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They Shoot Abortionists, Don’t They?

Posted by Rick · September 20th, 2004 · No Comments

Still plugging away — that pun will make sense only to those who know the joy of setting up MovableType blogs — at “upgrading” this blog. Meanwhile, it’s time to get back to business by writing about the things people come here to read!

Last week, Abi Sutherland sent me a link to a story that really bugged me.

I didn’t blog it right away because I wanted time to think a bit. After all, the issues involved are not Bush-friendly issues — that is, they’re not “black and white” — there’s more to this than “for us or against us,” or “the enemy of me is the enemy of everyone” — and Americans have trouble with nuances . . .

The story Abi sent me has become the latest salvo in the abortion “debate.” (We have to use scare quotes there, because there’s no real debate; it’s a culture war.)

Increasingly, doctors and pharmacists are deciding what rights you do and don’t have and how you may, or may not, live.

At first these were just isolated cases, mostly in the Midwest. But recently they have increased dramatically.

Pro-choice groups now call it a significant and growing trend. Lisa Boyce of Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin says it is a conscious extension of the abortion debate.

“They’ve done so much with outlawing and restricting access to abortion that they’ve set their sights on birth control because there’s nothing else really they can do to further restrict abortion here in Wisconsin,” Ms Boyce says. Jill McGivering, Pill propelled into abortion debate, BBC News (UK edition), ¶ 15-17 (13 September 2004).

For the moment, I’m going to ignore the obvious question: “When did the so-called ‘modern’ world go nuts?” As Ms. Boyce notes,

[This] is counter-intuitive because if you’re against abortion in the least you’d think you would see the value in enhancing access [to] birth control, the very means women look to preventing pregnancy and the need for abortion.McGivering, supra, BBC News (UK edition), at ¶ 18.

So instead, I’ll ask, “When did it become okay for people with socially-critical jobs to make life-changing decisions for other people?” What next? Doctors who refuse to perform vasectomies or sterilizations because they thwart pregnancies?

Think seriously about the ethics of this for a moment — and apparently that can only be done by setting aside the abortion “debate” for the moment. Imagine that your son — dressed in the sartorial “splendor” that is all too common in youth today: pants that require a belt to keep the waist from falling below the kneecaps and, say, an Oakland Raiders windbreaker with matching knit cap — is in a motor vehicle accident. He is rushed, barely clinging to life, into the emergency room. The doctor rushes up. Spotting the clothing, he says, “Oh. He’s a gang-banger. Gang-bangers are scum of the earth. I can’t treat him.” You arrive 45 minutes later to find your straight-A son, who never caused you or anyone else a moment of heartache, has bled to death on a gurney in the hallway.

Extreme example, you say? Why? What makes this different? (Stop here for a moment; these are not rhetorical questions.)

Suppose a police officer, attempting to apprehend a criminal, makes a decision about whether or not to shoot the suspect based on his snap judgment about the “value” of the suspect. Think that doesn’t happen? Wasn’t it a factor in Tennessee v. Garner? What about the officer who makes a decision about whether or not to stop Bill Cosby for driving a Mercedes through a white neighborhood? And then maybe figures it’s okay to beat him because he’s just Rodney King? What’s the difference between our pharmacist and the nurse who decides certain patients are better off dead and so “puts them to sleep” with an overdose of pain medication? They shoot horses, don’t they? (Again: not rhetorical questions.)

Return to the theme of unborn children. Suppose one day in-vitro chemical cures are discovered for certain serious deformities. Forget any purely scientific questions for the moment — I’m not a chemist, physiologist, or medical researcher — and just assume the possibility so we can look at the ethical issue. Imagine that someone is able to come up with a pill for a woman whose fetus was diagnosed as having a virtual guarantee of being born autistic, or with spina bifida, or some other defect that would leave them incapacitated for the duration of their lives. The pharmacist says, “I’m sorry. I can’t give you that pill. Only G-d can decide such things. It’s all part of his plan.” (Of course, for these folks, G-d is always male.)

Do we, as a society, really stand for that? If so, when thinking about otherwise legal activities, such as buying birth control pills, who gets to decide which moral choices to enforce?

Justice Scalia, the fascistic bastion of the judiciary who ironically claims to interpret the Constitution the way it was intended while simultaneously getting the thrust of it exactly backwards nearly every time, has said that “any Catholic jurists [if they think the death penalty is wrong] would have to resign.” Dahlia Lithwick, Justice Scalia vs. the Pope: Should every Catholic judge in America quit?, ¶ 1, Slate (18 February 2002).

Not for the first time — which scares me a little bit — I find myself in agreement with Scalia. (Well, okay, only partially. But that’s one of those “nuances” that are “outside the scope of the current article.”)

Nobody forced the Texas pharmacist who refused to give Julee Lacey her birth control pills to become a pharmacist. That was a decision he made of his own free will. Do we really need laws now that say that if you freely choose a job and then perform it in a way that abrogates the freely-chosen life decisions of another, you go to jail?

Ms. Lacey went to a doctor, who apparently decided that the perfectly-legal act of writing a prescription for birth control was the best way to ensure she could keep the size of her family within manageable bounds would be her best medical option. But a pharmacist said, “Nope. I don’t care what the law says. I don’t care what the doctor says. I get to make that decision for you.

No word yet on whether that same pharmacist has agreed to support any new children that might result from Ms. Lacey having — so far still legal even in Texas — sex with her husband.

Special thanks to Abi Sutherland for pointing me to Pill propelled into abortion debate


Categories: Culture Wars · Social Issues


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