By Dave Andrusko
Yesterday NRL News Today wrote about a “Perspective” piece in the New England Journal of Medicine, relying on accounts of the opinion piece written by abortionist Lisa Harris of the University of Michigan. (I was unable to access “Recognizing Conscience in Abortion Provision” until after I posted my story.)
As I wrote Thursday, having read and written about previous Harris essays, I speculated these accounts from LiveScience and the University of Michigan would give us the gist of Harris’ argument. I was largely right.
The gist of “Recognizing Conscience in Abortion Provision” is that bioethicists and politicians have paid way too much attention to what she sees as the “negative” side of conscience rights in health care decisions: the right NOT “to participate in contested medical services, especially abortion.” But what, she asks, about those who are driven to abort women and whose motivation is equally conscientious as those who refuse to take part? (To Harris this is the “positive claims of conscience.”)
We talked yesterday about some of the rickety rungs in the ladder of her logic, so we needn’t go through them again. But what is it Harris wants?
At some level, she wants respect for those who ply this grisly trade, including herself. As noted yesterday, in one of the most frightening essays I have ever read, Harris talked about aborting an 18 week baby—the same age as the baby she was then carrying—and in the middle of pulling out arms and legs felt her own baby move for the first time. It was surrealistic and a deeply unsettling account.
What else? Kind of the flipside: those pro-lifers get all the love, what about us? “Though abortion providers now work within the law,” Harris writes, “they still have much to lose. That includes “facing stigma” and “marginalization within medicine.” If nonetheless they abort (for a list of noble sounding reasons Harris provides), surely there ought to be…what?
She doesn’t exactly say it, but clearly Harris’s point is that if abortionists have legally established “conscience rights” to abort, then laws such as those that protect unborn babies capable of feeling pain are an infringement of the abortionist who feels “conscience-bound to offer care after that limit.” Likewise on laws that prevent funds in the U.S. “population assistance” program from going only to overseas organizations that pledged not to “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning.” Where’s the “conscience exemption” for that, she asks. (Fortunately for Harris, pro-abortion President Barack Obama eliminated those restrictions about ten minutes after taking office.)
Finally, Harris is annoyed at (for lack of a better phrase) the ethical conclusions she says follows from the absence of “conscience protections” for abortionists:
“If physicians who offer abortion care don’t have a legitimate claim to act in ‘good conscience,’ like their counterparts who oppose abortion, the implication is that they act in ‘bad conscience’ or lack conscience altogether. This understanding reinforces images of abortion providers as morally bankrupt. Such stereotypes may deter doctors from offering abortion services, thereby contributing to provider shortages.”
Well, if the shoe fits….
As kind of an addendum, note (as anti-life types always do) that Harris is not only seeking carte blanche for abortionists. She adds
“The moral contours of positive claims of conscience require further elaboration, since they have implications for many other arenas of health care and research in which workers may be conscience-bound to do something — for example, physician-assisted suicide or stem-cell investigation.”
So, too bad for a state has a law against physician-assisted suicide. Under Harris’s expansive argument, there will have to be exceptions carved out for those “conscience-bound” to help people kill themselves.
You get the point. In that strange inverted logic for which they are so famous, if the anti-life set cannot extinguish “negative” conscience rights (life-affirming), then they want “positive” conscience rights (death dealing).
What a bunch.
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