­cans must be forced to par­tic­i­pate in the vio­lent act of abor­tion. We call on Con­gress not to give up until this crit­i­cal leg­is­la­tion is enacted.

Ellen Kolb is a writer and activist liv­ing in New Hamp­shire. Read more at ellenkolb​.com/blog.

You can sup­port all the inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ists at DaT­e­chGuy Blog by hit­ting DaTip­Jar. Thank you!

In the days leading up to the adoption of the latest spending bill in Washington, my social media feeds were full of posts from a variety of pro-life groups addressing one topic: including protection of medical conscience rights in the spending bill. To anyone unfamiliar with the federal budget process, an appropriations bill would sound like an odd place to mention conscience rights. But as we know, all kinds of oddball things work their way into budget deals.

As it happens, the conscience protection act promoted by pro-lifers was not included in the spending bill approved on March 22. I would have shrugged – a pro-life initiative rejected in Washington? so what else is new? – but for a similar disappointment closer to home. A week before the federal spending bill was adopted, a bill to protect the conscience rights of medical professionals was rejected in my state’s legislature by a two-to-one margin.

Lest you think this is a partisan problem, note that the GOP holds majorities in the legislative bodies at issue here.

I was at the hearing for the state-level bill. The thrust of the opposition to conscience legislation boiled down to this: abortion is health care, and those who don’t want to participate in abortions have no business in the medical field.

The argument was couched in terms of denial of access: if a pharmacist doesn’t want to hand out an abortion-inducing drug, that might prevent or delay a woman’s abortion; if some doctor refuses to participate in abortion, he might let a hemorrhaging woman bleed to death. (Nonsense, but some legislators swallowed that whopper whole.)

The supporters of conscience legislation testified to the primacy of conscience, which our own state’s constitution explicitly recognizes as a natural right, not one that needs to be granted. They cited the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. They spoke of their religious and ethical beliefs and how they shouldn’t be fired for sticking to them.

“Access” met conscience, and “access” won.

These state and federal votes were hardly the last word. They’re intriguing, though. They indicate to me that hostility and indifference to conscience rights are alive and well, even in more-or-less respectable circles. Fortunately, there are people pushing back.

I kinda liked Cardinal Dolan’s pushback on the federal vote.

The failure of Congress to include the Conscience Protection Act in the 2018 omnibus appropriations bill is deeply disappointing. The CPA is an extraordinarily modest bill that proposes almost no change to existing conscience protection laws on abortion—laws that receive wide public and bi-partisan support. The CPA simply proposes to provide victims of discrimination with the ability to defend their rights in court to help ensure that no one is forced to participate in abortion. Those inside and outside of Congress who worked to defeat the CPA have placed themselves squarely into the category of extremists who insist that all Americans must be forced to participate in the violent act of abortion. We call on Congress not to give up until this critical legislation is enacted.

Ellen Kolb is a writer and activist living in New Hampshire. Read more at ellenkolb.com/blog

You can support all the independent journalists at DaTechGuy Blog by hitting DaTipJar. Thank you!

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