Religious Beliefs of Health Care Workers to Trump Those of Patients


That is, if new "religious discrimination" regulations being rushed through by the Bush administration stand. President Bush and his minions evidently don't believe that they've done enough damage yet, so they are trying (as prior administrations have done) to impose new regulations before they return to a well-deserved exile in the private sector. In this case, as the New York Times reports:

A last-minute Bush administration plan to grant sweeping new protections to health care providers who oppose abortion and other procedures on religious or moral grounds has provoked a torrent of objections, including a strenuous protest from the government agency that enforces job discrimination laws.

The proposed rule would prohibit recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses and other health care workers who refuse to perform or to assist in the performance of abortions or sterilization procedures because of their "religious beliefs or moral convictions."

It would also prevent hospitals, clinics, doctors' offices and drugstores from requiring employees with religious or moral objections to "assist in the performance of any part of a health service program or research activity" financed by the Department of Health and Human Services.

reason warned that this was coming: 

Can pharmacies, stem cell labs, or abortion clinics refuse to hire people who believe their activities are evil? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services doesn't think so. The agency is circulating draft regulations that would outlaw employment discrimination on the grounds of religious and moral beliefs by any entity that receives the department's money.

Since Washington's subsidies are so ubiquitous, the rule would apply even to local pharmacies, because the feds pay for some prescriptions. In effect, the government's money is serving as a Trojan horse for the administration's moral agenda.

The tension between the moral choices of health professionals and the interests of their patients has never been resolved. After Roe v. Wade affirmed a woman's right to obtain an abortion in 1973, Congress quickly passed the Church Amendments, permitting health care providers that receive federal funding to refuse to perform or assist abortions or sterilizations on moral or religious grounds. This means, for example, that Roman Catholic hospitals don't have to offer these services but can still receive government money. The Church Amendments also prohibit employment discrimination against health care providers who object to abortion.

Fortunately, there is a way out for people who find that certain medical treatments offend their consciences:

"Religious freedom is an important part of the history of this country," Richard S. Myers, a professor at Ave Maria School of Law, told The Washington Post. "People who have a religious or moral belief should not be forced to participate in an act they find abhorrent." Myers is correct. But why should the religious beliefs of others trump those of patients and employers? People who don't want to participate in medical procedures they find abhorrent have a simple solution: They can choose to work elsewhere.

Whole New York Times article here