Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (Duke University) and Franklin G. Miller (National Institutes of Health) have published a paper titled, “What makes killing wrong?” Their conclusion is that killing is wrong because it causes total disability, and that the moral rule against killing is superfluous. After asserting that current organ transplant practice involves taking vital organs from people who are still alive (as they understand that term) they suggest that more organs could be made available for transplant if the requirement for donor death were dropped and replaced with the criterion of total disability. In the course of the paper they suggest that religious beliefs should not inform medical ethics “in any religiously diverse society,” which would appear to imply that medical professionals should be expected to adopt the views they propose. The paper illustrates, at several points, how conflicts of conscience may arise during end-of-life decision making and organ transplantation.
A statement from the Southern Baptists has denounced the Obama administration’s regulation that will force employers to provide insurance coverage for surgical sterilization, contraceptives, and embryocidal drugs. The statement describes the regulation as “a clear violation of our nation’s commitment to liberty of conscience and a flagrant violation of our constitutional protection to freedom of religion.” It was signed by Richard Land, President of the Southern Baptist’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission since 1988, and Barrett Duke one of the Commission’s directors.
154 members of the US House of Representatives from both Democratic and Republican parties have signed a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stating that the regulation that forces objecting employers to provide insurance coverage for surgical sterilization, contraceptives, and embryocidal drugs is “an unprecedented overreach by the federal government that infringes upon rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.” They asked that the regulation be suspended until it is certain that employers and individuals “are afforded their constitutionally protected rights.”
Writing in USA Today, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, has defended her plan to force employers to pay for insurance coverage for surgical sterilization, contraceptives, and embryocidal drugs. She avoids the issue of coercion of employers entirely and claims that the narrow ‘religious exemption’ is adequate, despite nationwide protests to the contrary [See Map of institutions resisting the HHS “preventive services” mandate]. The USA Today editorial stated that “the Obama administration didn’t just cross” the line separating church and stated, but “galloped over it, requiring employers affiliated with the Catholic Church to include free birth control in their health insurance plans.”
Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who is in charge of Catholic chaplains in the U.S. military, asked them to read to their congregations at mass a pastoral letter protesting the Obama administration’s plan to force employers with over 50 employees to provide insurance coverage for surgical sterilization, contraceptives, and embryocidal drugs. The letter, like many of those from other US Catholic bishops read from pulpits across the country, stated, “We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law.”
The Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains sent an e-mail ordering Catholic chaplains not to read the letter, directing them to mention it in bulletins and have printed copies available. A number of chaplains are reported to have disobeyed the order, while others contacted the Archbishop. The Archbishop spoke to the Secretary of the Army, who confirmed that the Chief of Chaplains had acted improperly. As a result of the discussion with the Secretary, a censored version of the letter was read to congregations. The original is available on the military archdiocese website. [CNS News]
Mitt Romney, one of the front-runners seeking nomination as the Republican Party’s candidate in the 2012 presidential election, has spoken out in support of Catholic bishops opposing the Obama administration’s regulation that will force employers with over 50 employees to provide insurance coverage for surgical sterilization, contraceptives, and embryocidal drugs. He states, “Such rules don’t belong in the America that I believe in.” [Romney Blog] However, opponents may recall that, while governor of Massachusetts, he refused to exempt Catholic hospitals from a requirement to dispense the morning-after pill to rape complainants.[Boston Globe]
In an editorial titled, “Birth Control: Now a human right,” the Charleston Gazette has expressed support for the Obama administrations regulation that will force objecting employers to provide insurance coverage for “contraceptive services.” The editorial illustrates five common unexamined and questionable assumptions frequently made by opponents of freedom of conscience in health care.
- First: it assumes that ‘birth control’ and ‘contraception’ are equivalent terms; they are not.
- Second: it assumes that contraception is a form a health care, something that many objectors deny.
- Third: in failing to recognize the distinction that objectors make between contraception and treating illness or injury, it draws the erroneous conclusion that they might refuse to treat sexually transmitted diseases.
- Fourth: it asserts that birth control (by which it clearly means contraception) is a “human right,” although this has not been legally established.
- Finally: it suggests that employers who do not pay for employees’ birth control are interfering with their freedom.
Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, has issued a statement supporting the exercise of conscientious objection to military service. He argues that objectors should be given a “genuinely civilian” alternative to compulsory military service, not imprisoned. [CE press release]
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner has stated that he believes the HHS “preventive services” contraceptive mandate violates the U.S. constitution, and expressed hope that the Obama administration would reconsider it. White House Press Secretary said that the issue was not being reconsidered: ” the decision has been made.” [ Associated Press]