Monday, April 27, 2009

Forcing Catholic Hospitals to Perform Abortions

During his campaign, now-President Obama promised to pass the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). It appears he wishes to go ahead with that. FOCA is intended to make it easier for women to obtain an abortion. It could also force every hospital to provide this service, including Catholic hospitals. Obviously this is not in keeping with the Catholic Church's stance. More details on that story can be found at the Examiner

Our country was founded by people who said that morality is important to good government and a healthy society. They did not expect that people would be forced to act in a way they consider immoral. Even during the days of the military draft, the system allowed for conscientious objectors. Why do we not want to allow Catholic hospitals a similar right of conscience? Because they accept government money? Does accepting government money mean the all recipients have to do everything exactly the same way?

The usual argument is that the government does not allow for religious consideration because of "separation of church and state." That phrase is not found in any governing document. It is a metaphor used by President Jefferson to illustrate a particular facet of the First Amendment. It was not intended, and is not sufficient, to be a guide to the full meaning of the Amendment. The University of Virginia has collected Jefferson's writings about the reasons for our First Amendment:

On that page you will find "freedom of religion" used six times, but "separation of church and state" is not mentioned even once. Does forcing a Catholic doctor to perform abortion sound like allowing his/her freedom of religion?

Did you know that our First Amendment (which contains the religion clauses) went through several revisions as the authors looked for the best wording. One draft said, "...nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed. No state shall violate the equal rights of conscience …"

Do the medical personnel at a hospital have a right of conscience? Should the government coerce a hospital into doing things that are contrary to their collective conscience by the power of federal money?

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