Why Do I Care?

The Bush administration’s new rule to protect the tender consciences of health care workers at the expense of patient care is set to slide under the Obama wire at any moment. In a nutshell, any health care provider will enjoy the right to deny care, information or referrals to any patient under any circumstances they feel violates their religious beliefs or personal sense of morality.

For the most part this is aimed at women, infertile couples, gays and lesbians and the poor who are forced to rely on subsidized health care of some sort. This is not a surprise as the Bush regime doesn’t care much for any of those groups and has done its utmost to reverse women’s gains of the latter half of the last century and to deny rights to homosexuals this century. The almost former president and his compadres are no great friends of the poor either and have done little for them but increase their ranks.

And I ask myself, why do I care? I don’t need birth control. I am not hankering to do an end run around my ever diminishing procreative functions. I am not gay. And, knock wood, I am not poor. So why do I care?

There is that fable about the man who watched “them” come for his neighbors one by one but since he wasn’t being taken away, he saw no need to speak out. Of course, as it always happens, eventually “they” got around to him but by then their was no one left to speak out on his behalf.

Just because I don’t need many of the health care services this ruling will allow some zealous health care workers towithhold from some patients, doesn’t mean that at some point I won’t be a victim of this same ruling. What if I were in an accident and needed blood but the doctor on call in the ER didn’t believe in transfusions? Or the ICU nurse didn’t believe in turning off the respirator after I was vegetative even though I have a living will?

We smugly sit back and think this ruling is about abortion mostly, but it is so broadly written that it can easily be interpreted to cover a great many medical instances – minor as well as major – and it could catch anyone of us.

Well, any one of us who lives in the United States. Which brings me back to my original question, why should I care? I live in Canada. When I am lucky enough to see a doctor (we have our own issues after all) or visit the pharmacy, I will be served. No one can foist their morality or religion on me under the guise of freedom.

When I was  actively teaching I taught students whose parents never bothered to marry and who swapped live in partners as often as they changed addresses. My students were white supremacists, illegal aliens, members of religious sects that believed in the inferiority of women in practice as well as theory. Some were criminals. Some were casual drug users who acquired their attitudes from their parents. Some were parents themselves.

They were Christian, Muslim and Jew. They were black, Hispanic, Asian, African, Middle Eastern and East European.

I wasn’t able to just teach those whose lifestyles, values or religious beliefs lined up with my own. If I had problems with the differences I encountered I was welcome to find a new occupation. It was that simple.

Should health care workers be afforded freedom at the expense of the rights of other citizens?

Why should I care? Why should you?

We should care. Deeply. Every right that is denied our fellow citizens or right that is taken away puts us one step closer to the day when we will be denied ourselves. The slippery slope is not about other people because we are “other people” where someone else is concerned.

I admire people with deeply held beliefs or convictions, truly I do, but I admire them more when they suck it up and own these beliefs. If your conscience does not permit you to dispense birth control, find work outside of a pharmacy. If you cannot tell a rape victim that the morning after pill can prevent a pregnancy from occurring, don’t work in an ER. If you don’t believe in family planning that  involves anything other than calendar watching and mucous/cervical observations, don’t practice family medicine or go into gynecology or obstetrics.

There are ways to avoid compromising yourself which don’t involve forcing your beliefs on others. It’s really very simple when a person stops to think about it.

5 responses to “Why Do I Care?

  1. You care because even though you may not be the victim of this wrongheadedness, you can clearly see it’s wrong. And it is the responsibility of all good people to speak up against things that are wrong.

    This rule is just an expansion of what pharmacists have been doing for years.

  2. An excellent essay, Annie. Have you considered submitting it for wider publication (I’m thinking along the lines of Newsweek’s -My Turn- column)?

  3. Not only is Plan B at risk, so is regular birth control pills and devices. And a lot of other things. Even now I can’t have surgery on my knees because the doctor I went to doesn’t believe in doing knee replacements on fat people with fibromyalgia. That’s his religion, I reckon.

  4. this is sick. but i’ve seen it, even without the new legislation. dad’s preferred hospital was a catholic affiliated institution. one apparent zealot nurse filled mom’s head full of lies regarding hospice – that she’d have to sign over all his assets, that they took people early when they needed beds, etc… didn’t find this out until after dad died… i was furious…

    pharmacists can withhold the morning after pill already. this has been sneaking up on us since the Regan administration. it’s time to take a secular look at reproductive health care. doctors, lawyers, politicians and all of us need to stand up to the insertion of religious doctrine into medical decisions…

    but what to do? letters seem lame…

    Ah, hospice. Yes, and do people really understand that this is the kind of thing that will happen more? Because already our personal wishes are being subverted by health care providers with “agendas” or who are just plain uninformed. Letters are good, but what people need is information. Writing blogs and letters to newspapers that people can see and then do more research for themselves is a good place to start. We have to speak up and demand information from our health care providers. They are service workers no less than the counter help at McDonald’s. We should not allow ourselves to be treated like serfs where our health is concerned. They work for us. We pay them. If they can’t perform, they should get new jobs – just like the rest of us have to do. Ugh! Religion is dangerous in the hands of the semi-intelligent and the easily led.

  5. You care because you are a thoughtful, caring member of the human race. You have a conscience and, like many of us, you have a deep distrust of the Bush administration. Can’t the new administration undo this injustice?

    It could take six months or more to undo this and that is if it makes the priority list which with the economy and the war is doubtful. No, this will cause much damage in unthought of places before someone is able to to something. My guess is that someone will be gravely effected/die even before the people who think this is so great realize what they have done. It’s ironic because it seems the most religious people are the least likely to think of long term consequences or beyond their own self-interests.

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