Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

New Tasmania bill undermines conscience rights for pro-life medical workers

Map of Australia

Map of Australia

The inimitable Dr. Lydia McGrew has a must-read blog post up about it at “What’s Wrong With The World?” (H/T Jay from Life Training Institute)

Here’s a snip:

This first part directly attacks the conscience of doctors opposed to abortion by requiring them, on penalty of a fine, to refer the patient to a doctor who will do the deed. See my further discussion of referrals, here.

But there’s more: The Tasmania law also says that counselors who are opposed to abortion and from whom a pregnant woman has sought advice must refer the woman to a different counselor who is known to be not thus opposed!

Here is how the law defines “counselor”:

counsellor means a person who provides a service that involves counselling whether or not for fee or reward;

Smith is, plausibly enough, of the opinion that this would apply to those who work even as volunteers for Crisis Pregnancy Centers and hence would “obliterate pro-life crisis pregnancy counseling.”

Even insofar as the law applies to professional counselors, those with counseling licenses who are working with a pregnant woman officially in their professional capacity, this is disturbing enough. It is yet another attempt to undermine the helping professions by forcing those in them to offer material cooperation with lifestyle decisions (including, in this case, murderous ones) preferred by the leftists.

But as the law applies to volunteers as well, we’ve entered wholly new territory. Volunteer pregnancy counselors are essentially just private people devoting themselves to trying to help pregnant women in their spare time. It is difficult to see any principled distinction between regulating what such an entirely non-professional person says to a woman in a private conversation and regulating what the woman’s aunt, mother, or friend says to her in a private conversation. The law is explicit that such a referral must take place “if a woman seeks pregnancy options advice from a counsellor and the counsellor has conscientious objections to terminations.” So if a woman deliberately seeks out and goes to a center calling itself “Alternatives Crisis Pregnancy Center” and offering explicitly in its advertising to help a woman to find alternatives to abortion, the counselors there would be obligated by this law, on pain of a fine, to round off their personal conversation with her by offering her a referral to a pro-abortion counselor! This despite the fact that the whole raison d’etre of the center is to try to save babies from abortion.

This law reminds me of a a post I saw a while back on Well Spent Journey, which is a blog written by a future physician. He was concerned about conscience rights and wrote about it just before the last election.

He writes:

This issue is sometimes overlooked, but it goes hand-in-hand with abortion. As a future physician, it affects me personally.

[...]Only a month after taking office, President Obama announced that he would be rescinding HHS regulations protecting the conscience rights of healthcare workers:

“[Specific publicly-funded entities may not] discriminate in the employment, promotion, or termination of employment of any physician or other health care personnel because he performed or assisted in the performance of a lawful sterilization procedure or abortion, because he refused to perform or assist in the performance of such a procedure or abortion on the grounds that his performance or assistance in the performance of the procedure or abortion would be contrary to his religious beliefs or moral convictions, or because of his religious beliefs or moral convictions respecting sterilization procedures or abortions…” 

In April 2009, these rules were officially eliminated. Then, in 2011, the administration approved the now-infamous HHS contraception mandate, requiring employer-provided insurance plans to cover birth control and early-term abortion drugs…regardless of the provider’s religious objections. (As an aside, I highly recommend R.J. Snell’s article,“The Contraception Mandate and Secular Discourse”.)

Other recent attacks have centered around the Weldon Amendment (2004), which prohibits federally funded agencies from discriminating against health care providers who refuse to provide, pay for, provide coverage for, or refer for abortions.

Additionally, a 2009 online survey of 2,865 faith-based healthcare professionals found that:

  • 39% of faith-based healthcare professionals have “experienced pressure from or discrimination by faculty or administrators based on [their] moral, ethical, or religious beliefs.”
  • 20% of faith-based medical students say they are “not pursuing a career in Obstetrics or Gynecology” because of perceived discrimination and coercion in that field.
  • 12% of faith-based healthcare professionals have “been pressured to perform a procedure to which [they] had moral, ethical, or religious objections.”
  • 91% of faith-based physicians agreed with the statement, “I would rather stop practicing medicine altogether than be forced to violate my conscience.”

So aside from the clear injustice of legalized abortion, my interest in this election is based on a desire to learn and practice medicine without being pressured to violate my moral convictions. Not to belittle the importance of other social, economic, and foreign policy issues, but these will be my overriding concerns in the ballot box.

Make no mistake, Christians should in no way shape or form support big government, because this is the kind of law that big government passes. If we are concerned about the poor, it’s better for us to solve the problem of poverty ourselves rather than grow government so that they can have the power to impose their will on us like this. This is something that all Christians need to realize, and vote accordingly.

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