Dear President Bush,
Please Keep Your Laws Off My Body.
Two days ago, the man who-would-be-president decided to sign one of the foulest pieces of legislature in his eight years of office, knowing that it will take some work by President-elect Obama to undo this last-minute attempt to circumvent basic rights for women: It’s called the Right of Conscience Rule, and it goes into effect the day before W. leaves office, part of the legacy.
But what people don’t realize is that this rule goes far, far beyond abortion rights into very murky waters in a galaxy not so far far away. This rule will allow refusal of AIDS treatment, blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses), in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, stem cell research, psychiatric treatment instead of prayer (Christian Scientists), even in extreme cases, the selling of condoms to minors.
This rule basically allows people in any position, not just physicians and pharmacists—but receptionists, cashiers, nurses, even the people who clean the instruments post operatively—to deny service if their consciences are against it. And I call that a great big bag of Bush bullshit. Let me clarify. If a cashier at a pharmacy is a Roman Catholic, and you come through her line with your monthly prescription of birth control pills, she can refuse to ring up said pills because she does not condone birth control pills. To her, these pills represent the killing of babies. And under this rule, she cannot be punished by the store’s management for refusing to give you service.
Let’s take another scenario: If a woman who has been raped goes to a drugstore and asks for the morning after pill because she does not want to report the rape, but she just wants to make sure that the rape does not cause her to become pregnant, and the pharmacist is a strict Fundamentalist Christian, he can refuse to supply her with this non-prescription drug that any woman can ask any pharmacist for. What’s more, said pharmacist can tell the woman why he doesn’t believe she should have this pill. The woman, who is already traumatized, will have to be humiliated and traumatized again.
Let’s take another scenario: A couple has a very sick child who needs antibiotics for his infection and fever. They don’t have a car, so they call a cab. They ask the cab driver to take them to the Children’s Hospital. The driver refuses on the grounds that he is a Christian Scientist and does not believe in medical treatment and offers to pray with them. Far-fetched? Probably. Possible? Who knows?
Latest true scenarios: In Virginia, 42-year-old woman was refused morning-after pill by pharmacist and as a result became pregnant. In California, a lesbian couple was refused artificial insemination. In Nebraska, a 19-year-old female with a life-threatening embolism was refused an early abortion at a religiously-affiliated hospital.
What’s the common thread here? All females. And who will be affected by the Right of Conscience Rule? Predominantly females and gays and lesbians—the populations who usually are underserved medically. Will straight men be refused Viagra? On what basis? My conscience does not want you to have better sex . . .
In an article in the Los Angeles Times, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt is quoted as saying, “This rule protects the right of medical providers to care for their patients in accord with their conscience.” With this rule, providers, ” including hospitals, clinics, universities, pharmacies and doctor’s offices — can be charged with discrimination if an employee is pressured to participate in care that is ‘contrary to their religious beliefs or moral convictions.’Violators would lose their federal funds.”
One of the fears of opponents to this regulation is the withholding of information from patients. For example, an emergency room doctor who does not believe in emergency contraception does not have to provide information about this contraception to a rape victim if it goes against his or her beliefs. Or an antiabortion doctor in a federally-funded clinic does not have to tell a patient if she is carrying a fetus with severe abnormalities if he doesn’t believe that she should have an abortion.
Okay, let’s stop for a moment and look at the far-reaching implications here. First of all, why am I in the medical profession if it is not to provide health care? Is it my place to pass moral judgments on my patients? Did I become a pharmacist only to decide which medicines I will and will not dispense even though a customer has a prescription? If a woman has been raped, who am I as a man to decide that she should not receive emergency contraception? As a patient, do I now need to screen all of my doctors to find out what religion they are before I begin treatment with them to make sure I don’t hit any bumps down the road, just in case? Do I need to find out if the local Walgreen’s has people on its registers who will ring me up without any problems or cause me any embarrassment before I go back in for a prescription I’ve been getting for years?
These are not silly questions any more, not under this new rule. Let’s take it a step further. Will any of my gay or lesbian friends be refused treatment because the medical staff believes that homosexuality is a sin? If Eamonn goes to college and has too much to drink and is taken to the emergency room, will they refuse to pump his stomach because drinking is wrong? If my daughter became pregnant and had an infection and needed a D and C, would she be refused because she isn’t married? These are things that you think about when you hear about the sweeping broadness and open-endedness of this new law.
But I also have to ask, exactly when did George Bush get a conscience? Over 4,000 of our troops have been killed in an unjust war? We have—on the record now—used torture as a relatively ineffective means of gaining information on an, as yet, unknown number of people. We have acted without honor for the past seven years and lost the respect of numerous other world leaders—all on George Bush’s watch. Our veterans have come home to reduced benefits; they have been subjected to loopholes that have decreased their treatment options, and we have more veterans living on the streets and more warriors doing repeat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, all so that W. could prove to his daddy that he is a man.
Well, I have a conscience, too. And mine says enough paying for Bush’s mistakes. My conscience says that we should have universal health care by now. My conscience also says that we should be much farther along in alternative energy. But most of all, my conscience says that way back in 2000, George Bush should not have been allowed to steal a national election and get away with it. And the same could be said of the election in 2004. Enough already.
Go to this link to see the complete Federal Regulation HHS FRDOC 0001-0042:http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocumentDetail&o=09000064807e2d39. You can download a PDF.
Not a good rule. Certainly not a good Christmas present from the current president. More later. Peace.