Jocelyn's Other Desk

The writings of Jocelyn Smith, aspiring author, soon-to-be lawyer, once and future politician, all-around opinionated twentysomething.

My Photo
Location: Orlando, Florida, United States

I'm a lawyer in Florida, working on three novels, a screenplay, and half a dozen pieces of fanfiction at any given moment.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bush's Ratings Are Dropping...But It May Already Be Too Late For America

Or at least for REAL American values.

"Right to Refuse" Acts: Not Just Birth Control Anymore!

Health workers may get the right to refuse to act

By Rob Stein

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — More than a dozen states are considering new laws to protect health workers who do not want to provide care that conflicts with their personal beliefs, a surge of legislation that reflects the intensifying tension between asserting individual religious values and defending patients' rights.

About half of the proposals would shield pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control and "morning-after" pills because they believe the drugs cause abortions.

But many are far broader measures that would shelter any doctor, nurse, aide, technician or other employee who objects to any therapy. That might include in-vitro fertilization, physician-assisted suicide, embryonic stem cells, and perhaps even providing treatment to gays and lesbians.

The flurry of political activity is being welcomed by conservative groups that consider it crucial to prevent health workers from being coerced into participating in care they find morally repugnant — protecting their "right of conscience" or "right of refusal."

"This goes to the core of what it means to be an American," said David Stevens, executive director of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations. "... Doctors, dentists, nurses and other health-care workers should not be forced to violate their consciences."

The swell of propositions is raising alarm among advocates for abortion rights, family planning, AIDS prevention, gays and lesbians, and the right to die, and others who see the push as the latest manifestation of the growing political power of social conservatives.

"This a very significant threat to patients' rights in the United States," said Lois Uttley of the MergerWatch project, who is helping to organize a conference in New York to plot a counter strategy. "We need to protect the patients' right to use their own religious or ethical values to make medical decisions."

Both sides agree the struggle between personal beliefs and professional medical responsibilities is likely to escalate as more states consider approving physician-assisted suicide, as embryonic stem cell research speeds forward and other advances open more ethical fault lines.

"We are moving into a brave new world of cloning, cyborgs, sex selection, genetic testing of embryos," Stevens said. "The list of difficult ethical issues ... is just continuing to increase."

Most states have long had laws to protect doctors and nurses from being fired, disciplined or sued, or facing other legal action if they do not want to perform abortions.

Conflicts over other health-care workers emerged after the "morning-after" pill was approved and pharmacists began refusing to fill prescriptions for it, with the result that some lost their jobs, were reprimanded or were sanctioned by state licensing boards.
That prompted a number of states last year to consider new laws that would either explicitly protect pharmacists or require them to fill such prescriptions.

At least seven states are considering laws that would specifically protect pharmacists or pharmacies.

"Every other day I hear from pharmacists who are being threatened or told they have to sign something that says they are willing to go along with government mandates," said Francis Manion of the American Center for Law & Justice, which is fighting an Illinois regulation implemented last year requiring pharmacies to fill all prescriptions, which led to a number of pharmacists being fired.

Opponents argue that such laws endanger patients by denying them access to legal drugs, particularly "morning-after" pills, which must be taken soon after unprotected sex.

"Women all over the country are being turned away from obtaining valid and legal prescriptions," said Jackie Payne of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "These kinds of laws would only make the situation worse. It's shameful."

Planned Parenthood is supporting efforts in at least six states to pass laws requiring pharmacists to fill all prescriptions.

At least nine states are considering "right of refusal" bills that are far broader. Some would protect virtually any worker involved in health care, while others would also extend protection to hospitals, clinics and other facilities.

At least five bills would allow insurance companies to opt out of covering services they say they find objectionable for religious reasons.

"These represent a major expansion of this notion of right of refusal," said Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization that studies reproductive health issues and is tracking the legislation. "You're seeing it broadening to many types of workers — even into the world of social workers — and for any service for which you have a moral or religious belief."

I don't think the Psychotic Conservative Fundamentalist Revolution will end with Bush anymore. There's something a lot deeper and scarier going on in the minds of Americans to the point that they're completely forgetting that this is America--or they just don't care anymore. Their idea of "freedom of religion" is freedom to force their sick, twisted versions of Christianity onto the actions, opportunities, lives, and minds of everybody else.

I took myself to law school because I loved the freedoms and the values behind this country's Constitution, but it's being burned right before my eyes by people who call themselves good, patriotic Americans. When those rights are gone, what place will there be for people like me in this country anymore? Should we just keep laboring under an illusion that those rights still exist, even though the Constitution has become a symbol as empty as the ragged 9/11 flags still stuck to so-called patriots' cars?

The pharmacist birth control issue was frightening enough to me as a woman, but the scope of these bills is utterly terrifying, not just for women but for all Americans, and for America itself. We won't be America anymore if we throw away the freedoms we claim to be fighting for.

Maybe they won't pass. Hell, most of them probably won't. But the mindset behind them is what frightens me, and that attitude seems to be growing.

I love this country--I'd wager I love it a lot more than those idiots who wave the flag and scream about American values but have no idea what the flag represents or what those values really are. I'm frightened for it now.

What the hell is happening to us? What the hell is going to happen to us if this insanity doesn't stop?

What will we have become?


Anonymous Beltway Pundit said...


While I have no love for social conservatives and their legislative initiatives, I really think your sense of urgency betrays a lack of historical perspective. Did you know, for example, that most of the early states had per se established churches? That many had religious tests for office? That tax revenue often went to support the religious establishment? The contemporary social conservative is a brazen secularist compared to the American colonialists of just a few short centuries ago.

Now, of course these nutty ideas that aim to police sexual behavior and limit private choices should be relegated to the ashheap of bad policy. And that's what the marketplace of ideas and vigorous political debate in this country will bring about. To be sure, many of these ideas are the natural result of a cyclical resurgence in the depth and breadth of religious adherence, and the concentration of people of strong faith regionally and politically to the extent that a good portion of this country --- and the majority political party --- can now be made or broken by this voting bloc. But, as history in this country as shown, the religiosity of the 1980s-today is the result of the secularism of the mid-20th Century, and I fully expect the mid-21st Century to yield a comparable backlash, with a more secularist, libertarian voting bloc forming an instrumental segment of a new majoritarian political coalition, whatever its ultimate form may be. For now, though, we're a center-right nation with a structural Republican majority of which social conservatives are a key component, and I don't see any of that changing in the very near future.

1:46 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home