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March Madness: Facebook & Virtual vs Actual Democracy March 25, 2011

Posted by legalethicsemporium in Abortion, Immigration, Law, Ethics & Society, Mindfulness, U.S. Constitution.
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Middle Eastern uprisings sparked by  Facebook connections, public employees protesting in Wisconsin, Arizona’s reaction to protests over its immigration laws, and South Dakota’s new abortion law….March is a compelling month for the study of natural rights and the democratic process.

According to John Locke and our Founding Fathers we are all born with inalienable rights….or more simply stated…We are free and should only be constrained by  a democratic government in which we give up certain rights in exchange for the protection of our fundamental rights–a social contract.  Somehow, a number of dictators around the world didn’t get that memo…Despite that fact, the human spirit remains strong and with the advent of technology, we have seen a new version of democracy in action–the use of Facebook, Twitter, and texting as a means of revolution.

Groundbreaking, history in the making, and certainly worth noting and contrasting with our open society.  Why?  Because democracy is sometimes messy, often adversarial and down right unpleasant. However, underneath the unpleasantness remains the fact that we have a system that is to be cherished as the best method that human beings have been able to create to support fundamental freedoms.

The people of Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries have been able to use technology to accomplish uprisings against governments under which our brand of democracy does not exist.  By contrast the Wisconsin public employees “simply”exercised their constitutional rights to protest government imposed limits on public employees’ labor rights. The ongoing dispute with the state legislators is now headed for the state’s supreme court.

Arizona has developed a reputation as having some of the harshest immigration laws on its books and a governor who openly supports a tough stance.  There have been protests, media coverage and social media discussion criticizing Arizona’s recent laws , including on this blog.  It appears that all the criticism is not good for business as Arizona has lost tourist and other revenue, so recently five newly proposed restrictive immigration laws failed to muster the necessary votes  in the Arizona state legislature.

Finally, South Dakota, a state without a high incidence of abortion, but with a high percentage of republican legislators, has passed legislation that requires “women who are seeking abortions to first attend a consultation at such ‘pregnancy help centers,’ to learn what assistance is available ‘to help the mother keep and care for her child.'” It is probably unnecessary to explain the furor that this has caused in this controversial area….Planned Parenthood has indicated that it will move the debate from the legislature to a courtroom where the interpretation of  a woman’s constitutional rights in this area will be argued and decided upon once again.

Emotionally charged disputes in fundamental areas of society–employment, immigration, pregnancy–controversy abounds. However, regardless of how one feels about public employees’ union rights, immigration rights, or abortion, we can embrace the fact that we live in a country in which we have a right to publicly dispute these issues and a government that has a process by which to revisit and resolve our disagreements.  It might sound like a huge piece of American pie, but given what is transpiring in the Middle East, it seems worth taking a moment to pause and savour the sweet taste of democracy.

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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?

Abortion Ultrasound Bill: A Picture Worth Any Number of Words? June 12, 2010

Posted by legalethicsemporium in Law, Ethics & Society.
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So, the U.S. Supreme Court has said that a woman has a choice as to whether to have an abortion and now legislators in Florida would like to require a woman to see ,via ultrasound, what it is she is aborting and hear a detailed description from her doctor. Oh, and by the way, this medically unnecessary ultrasound will not be covered by insurance so this woman would have to have the funds to pay for this required tortuous experience.   Of course, there are some exceptions and opt out clauses, but really where is government going with this intrusive premise? 

Charlie Crist vetoed the ultrasound abortion bill.   He is being labeled untrustworthy  by Republicans who are also upset that he left their party.  In fact, one representative, has been quoted as saying that Crist has not only lost his party affiliation, but his moral compass as well.  Query: where is the morality in a law that taunts a woman who has made a legal choice and then further financially penalizes her?

The issue seems to be at what point does  the incorporation of one’s personal morality into legislation cross the privacy line and become punitive rather than protective? Law should reflect a society’s values, but not everyone’s values prevail in a democracy ruled by the majority and a system of checks and balances.  There is certainly much valid debate over the ethics and morality of  abortion; however, regardless an individual’s personal view, abortion is legal in our country.   Crist’s veto serves to limit government’s intrusion into a highly personal matter and thereby prevents government from passing  judgment, in a callous manner,  on a woman’s private moral choice.

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