Bush’s Parting Shot—Aimed At Your Sexual Health

President Bush has proposed one last set of new regulations carefully designed to damage Americans’ right to sexual health care.

The proposed rule would require recipients of federal money to allow doctors and other health care workers to refuse to participate in the performance of abortions or sterilization procedures because of their “religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

Worse, it would also prevent hospitals, drugstores, and other healthcare locations from requiring employees with religious or moral objections to “assist in the performance of any part of a health service program or research activity” financed by the Department of Health and Human Services.

To put it another way, this law would allow every person in the healthcare system to decide what services he or she would deliver to you—based on whatever internal belief system they have. It’s a recipe for chaos, dignified by the term “religion.”

The regulation is opposed by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, over 100 members of Congress, and the attorneys general of 13 states.

But the proposal is supported by the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Health Association, which represents Catholic hospitals. Its president Carol Keehan claims “we have seen a variety of efforts to force Catholic and other health care providers to perform or refer for abortions and sterilizations.”

Yes, that’s exactly right. In secular, pluralistic America, the public demands that people and corporations entering the health care business actually offer health care. We also expect that any enterprise buying sports stadiums will offer sporting events, and anyone buying the right to manage an airport (as in Chicago, New Orleans, and London) will actually operate an airport.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue fears that the Church might be “forced” to close its hospitals if they actually have to offer state-of-the-art, legal, medical care to patients.

And so the proposed HHS rule would require any health care entity receiving federal money to certify that none of its employees are required to assist in any way with medical services they find objectionable. This is terrible. This puts the internal beliefs of individuals at odds with the reasonable needs of the public.

And it’s the obvious consequence of letting the Catholic Church buy hospitals. Lots of hospitals. In fact, they now operate more hospitals than any other company in the U.S.. And the care at these facilities is getting narrower and narrower.

This is a crucial, missing part of the conversation about health care and health insurance. What does “access” to the health care system matter if it’s “access” to incomplete services? If the only hospitals within 100 miles of my house won’t offer the full range of legal, safe procedures—for non-medical reasons—what does it matter who will reimburse me for this non-existent care?

If it’s increasingly unacceptable that health care is allocated by money and social class, why is it acceptable if health care is allocated by religion? And why is “religion” a good enough reason to excuse licensed professionals from doing their jobs? What if a nurse’s “religion” forbids her from washing her hands at work?

There’s an ethical, spiritually correct option for bus drivers who get carsick, teachers who don’t like children, chefs who can’t stand the sight of meat, and health care professionals who can’t honestly serve all patients with all needs.

Other jobs.


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