“Choose, You Lose” Scheme Threatens All Ethical Professionals

Jonathon Imbody

The increasingly aggressive discrimination in recent years against religious and pro-life healthcare professionals and students[1] parallels a concentrated effort by abortion proponents to undermine the rationale for conscience protections in healthcare. Desperate abortion advocates apparently have concluded that the way to counter the medical community’s resistance to abortion is through coercion.

Coercion appeals to some activists because coercion is much quicker than persuasion in effecting change. If abortion activists can eliminate conscience protections, then health professionals can be forced to participate in abortion or else sacrifice their careers. .

American principles protect conscience even at a price

Affordable Care Act architect Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel and University of Pennsylvania professor Ronit Stahl lay the foundation for getting rid of healthcare conscience protections, in a New England Journal of Medicine opinion piece entitled, “Physicians, Not Conscripts — Conscientious Objection in Health Care.”[2]

Their message is simple: Choice is a one-way street. Patients get to choose; doctors don’t—at least not after they enter the medical profession.

Emanuel and Stahl attempt to establish this radical principle by postulating a sharp distinction between conscience accommodations for military draftees and conscience accommodations for physicians.

Emanuel and Stahl write,

Although this [conscience healthcare protection] legislation ostensibly mimics that of military conscientious objection, it diverges considerably. Viewing conscientious objection in health care as analogous to conscientious objection to war mistakes choice for conscription, misconstrues the role of personal values in professional contexts, substitutes cost-free choices for penalized decisions, and cedes professional ethics to political decisions.”[3]

In the United States, a pacifist opposed to the military draft can receive a conscientious exemption from combat duty, even during a time of war when every other able-bodied citizen his age is expected to fight to defend the national interest. The cost to the country is high if counted in terms of fewer soldiers available for active duty.

Yet the authors would countenance no such rights, no such accommodation of cost, to a pro-life physician who cannot on the basis of conscience end the life of a developing baby in an elective abortion. While permitting the pacifist draftee a conscientious objection to killing, the authors contend, government must deny the same objection by a health professional.

Why? According to Emmanuel and Stahl, the reason is that physicians choose their professions, whereas draftees do not choose to join the military. . .[Full text]

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