Chuck Colson Posted on Tuesday, March 03, 2009 2:24:00 PM by wagglebee
Last week, what the Washington Post characterized as a â€œterse posting on a federal Web siteâ€ set the stage for a debate on just how seriously our society takes freedom of conscience.
The posting announced that the Obama administration was planning to rescind â€œjob protections for health workers who refuse to provide care they find objectionable.â€ These explicit protections were issued in the last few months of the Bush administration.
Under the current provisions, health care providers can lose federal funds if they donâ€™t accommodate health-care workers â€œwho refuse to participate in care they feel violates their . . . moral or religious beliefs.â€ The regulations covered â€œstate and local governments, hospitals, health plans, clinics and other entities.â€
Health-care providers and â€œabortion rightsâ€ advocates were quick to attack the Bush administration for promulgating the regulations. Groups like the American Medical Association said they opposed the regulations because, as they put it, â€œhealth-care providers have an obligationâ€ to advise patients â€œof the options despite their own beliefs.â€
At the same time, they said that the regulations were unnecessary because â€œthere are already laws [that protect] health-care professionalsâ€ who refuse to provide care for personal reasons.
Well, not so fast. The rules were established in response to what the Catholic Health Association called â€œa variety of efforts to force Catholic and other health care providers to perform or refer for abortions and sterilizations.â€
In a country that treasures freedom, what could possibly justify compelling people to violate their consciences? There is a long tradition established in the law and court cases not to do this, as in the case of conscientious objectors not being compelled to serve in the military.
Reportedly, some officials believe that protecting health-care workersâ€™ consciences creates a â€œmajor obstacle to providing many health servicesâ€ and even interferes with â€œscientific research.â€
It is difficult to imagine what â€œscientific researchâ€ they have in mindâ€”a pro-life researcher is not likely to choose a specialty where the destruction of unborn human life is a pre-requisite.
And by â€œmany health services,â€ whatâ€™s really meant is â€œpharmacists.â€ One of the groups leading the charge for rescinding the rule is the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. Its members have joined with Planned Parenthood to force pharmacists to dispense prescriptions that violate their religious beliefs, even when the prescription can be filled elsewhere.
In other words, the government is considering undermining religious freedom and freedom of conscience for the sake of convenience. They canâ€™t even argue itâ€™s necessary. If someone objects, for conscienceâ€™ sake, to facilitate abortion, anybody is free to go to another doctor or druggist.
Rememberâ€”freedom of conscience is the first freedom. And people who can be compelled to act in violation of their most deeply held convictions are not free in any meaningful sense.
The good news is that this appears to be a â€œtrial balloonâ€ of sorts. Administration officials are expecting lots of comments on the proposed change. And we shouldnâ€™t disappoint them. Let them know that we value freedom of conscience too highly to let it be sacrificed, especially to those driven by ideology and profit.
Because what government officials are regarding as an â€œobstacleâ€ is, in fact, the very foundation of our freedomâ€”and the first defense against tyranny.