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Giving Health Care Workers the Right to Choose

Rob Stein reports today on a bitter debate about a proposed Bush administration regulation that would deny federal funding to any hospital, clinic, health plan or other entity that does not accommodate employees who object to abortion and to birth-control methods they consider tantamount to abortion.

Supporters of the proposal say it is "necessary to safeguard doctors, nurses and other health workers who, they say, are increasingly facing discrimination because of their beliefs or are being coerced into delivering services they find repugnant," Stein writes. Those services would include including providing birth-control pills, IUDs and the Plan B emergency contraceptive.

While the debate is undoubtedly bitter, the readers who have bothered to comment on the story at this hour are profoundly one-sided in their opposition to the proposal. They ask why people who have these problems would take jobs where actions they find repugnant are performed. Many suggest that this is another entry in the long history of men suggesting what is appropriate for women. Others object to what they see as the religious right attempting to impose its beliefs and will on the rest of a country.

We'll start with kansasgal1, who wrote, "This is called the back door policy of medical management of women. I, would support the women doctors, pharmacists and others who withheld information of and prescriptions for Viagra and other pro sex pills if this went through and wait for the uproar to begin."

But rchayes said, "...You want birth control or an abortion, fine, I am not going to stop you but don't ask me to help you or to help pay for it. If this doctor or that drug store doesn't want to do what you want, no problem. Just look around and you will find someone more than happy to help you. You have the right to get anything legal you want but you do not have the right to tell someone else that they have to give up their rights to help you..."

bb211 asked, "Why are the most "undesirable" treatments always only those that women would choose? Let women make decisions about their own bodies... Find another job if you don't approve of your current one. We've all had to do it for one reason or another."

craiggger said, "Religion has no place in public health care. There are plenty of private and religious supported health care institutions to provide jobs to medical personnel of faith and health care to patients of faith."

But MarkFoxenberg wrote, "If someone complains that our being against abortion is based on religion, than couldn't the same be said for laws against murder? If "Thou Shalt Not Kill" is a religious commandment, then why aren't murder laws thrown out as being state sponsorship of religion?..."

amy_e wrote, "I thought republicans believed in less regulation. Apparently when it benefits fundies they're all for it. Hypocrites!"

stuck_in_Lodi said, "If you don't want to provide services that violate your conscience, don't put yourself in a position where that might be required... If you don't want to provide those services, work at a Catholic hospital..."

saver asked, "If one can object to certain aspects of one's job on religious grounds who decides which religons are covered?... Atheist vegans have just as strong and deep conscience about animal maltreatment. Can they refuse to accept meat deliveries at Safeway and not get fired?"

Damndofhell wrote, "...The only question is what will the christian taliban make us wear, we who do not accept their rule."

youarestillidiots said, "...Can't wait until the only public health clinic in some rural Bible-belt county loses its federal funding over a Buddhist/Muslim/Pagan/Wiccan/Satanist employee's objection to prozac or viagra or lipitor..."

jack824 asked, "And how about prosecutors & judges personally opposed to the death sentence or to long prison terms for low-grade offenses? Immigration officials who believe it is a sin to turn down anyone in need?..."

thebobbob said, "...Religious beliefs are made up fantasy. Medicine is real, for real sick people. You don't work in a hospital if you don't 'believe' in surgery. You don't work in a pharmacy if you won't dispense the drugs the doctors order..."

graced8669 wrote, "...Let me describe a scenerio for you. A women has a missed abortion (miscarrage) and is bleeding severely. It is 2am. There is one OR nurse "on call" She refuses to assist in a D& C to save the women's life. States the fetus might still be viable... Women bleeds to death. Now you smart folks? Which is the biggest sin?"

We'll close with karela, who said, "I'm an RN. Doctors write orders. Nurses follow them. If you don't want to work with the problems of women, then you can work in orthopedics or pediatrics or neonatal ICU or many other areas... This is a blatant attempt to circumvent a woman's right to choose what is best for her own body and it would be an insurmountable barrier for poor women, rural women, women who only have access to one clinic and many others..."

All comments on this article are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  July 31, 2008; 9:15 AM ET
Categories:  Abortion  
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Now people are being barred from their work because they refuse to murder? Now murder is being forced in hospitals? Oh and this is called 'humane'. No, i'm not religious and yes i am female. You don't have to be religious to be against murder. For those who still live under the delusion that it isnt murder.. Open your closed minds and check the real biological facts for once in your lives.

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I find this fascinating. Consider the patient in the ICU with no living will, responsive only to painful stimuli, no hope of improvement and whose family insists on the continuation of all life support (ventilator, cardiac meds, etc.) without which the patient would die quickly (and peacefully). Most healthcare workers believe that to continue to provide such support is inhumane. This is not religious in nature. Which side of the fence do these antiabortion advocates sit on this issue? Do they believe the healthcare workers may exercise their "conscientious objections" and stop providing the treatment? I doubt it.

Posted by: CTDoc | August 1, 2008 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I hope this never becomes policy.

Who are these people who want this policy? Why did such unempathic people get into healthcare in the first place?

The traditional ideal that healthcare workers have been exhorted to strive for is to provide their services without concern of their patients gender, race or creed. Most, across time, have managed to strive for this.

A policy like this coming from a president who is supposedly conservative would be a shame.

Posted by: DKR | August 1, 2008 7:48 AM | Report abuse

This proposal is dumb in that people will used this withhold medicine treatment base their believes. Doctors and nurses their jobs to help people never to cause more harm. The Bible teaches that we are to serve our fellow people. This proposal is another path for nut case to controlled people and this is not what Lord taught. If birth control and abortions is against your religon believes then worked where you are not involve in them.

Posted by: Terry | July 31, 2008 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Does this make the Bush administration against employer rights in "right to work" states. If the employer can't fire at will, labor may start getting some rights.

no, they can't be for that.

Posted by: Landknelson | July 31, 2008 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Steven Ertelt | July 31, 2008 11:19 AM - "Now we know what choice really means -- forced abortions. We must pay for it, we must do them and if we don't like it too bad. Some choice."

Hey Ertelt...nobody is forcing you to work at a facility that provides abortions, and nobody is forcing ANYBODY to have or perform abortions.

If you don't approve of them, don't have one. If you don't want to perform abortions, don't work in a place where you might be expected to do so.

Posted by: Mara | July 31, 2008 2:35 PM | Report abuse

This debate goes much deeper than freedom of choice, as if the right of health workers to choose which services they deliver were morally equivalent to choosing one's burger toppings. Health care workers are dealing with life and death issues with clients who are often helpless. The Bush Administration is starting us down a very slippery slope and they have no idea what's on the bottom.

A friend of mine, a woman of color, was serving as a nurse on the floor where Jesse Helms was brought after he had a heart attack. This was sometime in the mid '80s. Much as she was deeply repelled by him as a politician and human being, much as she and her family had personally suffered by the prejudice which he championed, it never occurred to her to refuse treatment.

Do we want to live in a world where she would have contemplated otherwise?

Posted by: Floomby | July 31, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I can just imagine all the havoc this would create. Baptists working in casinos refusing to do jobs related to gambling or Hindus in slaughterhouses refusing to kill animals. What a perfect way to destroy a legal business you don't approve of.

The bottom line is, if your employer asks you to do something legal and its part of the job requirement, you either work it out with them or you find a new job.

Posted by: megan | July 31, 2008 12:16 PM | Report abuse

They said abortion was a choice and that women have the right to choose. So much for choice for doctors, nurses, pharmasists and other medical professionals. Now we know what choice really means -- forced abortions. We must pay for it, we must do them and if we don't like it too bad. Some choice.

Posted by: Steven Ertelt | July 31, 2008 11:19 AM | Report abuse

If the health workers have a right to choose, then health providers also should have a right to choose. To keep the workers or to let them loose. This is just fair.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 31, 2008 11:11 AM | Report abuse

mary is absolutely correct. if doing something violates your beliefs, why would you work in a profession where you would have to do something that violates your beliefs? ridiculous.

Posted by: janet in arizona | July 31, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I come from a long line of Quakers. I have an Uncle who was a conscientious objector in WW II, not an easy time to do this. He did not serve in the military but did alternate service. He did not get the GI bill for college because he did not serve. Should I as a Quaker be able to demand veterans benefits because military service is against my religion and only providing it to those who serve in the military discriminates against me as a Quaker? No it would be a absurd.

If you have an objection to doing something because of your faith make another choice. The burden is on the believer. This proposal puts the burden of sacrifice on the woman who most likely does not share in their belief, otherwise she would not be seeking those services. Yes people of faith have a right to work, but not a right to a particular job. Would you support a law that said devout Hindus could get a job in a restaurant and then not be involved in preparation or serving of meat because it is against their religion? No, they could either get a job in another field, or a restaurant that does not serve meat.

Posted by: Mary in DC | July 31, 2008 10:19 AM | Report abuse

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