There’s an excellent opinion piece in the LA Times titled, “The Fundamental Right to Refuse.” It’s by a ‘pro-choice atheist,’ who articulates that the present battle over conscience rights in healthcare is not only a fight for faith freedoms, but also a fight to preserve some of the most cherished unalienable rights on which western civilization and our republic was founded.
Here’s an excerpt of Professor Crispin Sartwell’s piece in the September 2, 2008, LA Times.
I am a pro-choice atheist. But I support a regulation, recently promulgated by the Bush administration, that would cut federal funding to nearly 600,000 hospitals, clinics, health plans, doctors’ offices and other entities if they do not allow their employees to opt out of providing certain types of care — including abortion services — on grounds of conscience and personal belief.
The idea that we must respect individual conscience as a moral arbiter is a fundamental insight of the Protestant Reformation and of the American individualism of such figures as Emerson and Thoreau. It is at the core of our traditions and our freedoms. This idea means nothing if we respect it when we agree with its results and not when we don’t. For example, many people who favor abortion rights defended the right of healthcare providers to dispense abortion services when it was illegal to do so. Their argument was that women had a right to control their own reproduction. It was, at least in some respects, an individualist and a conscientious argument. But if we respect the right of women to control their bodies, we ought to respect the rights of doctors to control their own actions. And if we respect the decision to perform abortions, we ought to respect the refusal to do so.
What will make us all essentially evil and perhaps end life on Earth is the bland bureaucracy with its regulations, and the willingness of people to capitulate to it. Of course, people can refuse to participate by quitting, fleeing and so on. But a decent society would not require extraordinary moral heroism; it would respect people’s fundamental moral commitments. It would keep its doctors healing, and stop trying to force them to do what they think is wrong.
My friend and CMDA Vice President for Government Relations Jonathan Imbody commented on this opinion piece:
“This commentary by a ‘pro-choice atheist’ artfully articulates that the present battle over conscience rights in healthcare is not only a fight for faith freedoms, but also a fight to preserve some of the most cherished unalienable rights on which western civilization and our republic was founded.
“Professor Sartwell lays out effective arguments that you can employ to convince (those) who may resist arguments founded on religious convictions:
Whistle-blowing: When rights of conscience are protected, conscientious individuals can expose and help right wrongs. When rights of conscience are suppressed, institutions, governments and special interest groups can abuse their power with impunity.
Democratic ideals: Our nation was founded by dissenters. A key measure of a democracy is how it treats divergent opinions. The suppression of dissent and coercion of conscientiously opposed individuals is a mark of tyranny and fascism.
Choice: It is untenable to insist on choice when opting for abortion and to deny choice when opposing abortion.
Conscience above state: As Thomas Jefferson stated, ‘[O]ur rules can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God.’