Separation of Church and Health. A Modest Proposal.

EvilPriest.jpgIntroductory question: What do foreign, oil producing nations, American farmers and trash collectors have in common with the Catholic Church? Hopefully we will be able to address that question here today. To begin with, we’ll look at this article from the St. Louis Dispatch which addresses concerns that many Catholic run hospitals are threatening to shut down if the Obama administration were to sign the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) into law. In response, Ed Morrissey ponders the following situation.

We have asked this question before, on several occasions during the campaign, and now the media has begun to ask it as well. With the Catholic Church providing over 600 hospitals nationwide, servicing mostly needy areas, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wonders aloud today whether the Freedom of Choice Act pushed now by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) would tear an irreparable hole in the nation’s safety net:

Ed refers, in part, to this passage from the Dispatch article:

A proposed bill promising major changes in the U.S. abortion landscape has Roman Catholic bishops threatening to close Catholic hospitals if the Democratic Congress and White House make it law.

Obviously the opponents of FOCA see this as a threat to health care services in America and a reason to not have such legislation in place. What this argument misses is the fundamental hypocrisy which leaps into many such conversations in the political arena as soon as the dreaded abortion question is brought into the mix. This, in turn, brings us back to the introductory question at the opening of this column.

One of the fundamental dangers – widely and correctly considered to be a threat to our national security – of allowing foreign, potentially hostile nations to control our supply of oil, is the concern that they could cut it off at any time for any reason to our detriment. They might do it for religious or political reasons, or perhaps as part of a larger war effort. This is why it’s important to boost our own supplies. If we are to take the Catholic Church at their word, then FOCA and the larger abortion question have nothing to do with this question. The true issue is that they are apparently willing to cut off all emergency, required medical support to their individual communities because they do not agree with restrictions and legislation passed by the lawfully elected government of the United States.

We’re not talking about a car dealership closing down here. Were that the case, drivers could travel to purchase cars from more distant towns until the demands of the open market drove the opening of a new dealership. Suddenly cutting off local health care is on par with suddenly putting an embargo on a nation’s oil supply. The results are catastrophic. If the representatives of the Catholic Church who control the flow of vital health care services are willing to even suggest that they would remove all health care because of rules and laws regarding abortion and family planning, they are, in effect, threatening an even worse embargo and demonstrating that they really don’t care about the welfare of the citizens in their communities.

What if the nation’s farmers banded together and declared that all food production would suddenly cease unless the government abandoned NAFTA? Can we legally force them to produce food even if people are starving the next week? Would they receive so much sympathy for their concerns from any political party? Perhaps the nation’s trash collectors can shut down all services until some odious piece of legislation is repealed. Should blackmail like that be allowed to affect the legislative process?

Can hospitals be forced to provide their services? As with foreign oil barons, farmers and trash collectors, the answer would seem to be no. And to be perfectly clear, we should most certainly NOT seek to force them to provide any services, including abortions or birth control, contraception and related services. But in the same line of thought, the solution is not to punish them, but to replace them. General and emergency health services (above and beyond abortion or family planning) are, if anything, even more important than a steady supply of fuel, food or waste disposal. America should free itself from the potentially hostile nature of the Catholic church and its willingness to blackmail the American legislative process, regardless of the cost in health and lives. We are already talking about sinking frightening amounts of taxpayer money into health care for everyone. Rather than revamping insurance schemes, perhaps a better use for these funds would be the construction and staffing of new, secular hospitals across the nation in areas where patients have little or no option beyond facilities controlled by the Catholic Church’s political agenda.

Has this suggestion taken on the tones of A Modest Proposal? Yes, and intentionally so. But it is also intended as a far more serious topic of discussion. If the Catholic Church feels that its moral superiority outweighs the secular, lawfully elected government of the United States to the degree that they can unilaterally shut down hundreds of hospitals across the nation, then it is drunk with power. America is still a nation with a tradition of separation of church and state as well as the ability of the majority’s elected representatives to pass the laws of the land. Leaving so much of our critical health care in the hands of those who would blackmail us with their religious dogma is equally as foolish and dangerous as remaining dependent on the Middle East and Venezuela for our nation’s energy supply.

UPDATE: My communist propaganda was originally to appear in Pravda, but they’ve run out of cash to pay freelance writers. Thanks for asking, though. :-)

62 Comments

  1. I don't believe I've ever read a more thoroughly totalitarian opinion.

    Our nation was built by men articulating the natural right of liberty of conscience: each man owes his conscience to God, not the King, and the King has no right to coerce a man against his conscience. Shaw turns this notion upside down, and posits a moral responsibility for individuals to serve the state by performing their career task, even if it violates their conscience. This is identical to the Soviet model of the New Socialist Man who serves the party faithfully, but utterly negates liberty of conscience.

    I'm really curious to know what Mr. Shaw intends to do when the doctors simply refuse to perform abortions. Does he propose stationing policemen at the doctor's sides so they can move his arms if he refuses to move them himself? Trust me, some of these doctors will gladly accept prison rather than perform abortions. I know I would. If they try to keep these hospitals open, they will provoke a revolution. I kid you not.

    There is no part of Shaw's reasoning that passes muster. This is totalitarianism, pure and simple. If this sort of reasoning takes hold, the American republic is dead, and it will be time for men of good conscience to provide new guards for their future security.

  2. There was no trap.
    Heh…no, I only said that because quite honestly, every time I get into a blog discussion like this one, with someone I haven't engaged in conversation before, I've been presumed to be male.

    And I didn't mean to imply that I think my personal situation should apply to everyone. I bring it out because again, there seems to be this presumption among a lot of prochoice people that the prolife movement is mainly made up of men, or of women who are cowed by men or something. Yet have you ever been to a rally? Ever notice the thousands of women who choose to be there? They aren't doing this because they're coerced to- it's a heartfelt, deep conviction among a lot of women to protect life.

    So, perhaps I do overread the degree of that sentiment among women, but I'd say it sounds like you also might be overgeneralizing some of the women you've come across who are on the other side of the spectrum in terms of their belief that they can't control their own bodies if they aren't permitted to terminate pregnancies. I can't relate to that feeling in the least.

    Pacatrue- all I can say is that from my perspective (and while I'm only one woman, so take it for what it's worth- although I'm pretty sure I'm the only one in this conversation who has had this experience), being the primary caregiver for an infant is far more challenging than carrying the child in utero. Obviously there are some pregnancies where the demands are worse (I actually hated pregnancy and had some complications, so it's not as though I'm diminishing that) and then there are some situations with infants with special needs where the demands of their care are extraordinary. But all other things being equal, I can honestly say that I believe there's far more restrictions on a person's personal freedom when one has to care for an infant 24-7 than when one is gestating one.

    That's not to dispute what you are saying about the relationship changing profoundly- I do agree with that. But since the essence of the issue here is whether or not the demands on the mother are 'fair', I just wanted to give my two cents on the relative hardships in each situation.

    The bottom line is that if one believes that the preborn human being is a living human being with right to life, not much else really matters. And so I'm trying to point out that even though the mother's rights and freedom are infringed, I simply don't believe that society or the law should be obliged to correct that by permitting the killing. Society does have other obligations, and that's where I think the focus should be, not on allowing termination of pregnancy as if there isn't another human being involved.

  3. As birth defects — The mother of course has the choice to keep a baby that has a birth defect.
    I didn't ask whether or not the mother has the choice to keep a baby that has a defect. I asked why the mothers who learn about defects during the late stages of pregnancy should have an opportunity to end the life when that same opportunity isn't available to women who give birth and then find out that there's a serious problem. Should babies born under those circumstances be subject to euthanasia if the mother so decides?

    We don't in this country force people to be organ donors, even if someone is going to die.
    Even if you don't attribute rights to the fetus, again, please at least be scientifically accurate. A fetus is not an organ; at the very least it is an organism which is quite different. By equating it with an organ you are moving the goalposts of the discussion to prevent people from even considering the possibility of the fetus being a distinct human being.

  4. OhioGranny

    1. The Catholic Church has already come out on Stem Cell research. I don't think is an illogical leap to figure they would be against treatments that would come that research.
    2. Segregation of blood came right out of the preachers mouth's at the time. “The mark of Cain” and keeping his descendants separate. That was the spiritual force that was invoked to justify first slavery, then segregation. Sorry, that's historical fact.

    You wondered what side of the line I came down on.
    I will defend anyone's right to believe what they want and fight anyone who figures they know what's best for me.
    If a church wants to run a business that enters a field with that is run by secular rules, I submit that that church must render unto Cesar what is secular and to God what is His. If you can't do both, you're in the wrong business.

  5. HemmD writes: “If a church wants to run a business that enters a field with that is run by secular rules, I submit that that church must render unto Cesar what is secular and to God what is His. If you can't do both, you're in the wrong business.”

    Exactly. And now that the government rules seem to be requiring of them what their consciences will not allow them to provide, they are deciding they are in the wrong business — as is their right under God, whether it's lawful or not — and leaving the business. This is what they ought to do. Nobody — NOBODY — has the right to deny them this choice.

    Governments have no right — EVER, under ANY circumstance — to force a man to violate his conscience. This is the very right America's founders fought to protect. If the government attempts to force this conduct, they have violated natural law, and it is every man's right to overthrow this government and establish one that will recognize the human right to liberty of conscience.

  6. 1. Tax heavily.
    2. Limit charitable contributions.
    3. Make institutions dependent on government money and/or give them enough so that those not taking the money can't compete.
    4. Demand what you want.
    5. Those that refuse government money go out of business.

    Success!

  7. I think the point on the organ donor analogy is not that the unborn child is an organ, but that the pro-life position legally requires the woman to allow that child use of her organs, mostly the uterus and placenta, even if the woman decides she no longer wishes the other person to have use of her body. Of course, one place the analogy fails is that organ donation is always permanent while pregnancy is not. However, we would still not legally compel the donation of a kidney even if it could be returned in a few month's time. Would we? If not, why should we require temporary use of a uterus?

    Judith Jarvis Thompson wrote a famous philosophy paper in the late 70s arguing along similar lines. Her analogy was that a woman woke up one day to discover a world famous violinist was connected to her such that she was feeding the violinist by having her blood course between the two of them. According to Thompson, many might feel the right thing to do for the woman is for her to allow this situation to continue until the violinist recovers and can go off on his or her own. But few, says Thompson, would feel the woman should be legally compelled to continue offering her blood to the violinist. She should have the legal right to stop it, even if it means the other person dies, because she has not lost the legal right to control her own body.

    The very nice thing about this paper, in my view, is that it attempts to show that the legal obligations of a mother are not clear and obvious even if you decide an unborn child is a full human. You may have noticed in my own comments that I've always used the terms “child” and not “fetus”. Many people act as if the status of the child is the only thing to consider and after that we know what to do. In my mind, the fetus is an unborn human and it's entirely unclear what is right. (My personal beliefs are always towards bearing the child, but what my personal beliefs mean for my legal beliefs is hazy to me.)

    However, the violinist argument fails in various ways as well. One of the biggest is that in Thompson's scenario, the woman awakens to find herself hooked up to another person. However, except in the case of rape, the woman has some sort of role in becoming pregnant. If the woman chooses to have the violinist hooked up to her, does it change what we require of her legally?

  8. The “logic” of the abortion legalization movement has always produced twisted horrors, and today is no exception. Today, pacatrue writes: “…why should we require temporary use of a uterus?” positing a mother's pregnancy as a rental issue, in a strained attempt to conjure a dilemma for abortion objectors decrying the denial of their liberty of conscience.

    The tortured logic requires that we imagine the mother's body is property, and that gestation is a grant of “squatter's rights.” I'm tempted to observe that the correct analogy would be that every time a woman has sex, she's actually inviting a specific human being to live on her “property,” offering a legally enforceable, 9-month contract that the owner willingly and consciously waives the right to revoke. That would, in fact, be a better analogy, and much, much closer to the truth, but even that correction misses the point.

    But the real truth is, the woman's body is not property of any kind, and a gestating infant is not a squatter, a renter, or any sort of tenant. This is human reproduction we're talking about; it's a special case that is unlike any other, and defies analogy, because humans inhere dignity, and producing life lies at the heart of what it means to be human. To deny it means to revoke our own humanity, and to cease to be civilized, or even human in any meaningful form.

  9. You are saying that anyone who comes into a community, like nuns and priests did from the Catholic church, and whose tenets of faith say, take loving care of these people, help these people through charitable works; love these people through providing food (soup kitchens); love these people by tending to their wounds and supplying medicines and doctors, that they must also then submit themselves to doing things which are outside their faith?
    Because your arguments are weak! Having a stance, or drawing a line, is the right of everyone. The government is also taking a stance in that death is more important than life. Killing the unborn is more important than charity.
    The line being drawn here is that there is no free will in the USA. There is no freedom to help your neighbor unless you submit to the church of humanism!
    I've been reading comments where there are postings claiming the government doesn't force catholic hospitals to allow abortions but I have worked at Catholic hospitals which had a “secular” operating room for such times when a missed abortion or incomplete abortion needed to be completed. The difference in forcing the institutions is that the doctors themselves respected the codes and ideals of the hospital foundation so they didn't bring those patients in. And why should they, when abortion clinics are everywhere.
    And I read that “abortions are proven to have declined” after legalization. Absolutely not! Abortion clinics are full time factories. At Metro Hospital, back in the early 1970's, 15-25 abortions per week, paid for with tax dollars!
    So you are saying that the Catholics do NOT have the right to provide any care unless they accept that which is unacceptable, hence it is better they pack up their religion and go away? And isn't that what the Catholics are also saying? So why does Jazz say this is tantamont to blackmail?

  10. However, the violinist argument fails in various ways as well. One of the biggest is that in Thompson's scenario, the woman awakens to find herself hooked up to another person. However, except in the case of rape, the woman has some sort of role in becoming pregnant. If the woman chooses to have the violinist hooked up to her, does it change what we require of her legally?

    I”m glad you finally got around to this part, Pacatrue. That's absolutely correct, that it's only in cases of rape where the woman has found herself in that situation involuntarily (philwynk phrased it all beautifully.) Does the woman find herself having a higher cost for having sex than a man does? Certainly. But again, this is due to biology, not legal oppression. The government isn't obligated to correct all kinds of other inequities that are forced on us by nature, nor should it.

    We already have laws against rape and although it's not possible for government to guarantee that rape will not occur (just as with other violent acts, murder, assault, etc.), this is the correct societal obligation toward the woman's right to protect her own body. Consensual sex is always open to some possibility of a pregnancy as a result, and both men and women should take responsibility for that. Currently, having abortion as a permissible option in the situation of an unwanted pregnancy actually helps absolve the men of the responsibility, which I feel is a move in the wrong direction. We'll never be able to equalize the gender roles in bearing children, now should we (once more, a situation of nature, not of man's doing.) But laws should be constructed to at least recognize the responsibilities of both parties who consent to sex and that in doing so they incur a chance of creating another human being in the process.

  11. I believe there is nothing “twisted” in the logic presented in my argument nor does the word “logic” require quotes. Even though we disagree, phil, I dare say I'm as reasonable as yourself. Now, I happen to agree that all analogies eventually breakdown in the discussion. Creating and bearing a child is its own unique experience and event.

    It is worth noting that the only reason issues of “property” are coming up at all is precisely because the law is involved. My own personal take is that people must take responsibility for their actions and that includes carrying and raising any children created through consensual sex. But what happens if a mother decides she does not wish to do so? If you are pro-choice or pro-life, you can argue with her that she has a moral obligation. But, the pro-life position adds another step. It says that, not only is it the right thing to do, but the mother is legally obligated to continue gestation and we will punish her for refusing to do so. (Actually, it's interesting that people very rarely talk about punishing the mother legally for an abortion; the focus is almost always on punishing the person who assists her. But that's a whole different discussion.) This additional requirement says that the woman no longer has legal control of her own body. She is legally compelled (by that limited small government) to continue the pregnancy.

    The analogies are all designed to point out that this is a rather strong requirement that we rarely if ever require in any other circumstance — legally requiring the use of one person's body to support another. I accept that some may simply reject any and all analogies and claim that pregnancy is simply different from all that. That's possible. And if so we then must focus again back on the central question: Does becoming pregnant confer legal obligations on a woman such that she is forced to remain pregnant even if she chooses not to?

    I always come to this with two central thoughts: 1) the life inside a mother is a human child; and 2) the fact that a child is growing inside a person and not an incubator MUST be morally and legally relevant, so if my positions would be identical in both situations, then I'm in error somewhere.

  12. Actually, it's interesting that people very rarely talk about punishing the mother legally for an abortion; the focus is almost always on punishing the person who assists her. But that's a whole different discussion.

    You're right that it's a whole tangent in itself, but briefly I'll just note that it's not that much different from suicide which at various times has been formally considered illegal (I'm not sure but it still may be in some states) but almost never prosecuted.

    The analogies are all designed to point out that this is a rather strong requirement that we rarely if ever require in any other circumstance — legally requiring the use of one person's body to support another.
    Again, I think it's a false distinction (or at least, exaggerated distinction) to claim that we can never legally require this type of support by one individual for another when we have all kinds of other situations where individuals are compelled by law to provide care for minors or dependents who are incapable of self support. I do understand that the line being drawn there is based on the autonomy over one's body- but I still don't think that's as bright a line as others make it out to be. And really, that's just another way of recognizing what you and phil are pointing out, the uniqueness of the situation of a gestational human being.

    BTW, paca, I do appreciate that you use the word 'child', purposefully, to express your opinion that the unborn being is a human being albeit one that does not have the same right to life as a born child. I just disagree and I hope you can see that if the unborn child does have right to life then none of the violations of the mother's rights can be addressed by taking the life of the child.

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