In a society such as our which highly values personal freedoms, individual choice, and following the dictates of one’s conscience, there are going to be many conflicts between the rights of individuals or the right of society over individuals. Such a conflict is on-going in the health care industry where health care professionals may at times be expected or required to offer services which they find morally reprehensible or even evil. A 31 July 2008 Washington Post article, Worker’s Religious Freedom Vs. Patient Rights, address this issue and the efforts of the Bush administration to grant some protection to the individual rights of care givers especially as related to reproductive issues. According to the article:
“The Department of Health and Human Services is reviewing a draft regulation that would deny federal funding to any hospital, clinic, health plan or other entity that does not accommodate employees who want to opt out of participating in care that runs counter to their personal convictions, including providing birth-control pills, IUDs and the Plan B emergency contraceptive.”
We already in our society recognize conscientious objection when it comes to serving in military combat roles. The thinking of this proposal actually seems to be simply allowing such thinking for health care workers. Health care agencies would only be required to assure that individual workers have an ability to opt out of being involved in processes or procedures which violate their own conscience.
“Richard S. Myers, a law professor at Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor, Mich., said: ‘Religious freedom is an important part of the history of this country. People who have a religious or moral belief should not be forced to participate in an act they find abhorrent.'”
Abortion rights people have objected for years to being forced to advocate sexual abstinence or to have to counsel women against abortions. The issue is the same – they don’t want anyone to tread on their consciences and they don’t want to have to advocate things they disagree with. The proposal by Health and Human Services is trying to ensure that the conscience of the individual is respected by private agencies and by the government.