Today marks the anniversary of the signing of our Constitution. I’d like to be able to wax glowingly on how well our elected officials have defended my constitutional rights. Sadly friends, in the last eight years, we’ve suffered from privacy invasions and censorship, while our government has launched illegal wars at the cost of lives and trillions of dollars. I certainly don’t remember asking my elected officials to grossly violate prisoners’ basic human rights in the interest of my security. My country has gotten away from me. Instead of whining and being an apathetic pessimist, I am going to do something about it.
In honor of this proud day in our nation’s history, I’m going to start by writing to my lawmakers on a topic I feel very strongly about- one that will no doubt be receiving even more attention very soon.
On August 21, 2008, The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced a proposed rule to “help protect health care providers from discrimination,” thus commencing a thirty-day public comment period. In short, federally-funded grant projects will carry the stipulation that a health care provider (physicians, care centers and health plans are mentioned but this could theoretically extend to pharmacists) cannot be punished for refusing to assist in abortion or sterilization due to personally held values or beliefs.
What’s the big deal? It’s more about setting precedent. There is much speculation about how far this ruling will be taken. Sterilization is a form of birth control (the most extreme form, granted). Could this ruling extend to other forms of birth control? There are those who believe that both abortion and the use of contraceptives are akin to murder. This proposed ruling could allow those who share this belief to withhold information regarding contraception from patients (or allow pharmacists to refuse filling prescriptions for the pill). Huh. That’s like saying, if you believe meat is murder then your employer can’t fire you for your refusal to prepare or serve meat even if that is your job. Would this fly? Uh, no, objecting vegetarians would be fired. The difference: these people are state-licensed professionals. Anyone can cook my burger but not just anyone can write me a referral or a prescription. I’m beginning to see the good intentions behind the proposal (I’m trying to see the issue from the other side) but at the same time, the matter is far too complex to become a ‘rule’ just yet (oh yeah, this proposed rule does not require congressional approval, once the thirty day public review period is over, it’s almost certainly going to be drafted into law).
There are far worthier rants out there on the deterioration of women’s reproductive rights. That aside, I wonder what my general practitioner would think if I showed up at my next checkup with a list of blunt questions regarding her beliefs:
- Are you pro-choice or pro-life?
- Do you disapprove of prescribing birth control?
- If I was a young teen, raped and now 2 months pregnant, would you give me a referral for an abortion even if I had the full support of my legal guardians?
Is it fair for me to call out my doctor on her personal beliefs the next time I see her? Does this proposed legislation give me any other choice if I want to get the best care possible? The beliefs of those in the health profession would be called into questioned even more as a result of this proposal, in spite of the fact that this ruling aims to protect said beliefs. I trust my doctor to give me a full array of available health options. This provision will deteriorate that patient-provider trust.
Who authored this ruling? Who lobbied for it? Why did I see an article in my local newspaper about this issue only yesterday? Why doesn’t everyone know about this? Do any gents out there have an opinion on this issue? Homosexuals, do you care about your reproductive rights because I’m betting the conservatives in power have a few things to say on the matter…
If you are interested in voicing your concern about the proposal above, the HSS document asks for comments here but see the document for instructions. There are also petitions here, here, here and here. The deadline for comments is September 25th- just one week away.
Happy Constitution Day.