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. Sorry Jazz, separation of church and state goes both ways – the church doesn't tell the state what to do, and the state doesn't tell the church it has to provide abortions. Of course, you could ask for a nationalization of the catholic hospitals – with due compensation – IF you can find someone who wants to run them. Oddly enough, there seem to be not too many people who can run a hospital profitably, and not too many who are willing to kick in the rest. Maybe if Obama would concentrate on getting the universal heath care in first, so that hospitals are no longer run down financially by the uninsured they have to treat, the church would have no problem finding commercial entities to take over the business.

  2. Lemons to lemonade. Take the threats of the almighty Roman good ole' boys and turn it around on them. Have Uncle Sam buy out and staff those hospitals and make them part of the national health care system. Good riddance. Our own local catholic hospital is well run. They usually keep those places tidy and some of the best facilities in the nation, so it should be a good inheritance. Maybe then the catholic church can devote its energies and money into helping feed the poor or something.

    “Separate of church and State”. Rome hates that one…

    Next “problem”…lol..

  3. Actually, I think that the church shutting down its hospitals might be the first step towards completely government run hospitals. The lack of hospitals will lead to a huge vacuum in these communities when it comes to medical services, and this isn't a hospitable climate for new investment. Government will have to step in to keep the provision of health services flowing…

  4. If the obama Administration is so all-fired up to ensure availability of abortion services, holding a gun (the almighty power of the government) to the heads of consciencious objectors is a Bad Idea. Put up the bucks – it's not like the procedure requires hospital facilities – it's a friggin' outpatient job these days. Man, I'm telling you, does this put the lie to the “pro-choice” garbage label or what?

  5. 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.

    And you feel that YOU have the moral superiority to make that judgement???? Laughable to the point of ridiculousness.

  6. “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.”

    As far as I know, this legislation doesn't propose “changes” but protects the current legality of abortion services. More than anything else the concept retains its wedge issue status for republicans to try and hold on to social conservatives, since they have proven themselves wrong in the fiscal conservatism arena.

    I will be very surprised to see the local mercy hospitals in my area actually close their doors over this.

  7. This seems pretty simple to me:

    Obama: We demand you perform abortions.
    Catholic Hospital: We find them morally repugnant and refuse to perform them in our hospital.
    Obama: That's okay I'm passing a law saying you HAVE to perform abortions sucka! Take that!
    Catholic Hospital: Well you've tied our hands. We refuse to perform abortions so the only option we have is to close the hospitals.
    Obama; But but… you can't do that!
    Catholic Hospital: Yes We Can! By the way do you know who is John Galt?

  8. This is similar to the Pharmacists that don't want to provide the morning after pill. Any organization that wishes to partake in a secular enterprise (in this case medicine) must follow the standard best practices of that discipline.
    If the Catholic Church no longer wishes to invest in health care, they can close their hospitals on moral grounds. I don't believe they should be allowed to force their agenda through threats. Wouldn't Stem cell therapy be the next service they limit? Thanks goodness they're not Christian Scientist, or they'd limit access to vaccinations.
    Perhaps they could guarantee transit for patients with morally questionable conditions to another hospital.

  9. Man, I'm glad I edited out the portion from the original draft about seizing all of the church's lands to build low cost housing for gay married couples and confiscating their crucifixes to melt down and buy condoms and morning after abortion pills for free distribution in elementary schools. We could have had a riot on our hands!

  10. Come on Jazz, this is nothing but a No-Nothing straw man.

    For one thing there is no way that Catholic bishops can close down all the Catholic hospitals en mass. Most of these hospitals are run by orders of nuns who are not beholding to the local bishop. Secondly, there would be massive financial and legal problems for the hospital and the hospital board if such a thing happened the way you describe it.

    Would there be problems if the government forced Catholic hospitals to do abortions? Of course, and that would have to be worked out in the courts, but I doubt that anyone other than the Catholic League would want to simply close all access to these hospitals. Assuming such a law would be passed the way you would like (which is very unlikely), we would see a prolonged political and legal battle instead.

    For what it is worth, almost every abortion takes place on an outpatient basis. So insurance would not even pay for an in-hospital abortion. Third trimester abortions included.

    Also, why would congress and the executive want to alienate a significant portion of the voting population when there are plenty of alternatives to this problem?

    I am sure that you are aware of all this so unless you are being sarcastic, shame on you.

  11. Give the Won some time, he's only been in office a few (rocky) months!

  12. Your a fool if you think they wouldn't close the hospitals down.
    You can't force them to stay open.
    They don't have to sell them to anybody.
    The Catholic position on abortion is not open to negotiation.
    This is still a free nation, even though Obama and the left are doing their damnedest to fix that.
    Hey Mikeyes
    “Also, why would congress and the executive want to alienate a significant portion of the voting population when there are plenty of alternatives to this problem?”
    Why would Obama want to destroy the stock market like he has?

  13. The Catholic hospitals have a the right to refuse abortion services on religious grounds- and I support their decision- AS LONG AS they do not accept federal funds. If the Catholic hospitals accept federal money then the government has a right to attach any strings it wants or feels compelled or necessary to do. Otherwise if the government gives money to religious organizations the federal government would be seen as supporting that particular religion, which would violate the separation of church and state.

    Besides why does the Catholic church feels it is morally superior over the law if they are willing to use blackmail to get their way?

  14. I'm sorry, but you're way off. You seem to be focusing on the lawfully elected government. The United States is a constitutional democracy, which means our government's power is restrained by the constitution. Congress would be well out of bounds to decree that all hospitals have to perform any type of procedure. A lawful elected government does not have carte blanche to rewrite the rules.

    Do you truly believe that people cannot strike simply because it would be inconvenient or even deadly for you? Do you really believe that any lawfully elected government can (while still being lawful) force someone to violate their religion? The right to protest is the most fundamental right, that's why it's the first one in the Bill of Rights.

    To put a finer point on it, would you also support a congressional mandate that every charitable organization must open every meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance? What if the pledge included the phrase “under God”? Would you be okay with the government requiring every blog to swear an oath of allegiance to the government, and be subject to criminal and civil fines if they criticized the government?

    To force someone they have to do something against their moral code or quit is reprehensible. To tell them they cannot even quit is moronic.

  15. Stockboy- if the Catholic hospitals did not accept federal funds then they'd have to opt out of providing Medicare services (that's the form that their federal funding takes- not subsidies for their operations.) I don't even think that it's legal for a hospital to do that, and if it was, the government would not want the Catholic hospitals to stop providing healthcare to the poor.

  16. Hey Stockboy – tell me how they can possibly “refuse” a Medicare payment. Now if you're talking about some kind of grant, you've got a point. But Medicare and Medicaid, are, in effect, insurers of the patients, not some kind of benefactor of the hospital. Don't talk about something cannot legally refuse. Apples & oranges, dude.

  17. Insurance companies attach strings to the money they provide to hospitals, why can't the Federal government?

    More than anything, I think this argument shows the error of relying on religious institutions for basic public services.

  18. The federal government 'can't' do that, Chris, because it needs the Catholic hospitals more than they need the money. They operate these hospitals out of a charitable mission, not for profit. As they do so, they voluntarily provide the infrastructure that the government needs to provide for poor citizens' healthcare needs in these communities.

    The government is not doing them a favor by allowing them to operate, it's the other way around.

  19. CStanley,
    I'm not saying the government is doing them a favor. I'm just saying, we're putting all of our eggs in one basket at a great risk to those in the community.

    I wonder how you would feel if the only hospital in your community was owned by Muslims and operated under Islamic law.

  20. Well, that's an interesting comparison, because the last time I checked, US law permits abortions but does not require medical practitioners to perform them. So, I'd say the Catholic hospitals are operating under that law.

    If the only hospitals in some communities are Catholic hospitals, and if that bothers you or anyone else- go raise the funds to build your own hospital, or petition Planned Parenthood to answer it's mission by serving that area. Unlike the Catholic hospitals, that's an organization that really does get federal grant money.

  21. I believe this is one of those flash point questions – Abortion and The Catholic Church in one article.
    I also believe I suggested a solution that would be implemented in the real world, transportation to another hospital. This whole discussion is premised upon the concept that an abortion would be a life and death decision requiring immediate action. That may occur, but not nearly often enough to warrant the emotional turmoil.

    What however, do you say to an emergency that requires stem cell therapy to save someone's ability to walk? I'm not wanting to re-light this fire, but it does serve as an example where an organization's moral position can drastically effect a person's well-being. I'm just saying that everybody's position requires a little personal reflection as science will more and more run loggerheads with religion. Where is the line to be drawn?

    Remember, they used to keep black's and white's blood separately to avoid cross contamination. It was a moral issue for many.

  22. Mr. Shaw,
    If trash collectors refused to pick up trash, we would get new trash collectors.
    If a government were to tell Catholics, kill every other female child born or get out of midwifery AND EVERY OTHER HUMANITARIAN SERVICE TOO, then the answer is obvious; they could not tolerate the morale dilemna and would have to take themselves out of the equation.
    Your logic and arguments are so weak that I find it hard that someone as well read and well educated and well respected would have ever come to these conclusions, and used these lame examples.
    A better approach would be to ask, why is abortion so sacred that the government would be willing to sacrifice all the good of the Catholic
    You must be joshing us, right? You are giving us an early April Fools column, right? Because you can't be serious.

  23. Wow you guys — go read the bill. Seriously. Catholic hospitals, even those that receive some federal/state money, will not be forced to perform abortions, unless they are specifically run by the state. They Hyde ammendment is still law, which means that tax dollars cannot be used to pay for abortions. The law basically says that government-run agencies cannot interfere with a woman's right to choose before viability, or after, if her life/health are at stake. It's just a rewording of Roe v Wade. It means that it's likely that the parental notification laws will become invalid, and it also means that those laws they keep trying to pass in Colorado (and other places) giving full citizenship rights to fertilized eggs will no longer be ok. It will be interesting to see how the whole “partial birth” ban will turn out, but that's a stupid law anyway. It's very possible that the mandatory waiting periods will go away, which is also good.

    The point is: if you go to a facility where abortion is not offered, you will not have the right to get an abortion at that facility, any more than you have a right to get medicated skin cream from your optometrist or a leg amputation from your urologist. You will not be barred, however, from getting an abortion from a facility that does offer them, nor will there be laws that prevent those facilities from opening and operating.

  24. Hemmd,
    Again, the argument of “emergency that requires stem cell therapy to save someone's ability to walk?” doesn't really exist. If you are saying there is a therapy made from “stem cells” which is being refused or denied by Catholics, then I am not aware of it.
    Embryonic stem cell research has not yet produced ONE SINGLE MEDICAL IMPROVEMENT. And it is embryonic cells that were at the center of the religious objections, not just stem cells per se.
    Be concise.

  25. Plainoldbob,

    You need to come up to Wisconsin with your skills, trolling is a favorite way to catch walleye around here.

    Roro80 seems to have hit on all the salient points. There are no laws that demand or force a health care agency to perform any procedure (well, OSHA) that they don't offer in the first place. That's why so many Florida hospitals don't have emergency rooms – way too much chance of lawsuits and too many regulations to have to deal with the possible chance of a profit. A lot easier to not offer the service. Catholic hospitals will not be forced into offering abortions. This is not the same as a pharmacist refusing to sell a morning after pill, condoms, etc. since the organization he works for offers them to the public.

  26. CStanley,
    In this case, these hospitals are on your side of the ideological divide. I just wanted you to think through cases where they may not be.

  27. I think if a patient has Medicare/Medicaid then those patients have a right to go to the hospital of their choice. At that point it becomes a choice of the patient. I would not consider insurance payments to be government support of Catholic beliefs. I don't think the government should tell a private citizen which hospitals he or she can or can not visit for medical services.

  28. Just out of curiosity, a quick show of hands. How many of you have heard of Jonathan Swift?

  29. Of course it doesn't exist YET. That was my point. Science will continue to make strides that may well challenge traditional orthodoxy. Hence my example of segregating blood. What now is seen as an archaic foible of passed generations was once a hot button issue that placed established moral norms against advances in science.

    My hypothetical merely demonstrates that questions like this one are sure to re-occur.
    I repeat, where do you draw the line?

  30. Yes, I know that's what you meant, Chris, but it's a fictitious situation that has no bearing in reality so it doesn't make sense to consider it- if anything, the fact that you'd come up with that as somehow analogous shows how far off the mark the prochoice side is in terms of defining a right to an abortion as far more absolute than the US public as a whole does, let alone the subset of the population that adheres to the Catholic teaching.

    For another extreme analogy, why not imagine that one might live in a community where the only hospital is run by Seventh Day Adventists. What would obviously happen in that situation, if people in the community did not have access to blood transfusions or other medical treatments that are considered standard quality of care, is that someone else would open a hospital to serve those needs of the community.

    The reason we have so many 'eggs in the basket' of being served by Catholic hospitals is that not very long ago, most people in our society did not consider the killing of human fetuses to be a primary medical need of the community that had to be served; so, when Catholic dioceses chose to fund hopitals to serve communities, the communities gratefully accepted that investment.

    Suddenly though, they're no longer credited with good works if they have a difference of opinion on whether or not doctors should be taking human lives.

    So yes, if that is becoming the majority opinion in our society, Chris, then please make sure that the eggs aren't all put in that basket anymore and go find someone else to sponsor the needed abortions. I've already mentioned that my tax dollars are going to an organization which, although not receiving money directly for abortions, is able to build facilities all over the country because of government grants- so I'm sure they can spare some cash to build abortion clinics right beside every Catholic hospital in the nation.

  31. Jazz — I think everyone knows about JS. It's just not particularly clear from your article what your over-the-top, take-it-to-it's-heartless-but-logical-limit proposal is.

  32. Thank you, roro. I thought maybe I was particularly dense or distracted today but I really didn't get the gist of the satirical bent to the article either.

  33. but it's a fictitious situation that has no bearing in reality so it doesn't make sense to consider it

    In Iran they were considering adopting Islamic law in medical institutions, meaning that men couldn't treat women and vice versa.

    Obviously what we're dealing with now is a fictitious situation as well – as roro80 pointed out – so I figured why not join in the fun :-)

  34. Sorry Jazz, next time use the <sarcasm> tag when you're trying to be funny or over the top. And leave the attacks on the Catholics to PZ, we're used to him and react appropriately.

  35. No problem, CStanley. After going back and reading again, I'm still not getting it.

    But I disagree with this:
    “…not very long ago, most people in our society did not consider the killing of human fetuses to be a primary medical need of the community that had to be served…”

    This is only true if you take “most people in society” to mean “men”. Women since the beginning of time have been extremely concerned with the issues going in their uteri, regardless of their ability to talk about it with doctors, their husbands/partners, or with other women. It's pretty well documented that the abortion rate has actually gone down since the legalization of abortion — it sounds counter-intuitive, but the legalization of abortion tends to coincide fairly closely with wide-spread use of contraceptives and sex-ed. If we look throughout the world at the different strategies of birth control/sex ed/abortion — taking as extremes, say, Nicaragua and the Netherlands –, the ones with the lowest abortion rates are actually the ones with the most progressive resproductive rights laws. And the medical issues we see in the extremely anti-abortion countries would just break your heart. Something like 10,000 women lost their lives in Nicaragua last year due to their draconian stand on abortion.

  36. I am not sure on what side of this line you are standing.

    If this conversation is that religion, particularly this religion, is against abortion, then how does one make the leap that it is anti science?

    A reverence for life is not unscientific, even if their belief is that life begins at the human bean stage. Being forced to perform abortions or having their license revolked or payments for services rendered denied is NOT the same as refusing to provide some imaginary therapy derived from embryonic stem cells that may or may not occur in the future. These are real moral dilemnas that are occuring inside real institutions and impacting real people of faith.

    Besides, are you saying that people will be denied the opportunity to walk because Catholic hospitals will automatically and instantly refuse to use said therapies???? So this therapy will not be available elsewhere? No. This is an illogical and hysterical line of thought.

    Separating blood types was 1) based on ignorance, and 2) based on racism. It had nothing to do with religion.

  37. Keeping with the spirit of Swiftian satire, I hope that I live long enough to experience time travel. I shall be sure to pay a visit to Mother Shaw and make sure she knows of all the options available to pregnant women.

  38. I have no interest in making Catholic hospitals perform abortions but, when a patient asks about abortion, I want Catholic hospitals to refer that patient to a hospital or clinic that will perform abortions.

  39. Holly- would that only apply if the patient requests the referral, or do you feel there's an obligation to postively affirm that option even if the patient doesn't request it? That's where I see a big potential sticking point.

    roro: I will partially concede on those points, although I don't know how you separate out the societal norms and the legal status, nor how it can possibly be accurately assessed how many illegal abortions occur. Anyway, my main point is that the extreme prochoice side tends to overstate the societal agreement with their position (most Americans don't believe in a right to abortion on demand, certainly not in later stages of pregnancy.)

    Chris: Jason tends to be a lot less patient than I am in our debates, so I kind of figured that it would happen eventually. I guess I'll have to come here to spar with you from now on. ;)

  40. “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?”

    So you want to summarily force someone to do farm labor for pay you decide (or none at all) to your specifications and to your schedule?

    Interesting, as I recall we used to have this exact plan; but the Yankees came and shut it down during that whole “Civil War” thing… but if you're looking to bring slavery back, feel free.

    Don't expect me to support your pro-Slavery stance though.

  41. CStanley — I agree that it's difficult to tell how many illegal abortions occur, but it's not too difficult to tell how many unnecessary deaths occur. In this country, a lot of the numbers were taken from women's stories after legalization, which I think would underestimate the total number, if anything. As for how to tease out societal/cultural issues from legal status — it's not as hard as you might think; just look at what happens to the numbers when there's a change in legal status.

    As for this: “Anyway, my main point is that the extreme prochoice side tends to overstate the societal agreement with their position (most Americans don't believe in a right to abortion on demand, certainly not in later stages of pregnancy.)”
    I'm curious who you are using for your “extreme prochoice” set of people to follow. I consider myself super-duper pro-choice, and I think that, as stated in FOCA, a woman does need to figure things out before viability. Now, if there are significant life/health risks, or if it takes until after the 6-month mark to find out that the child has such a terrible disease that they will die within a few days of birth anyway, I don't think forced birth is morally ok. I feel like the pro-choice side's views are often misrepresented. I also think that many people, specifically women, who proclaim a pro-life viewpoint do not necessarily practice these viewpoints, nor feel they can share their own concern about their ability to control their bodies within their family or religious community. I've heard the figure that 98% of sexually active or previously sexually-active women have used some form of contraception; since most pro-life groups also fight against contraception access, and as a much larger proportion than 2% consider themselves part of the pro-life movement, how do these numbers jive?

  42. As for how to tease out societal/cultural issues from legal status — it's not as hard as you might think; just look at what happens to the numbers when there's a change in legal status.But the changes in the legal status certainly don't happen in the absence of changes in the mores of the culture- in fact the legalization almost represents a culmination of those changes.

    The most extreme that I refer to tend to be the profiteers of the abortion industry, but groups like NARAL also state the polling data in misleading ways to make it seem as though most Americans are strongly prochoice. While there's pretty strong support for the idea that abortion should be legal in some cases, the vast majority of Americans favor more restrictions than the prochoice advocates would allow (or that FOCA would allow, for that matter- which is why that federal legislation is being pushed, to overturn many of the decisions made at the state legislative level.)

    So, where do you get your information on what prolife people believe and what they practice in their personal lives? I find that the idea that prolife groups strongly oppose birth control is greatly exaggerated. Personally I oppose the use of birth control but I do not in any way oppose access to nonabortifacient birth control, because my opposition to it is based on religious belief. How sure are you that you aren't conflating people's personal beliefs with what they advocate politically?

  43. What is the rationale for restricting abortion at all in the later stages of gestation if not to recognize right to life for the fetus after viability? And then if it has the right to life, how can you assert a right of the mother to end its life at that stage as opposed to (what I assume you'd agree) would be murder after the child leaves her birth canal?

  44. I also think that many people, specifically women, who proclaim a pro-life viewpoint do not necessarily practice these viewpoints, nor feel they can share their own concern about their ability to control their bodies within their family or religious community.

    I'll be kind and preempt you walking into a trap with this one.

    I'll let you know that I am female and I do practice the viewpoints that I espouse. I'm married, do not use artificial birth control, and when we realized that we were not able to conceive a second time (after having one biological child) we adopted our second child.

    And although I haven't been super active in the prolife arena, I have been involved with a lot of women who share my viewpoints both politically and personally, and haven't seen any evidence of gross hypocrisy or 'concerns about controlling our bodies'. I think we're all pretty aware of how babies are made and we know what we can do to prevent pregnancies, and we know we have options- some of which we consider morally acceptable and some not.

  45. CStanley said:

    “What is the rationale for restricting abortion at all in the later stages of gestation if not to recognize right to life for the fetus after viability? And then if it has the right to life, how can you assert a right of the mother to end its life at that stage as opposed to (what I assume you'd agree) would be murder after the child leaves her birth canal?”

    Well, the difference of course is that the child (see, I used the word) is inside a human being still. I would think it natural that the mother have more rights over the child when the child is part of her body than she does when the child is no longer part of her body. It seems different to me to legally require a person to feed and care for a child that has been born (and many places allow for some form of “safe” abandonment (see Nebraska) and all allow for adoption) than it is to legally require her to continue employing her body in some way.

    I'm not arguing that there are no limits on the mother's rights post-viability, but it also does seem clearly different than post-birth.

  46. Well, I don't buy the distinction at all, really. We recognize that society has an obligation to protect the right of the neonate, to the point that someone has to provide the care for it.

    The facts of biology dictate that prior to birth, one particular person has to provide that care. The law should not have to correct for nature.

  47. CStanley — Ok, that's a lot to get through, and I've only got a few minutes, but I'll see what I can do.

    “But the changes in the legal status certainly don't happen in the absence of changes in the mores of the culture- in fact the legalization almost represents a culmination of those changes.”
    Often it does, and I think it generally did in some ways in this country, but there are lots of instances where this is definitely not the case, where instead of the laws gradually legalizing or banning abortion, a new leader or group comes into power and changes the laws over night.

    “or that FOCA would allow, for that matter- which is why that federal legislation is being pushed, to overturn many of the decisions made at the state legislative level”
    I suppose there are two sides to this. First, most legal rights have not been conferred upon minority groups through public ballot; this does not mean those rights should not exist. Second, there is a lot of misinformation created by the wording of public opinion polls, which translates into misinformation in advertisements meant to sway public opinion during an election. Example: you'd get very different answers to a public opinion poll if you asked the two following questions. 1) Do you believe that anyone should be able to murder a baby at any time? 2) Do you believe the government should be able to force medical decisions upon patients?

    “What is the rationale for restricting abortion at all in the later stages of gestation if not to recognize right to life for the fetus after viability? And then if it has the right to life, how can you assert a right of the mother to end its life at that stage as opposed to (what I assume you'd agree) would be murder after the child leaves her birth canal?”
    This isn't necessarily the party line, but I actually think this more about the woman than the fetus. We don't in this country force people to be organ donors, even if someone is going to die. I'd like to think that I, personally, would give up my kidney, etc, for someone else to keep on living, even given the health risks, and particularly to someone I love, but we don't mandate that. After viability, you basically have a baby with mom's skin over it. They can live without the organs of the mother — get it out, give it over to an adoption agency. Fine.

    As birth defects — The mother of course has the choice to keep a baby that has a birth defect. I do think that if a child will be born with an untreatable, fatal disease, say their heart is on the outside, or many are even born dead, I think it's only cruel to force the mother to go through with the rest of the pregnancy anyway. At, say, 7 months, this is most certainly a wanted pregnancy, and a tragic, heart-wrenching decision must be made, but for goodness' sake, do we really want to take away that decision?

    “I'll be kind and preempt you walking into a trap with this one.”
    There was no trap. That's great for you that you've made decisions in your life that make you happy. I would like to point out that other people are not necessarily like you. If I were your friend, I probably would tell you about the birth control or that abortion back in the teenage years either. That doesn't mean that those stories aren't quite common. I could site many anecdotal cases from my clinic volunteering years, so I know the prevelence of it.

  48. Interesting. I definitely buy the distinction. Care outside the womb involves changing diapers, providing food, giving affection, and the like. Care inside the womb involves having one human drawing nutrients through the bloodstream of the other. As for whether or not having a human inside of you, attached through a placenta to your body, is best described as being part of someone or inside someone doesn't seem a particularly fruitful discussion (says the guy who's enjoyed books on mereology, the philosophy of parts and wholes). We know roughly what the relationship is. An infant pre-birth inherently puts demands on a woman's body that an infant post-birth does not. I believe the law is demanding more of the mother when it legally compels her to use her body in that manner to support a life than it is when it compels some person to provide care after birth.

    My only point is that making a distinction between legal rights pre and post birth is not arbitrary. The relationship between a mother and a child truly changes in meaningful ways at birth.

  49. Let's see, the original “Modest Proposal” was a satire proposing that the British should treat the Irish people as farm animals, and eat them.

    So, was this a poorly done attempt at satire? Or are you really so vile that you think that forcing people to give you what you want is perfectly acceptable behavior?

    Here's a hint: no one owes you anything. You what the Catholic Church to provide health care to people at low cost, then you put up with the conditions they put on that care. You don't own them, you do not get to demand that they provide what you want them to provide, rather than what they want to provide.

    You don't like it? Great. Start your own damn hospitals.

  50. 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.

  51. 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.

  52. 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.

  53. 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.

  54. 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.

  55. 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!

  56. 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?

  57. 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.

  58. 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?

  59. 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.

  60. 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.

  61. 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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