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Legislating Conscience: Distinguishing Abortion from Contraception And All That Jazz February 19, 2011

Posted by legalethicsemporium in Abortion, Health care, Law, Ethics & Society, Religion, U.S. Constitution.
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So, if you work for a medical provider and you oppose abortion, regardless of  legality, you cannot be compelled to participate in providing a woman her legal right to have an abortion.  Alternatively, if you assist a woman in obtaining this medical procedure, you are within your legal rights to do.  The right to be guided by your personal moral compass as it pertains to another individual’s decision to implement her medical rights was initially codified in 1973 in the Church Amendment. Since then other federal and state  laws have been passed and are generally referred to as “conscience protection statutes.”

‘Sort of a paradox of the democratic process that seeks to protect and provide everyone with a voice and a right to acknowledge, but not necessarily support individual prerogative when abortion and sterilization procedures are involved.  This paradox is back in the news as the Obama administration has revisited, revised and repealed aspects of the regulations pertaining to the conscience protection statutes that the Bush administration put into effect in the waning days of its administration.  Interestingly, the statutes functioned without regulations for over 30 years.

The Bush regulations immediately drew criticism for being redundant, overly broad, vague and perhaps, most significantly, for arguably collapsing the definition of contraception into abortion and thereby making it more difficult for individuals to obtain legal health care. Additionally, interpretation of the Bush regulations permitted the possibility that individuals could be denied services based upon evidence of a lifestyle that offends the health care provider’s conscience.

The new ruling makes clear that neither the intent  nor the language of the federal statutes is to define contraception as abortion. “The provision of contraceptive services has never been defined as abortion in federal statute… There is no indication that the federal health care provider conscience statutes intended that the term “abortion” included contraception.”

The Department of Health and Human Services further explains that,

“The Department agrees with concerns that the 2008 Final Rule may have caused confusion as to whether the federal statutory conscience protections allow providers to refuse to treat entire groups of people based on religious or moral beliefs. The federal provider conscience statutes were intended to protect health care providers from being forced to participate in medical procedures that violated their moral and religious beliefs. They were never intended to allow providers to refuse to provide medical care to an individual because the individual engaged in behavior the health care provider found objectionable.”

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, applauded the revision of the rule which,” had it been finalized in its original form, would have allowed insurance companies to deny claims for birth-control pills, hospitals to refuse emergency contraception to rape survivors, and employees at HMOs to refuse their patients referrals for abortion care.”

“The Obama Administration was correct in rescinding the highly inaccurate and dangerous provisions in a regulation imposed by the Bush Administration in late 2008,” said National Women’s Law Center Co-President Marcia D. Greenberger.

“It put the health and safety of American women at risk by expanding far beyond legal limits the ability of health care providers to refuse necessary treatment and information to patients—particularly when seeking reproductive health care, but going far beyond. The highly controversial regulation, which has been challenged in the courts, in effect encouraged providers to deny access not only to abortion services and information but also to contraception, treatment for infertility, depression, substance abuse, and HIV/AIDS in ways that the law does not allow. Indeed, virtually any medical service could have been swept within its expansive purview.”

Query:  When one individual’s personal values clash with another individual’s legal rights, to what degree should we protect one person’s moral values and thereby deny another person access to legitimate healthcare?


Politics vs Humanity? Health Care and Fundamental Rights November 26, 2010

Posted by legalethicsemporium in Health care, Law, Ethics & Society, U.S. Constitution.
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Interesting juxtaposition in the New York Times online afternoon update today…The update  contains an article described as Administration Is Bracing for Setbacks to Health Law, which adeptly describes the democratic forces at play as the constitutionality of requiring everyone to obtain health insurance under the Obama health care plan is being challenged in the courts by various opponents including state attorney generals and members of Congress. All parties seem to agree that regardless of what any specific judge decides at the district level, the issue will ultimately wind its way up to the Supreme Court. There is also debate as to the repercussions of a finding of unconstitutionally of that section of the bill. Would that doom the whole bill?  That’s not clear in the language of the bill. So, essentially we have a program proposed by the Executive Branch, passed by the Legislative Branch, now being challenged in the Judicial Branch by various parties that include representatives of the states. Great–Democracy in action, civics 101–this provision is not scheduled to go into effect for three years anyway. All is good….Or is it?

Scroll down on the New York Times list and one is  reminded that the underlying issue in this democratic “exercise” is the fundamental right to health care. What on this list  jars the memory? A video report entitled South Korea’s War on Dementia. Seems that the government there has realized that within 15 years, 20% of the population will be over 65 and despite the tradition of families caring for their own elderly, there will be an imbalance in the ratio of caretakers to those in need of care. So, the government has launched a war on dementia and is on a mission to increase awareness, build nursing homes and provide health care training to its society, including the youth.

It is a compelling piece and one that brought to mind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948 as the world was still reeling from the inhumanity of the Holocaust and World War II. This document is still embraced by the United Nations as a reflection of rights to which all human beings are entitled. Article 25 states: Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Article 25–laudatory goal or fundamental human right? Seems that given the fact that it was authored over 60 years ago, it remains both.  The juxtaposing of South Korea’s war on dementia with the ongoing battles in the United States over the health care system does not provide the ultimate answer as to how all people may obtain health care nor does it define society’s role in solving the dilemma.  However, it does highlight the underlying issue of humanity involved when one lives in a society in which socio-economic status may determine whether someone who is ill will have the opportunity to get well.

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