Monday, July 2, 2007

Freedom of Conscience vs. the Right to Contraception

A liberal friend of mine recently asked me what I thought about doctors refusing to prescribe "emergency contraception" such as Plan B to rape victims. He referred to an MSNBC article on the subject.

In summary, a woman who had been raped went to an emergency room where she talked to a rape counselor and was examined by an ER doctor. The rape victim asked for the morning-after pill, and the doctor refused to prescribe it, allegedly because it was against his religion. She went back to the rape counselor who referred her to another doctor who wrote the prescription.

This happened a few years ago. Plan B is now available over the counter to people 18 and older.

The issue, however, remains. Should a person's desire for some form of medical care force the doctor to act against his or her conscience?

I believe the answer is a clear and resounding "No."

First, the doctor's objection to "emergency contraception" for moral, ethical, and medical reasons is reasonable. He has an obligation to "first, do no harm." We require new drugs to be approved by the FDA for this reason. We expect doctors to follow this principle in prescribing treatment to be sure the cure is not worse than the disease. Based on this principle, American Medical Association policy prohibits doctors from being involved in executions.

Plan B, the best known "morning-after" pill, works by preventing ovulation, preventing fertilization, and preventing implantation of a fertilized egg. A doctor treating a rape victim should be aware that he may, in fact, have two patients, as fertilization can occur in less than one hour. In that case Plan B would prevent the newly-formed human from attaching to the uterine wall, causing the death of the embryo.

Second, medical care, as nearly every other industry in the United States, is an open market. If you don't like your doctor, go to another one. My doctor might not be willing to try a treatment that works for some people but injures others. He is fulfilling his ethical obligation to do no harm with a treatment he believes is harmful. My doctor's knowledge of the treatment's risks may be my greatest protection. I can always go to another doctor who believes the treatment has a chance of success.

Third, freedom of conscience is one of the most basic human freedoms. It led to the settlement of many of the early American colonies. It is still sought by millions of legal immigrants. Freedom of conscience was recognized in the First Amendment right to freedom of worship; in the long-standing exemption from combat for conscientious objectors to all killing; in the patient's right to refuse medical care; and in the AMA's policies.

The MSNBC article alleges: "Catholic and conservative Christian health care providers are denying women a range of standard, legal medical care." Really? What standard, legal medical care? The article lists birth control prescriptions, abortion referrals, infertility clinic services for lesbians and unmarried women, and sterilizations. None of these are medically necessary, life-saving procedures.

What solution would the article's author propose? Perhaps a government mandate that physicians must do certain procedures on request, regardless of their best judgment? I certainly wouldn't want the government telling me how to do my work, and in my line of work, not one life depends on my judgment.

The article acknowledges: "In the end, the women in all of the incidents above were able to get the treatment they wanted, even if they had to go elsewhere." So the free market and respect for a doctor's freedom of conscience is denying needed medical care to no one.

Let's continue to let doctors be doctors, not victims of an ideology that would deny one of the most basic human rights—freedom of conscience—to them.

Wesley Wilson

Wesley Wilson is the President of Let Her Live, a nonprofit dedicated to saving babies by showing the beauty and value of life to women considering abortion. Please learn more about the Let Her Live targeted pro-life billboard campaign. Donations are tax deductible.

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Blogger Christina Dunigan said...

I proposed elsewhere that an appropriate solution would be to clearly divide health care providers into "progressive" and "hippocritical", and let patients choose.

Those who value birth control, abortion, euthanasia, etc., could choose a "progressive" care provider, confident that they'll be offered the Pill, "EC', abortion, etc.

Those who value the lives of their unborn children, and who believe that God, not Doc Kevorkian, holds life and death, could go to hippocratic practitioners.

Their answer, "Well, if he prescribes it, nobody's forcing you to take it."

No -- but by even offering it, that doctor is telling me that my unborn child is not safe in his care. If I were raped, the last thing I'd need is to be worrying about my doctor.

And why should a woman who has no intent or desire to abort be forced to be cared for by a doctor who sees her fetus as a parasite that he'd as soon snuff as help bring to term? It's like demanding that we all hire paroled sex offenders to babysit our kids, just became some people think that they deserve a second chance.

Why are the "prochoice" so anti-choice? Why do they demand that only doctors who share their low opinion of the unborn, the ailing, and the unmarried be permitted to practice medicine or pharmacy?

July 2, 2007 at 9:25 AM  
Blogger Wesley Wilson said...

Well said. My choice to kill my baby trumps your choice to practice medicine according to your code of ethics. So I want the government to coerce you into killing my baby because I'm too lazy to go find someone willing to do it.

I don't know how much of the article you read, but the rape victim compared the doctor's refusal to prescribe the morning-after pill with the rape itself. She said it made her feel powerless. I wonder how powerless the doctor would feel if he were told he had to participate in the possible killing of this woman's baby.

You raise another good point. A doctor's prescription doesn't force you to take it, but how many doctors will accurately explain what Plan B does? How many women will take it without realizing that they could be ending a new human life, not merely preventing ovulation?

July 2, 2007 at 11:20 AM  
Blogger Christina Dunigan said...

WW, it's also forcing prolife women to go to doctors who work from assumptions totally abhorrent to them! Which these supposedly proCHOICE people have no qualms about.

They have zero compassion for women who love their unborn.

I think it's less that they want the option themselves -- having "progressive" practitioners would give them that -- than it is about wanting moral validation. They want there to be nobody anywhere to be a reminder that others value unborn life.

July 2, 2007 at 6:10 PM  
Blogger Wesley Wilson said...

True. It's easier to ignore your conscience and push back the guilt if everyone else goes along with you.

That's why the pro-aborts hate seeing photos of babies in the womb. It's not just that other people will see the truth and be less likely to abort. Those photos confront them with the reality of what they did, and they are trying to escape that guilt.

July 3, 2007 at 7:27 AM  

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