Thursday, September 07, 2006

Who's For Choice?

I've been following a blogging discussion which has been very disappointing, but kind of telling about the traps liberals and conservatives can fall into. It started when a UU sexuality educator of some fame posted a diatribe in her blog against an OBGYN practice which only deals with Natural Family Planning. (For those not in the know, NFP is a 30 year old scientific update of the old Rhythm method and is the only method approved by the Catholic church. For many women who have regular cycles and who (with are their partner) are willing to enjoy sex only at safe times of the month, it's quite effective...but it's a big commitment.)

It was sad to me to see someone who holds herself out as an expert be so reflexively negative and apparently ignorant about a very popular family planning method, which is used, not only by Catholic women but by 'whole wheat' women who don't care for other methods, and women who can't use other methods. And she really got an earful from many commentors extolling the virtues of their chosen menthod. She got some hate mail too vile to post, she said, which is an unfortunate tactic that conservatives resort to way too much, and quite a few proponents of NFP not only think it's their favorite birth control method, they think it should be the ONLY birth control method.

But it was even sadder to hear so many liberal proponents of the right of conscience in matters of abortion deny the right of conscience of physicians to limit their practice (with notice to patients) to a particular set of options. A shocking number of liberal commenters sounded their fury against the notion that someone would have to shop around for a congenial physician to get birth control prescriptions. Liberals can have such a reflexive attitude of privelege over some matters, and this is one.

Conscience is Sacred. I would no more be a slaveholder than a slave, said Abraham Lincoln, and I myself say, I would no more force a physician to offer medical care that violates her conscience than I would allow her to force me to accept medical care which violates mine.

The Debate is here


Elizabeth said...

Interesting post. I had missed all the talk at the other blog. I wonder if by becoming a physician one should be required to meet basic medical needs of patients, birth control being one of them? I think no one should be forced not to follow his or her conscience, but no one forces people to be come doctors. It would seem that the same would apply to pharmacists who do not like to prescribe birth control or the morning after pill. To me, it is similar to someone who becomes a teacher but then decides that girls shouldn't learn how to read or that children should learn only creationism. That is find if that is what they want to teach their OWN children, but in become a teacher, a pharmacist or a doctor, one must put aside one's own preferences and meet a public need.

Turtle Mountain said...

I agree with Elizabeth. Freedom of conscience should never be confused with freedom of action. What I believe at any given moment I can not choose. I either believe it, or I don't. Once one moves into the public arena and acts upon that belief, one quite rightly becomes subject to confrontation, argument, contempt, attack, or praise. Otherwise one lives by the motto, "By all means, don't rock the boat."
"Those who profess to favor freedom, yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters."
-Frederick Douglass

Bill Baar said...

...but no one forces people to be come doctors.

Pro Lifers argue no one forces a woman to become pregnant, except if rapped, either...

...the problem with many UUs on abortion is they duck the question of is abortion wrong, and if yes, how do we decide public policy given a set of morally bad options, by declaring it a civil right and washing their hands of it.

Ambiguity is not one of Liberalism's strong points.

Turtle Mountain said...

Individuals choose to be doctors. A woman choosing to have sex is often not choosing pregnancy at all. UU's do not claim to know what is right or wrong. To do so would be to have a creed, and UU states clearly that it is a non-creedal church. Public policy, in this case, was decided, as the Constitution demands, by a Supreme Court - the Court that is "magnificent" if it agrees with people and "activist" if it does not.

"A fanatic is a man that does what he thinks the Lord would do if He knew the facts of the case."
- Finley Peter Dunne

Anonymous said...

There are all kinds of scenarios where this "conscience" can become a problem: suppose this OB/GYN is the only one in town or for many miles around. Doesn't that limit the rights of women who do not agree with his assessment that birth control is bad?
What if the situation was a doctor in a small town who didn't believe in giving children drugs? so that if your child went to him with sinus problems he said "give them tissues and hot tea". No drugs. No cold medicine, no cough syrup -- those are drugs and immoral for children (or adults). How would people react to that?
Perhaps there should be a different license for doctors who won't prescribe birth control-- a partial license since they are partially doing their job?