Monday, April 13, 2009

My mother e-mailed me a few days ago about Obama's no-longer-hypothetical intent to rescind the shield of conscience from medical professionals who object to abortion. I tried calling a dozen times Thursday but never got through, so I e-mailed the following:

I would like to ask the President not to rescind the conscience protections for medical professionals, particularly with regard to performing abortions.
One thing that makes America great is that with few exceptions we may judge for ourselves what we should do and how we should live. By removing the shield of conscience, I believe that the harm done by requiring doctors and nurses to act in what they believe is an immoral manner would outweigh any good brought about by facilitating some debatably inalienable entitlement to a particular kind of medical service.
The debate over the legitimacy of entitlement to abortion services is often compared, sometimes implicitly, to the civil rights movement, but I submit that the comparison is faulty. Making it illegal for people to exercise bigotry systematically in public does ring of justice, but positively forcing someone to betray his values is another thing entirely; freedom is not necessarily abridged when someone is prevented from doing something, especially if it could bring harm to others, but requiring someone to do what they cannot condone does not promote freedom, either, no matter how lofty the reasons.
Draft boards didn't allow conscientious objectors off with a smile and a handshake during wartime, but they did allow them to serve their country in other ways that did not cause a moral conflict. Can we not afford a similar latitude to physicians today? Are there so few abortion providers that their ranks must be filled by people who aren't trying to women back, but actually believe that abortion harms mother and society as well as child? If not, why would requiring medical professionals to provide abortions be necessary?

It is this last point that makes me think abortion is not just being promoted as a social good in itself but as part of an agenda I'm struggling to describe with happier words than "diabolical." If the Civil Rights Act were an apt parallel, then abortion would be a mandatory service at every hospital, whose administrators would have the responsibility of complying to the law. The CRA did not require every bigot to start giving up their bus seats and holding open front doors of businesses for customers of color.

You can't outlaw racist attitudes, and I don't think we should try. No, I'm not saying it's a good thing; I'm saying that, basic civil protections aside, bigotry and racism are better fought in the streets, so to speak, than by the federal government trying to nuke society's attitudes from orbit.

You can legislate morality, but you can't police thoughts. All you accomplish with the latter is putting a deluding veneer over the top of a decaying system and underground resistance.

This is the kind of problem we run into when we start inventing rights, especially when it comes to things that don't fit in the "I shouldn't interfere with someone's decision over a private matter" category (for the record, life issues are not private matters, which is why murder is a crime against the state and not just against the victim and his loved ones)...or for that matter, so-called rights that do not derive from or even contradict natural and divine law. You end up someplace where your "right" to something requires other people to accommodate your wishes, even if it infringes other rights guaranteed to them elsewhere.

So much for consent being the arbiter of rightness that can hold us back from the precipice.

The same question was raised when universal health care was described as a basic human right. If it were so, how can a basic human right not exist until the advent of a medical profession, and not be discovered until the invention of socialism? Were billions of peasants denied a basic right to cheap and easy medicine in millennia past? By whom? To whom can we address our grievances as descendants of victims of anti-medicalists?

You can make that argument against other aspects of government. In a peaceful anarchy, one cannot have a right to vote because there is no voting going on; in a pure democracy, a democrat is not denied the right to representative government because he directly participates. These rights, though, are contingent, not basic or essential to the human condition.

But I was talking about abortion.

Some time ago, I talked about how voting for Obama on pro-life grounds was, at best, imprudent. The argument given in favor of Obama was that his philosophy was more humane, so that he would reduce the demand for abortion where he wasn't reducing the supply.

So, shortly after being elected, Obama rescinded the Mexico City Policy. Now he may try or pretend to take away our right to follow our consciences. Supply's sure going up. What about demand? No, the president is busy taking care of all the other things a president has to do.

How's that working out for the children?

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