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As America’s first ever two term radical Presidency unfolds, we see the real agenda of the American left, the destruction of the Christian sub-culture which developed in response to secularization, taking shape. Just changing terminology from “medical care” (curing illness) to “healthcare” (maintaining physical and emotional health) and then making government responsible to ensure the latter puts the state in a position to define the good life, i.e., the correct values people should have. The Administration has endeavored to do this through the HHS contraceptive/abotifacient mandate to religious employers (based on the opinion of abortion advocates in the medical community that abortion inducing drugs are necessary for “health,” and employees are harmed if their employers don’t pay for items the employees or even the state could easily pay for). Together with the LGBT lobby, the Administration hopes to pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), which, without the religious exemption opposed by the ACLU, would make it legally impossible for religious institutions to require Christian morality of their staff, as discussed by this writer in previous articles. Now the ACLU, which also supports the HHS mandate, is attempting its own major contribution to the effort to eliminate religious social service in a lawsuit which would require Catholic hospitals to perform abortions.
As usual, the pro-abortion argument begins by claiming that mandatory abortion is necessary to ensure the mother’s physical health (or “the woman” as abortion advocates would put it). The fiercely socially liberal Los Angeles Times spun the story as the case of a woman whose child was “doomed,” and of medical necessity, of knowing the child would die and endangering the mother’s health through infection. In fact, the very real possibility of infection is not the same as a certain infection (but reasonably would require action short of abortion to prevent it), and even the very real possibility of death or other harm to the mother is not the same as certainty. As LifeNews reported, despite the ACLU’s claims, the American College of Gynecologists does not in fact recommend inducing labor before 32 weeks without complications (which it is not clear were apparent until delivery). No one can know how a troubled pregnancy will end, and only the assumption that the life of the unborn child is less valuable would mandate action which would necessarily end its life. While the LA Times article claims that Catholic hospitals may refuse “elective abortions,” even this will be gone if “health” is expanded to mean “emotional health” (which anyone can claim is impaired by an unwanted pregnancy, or an unwanted whatever). This, of course, is exactly what has happened with legal restrictions on abortion, and what has made the regime of abortion on demand resulting from the Supreme Court’s inventive constitutional reasoning.
What makes the case especially scary (and telling), is the clear attempt to tie religious doctrine to legal harm. Rather than suing the hospital, the ACLU is suing the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for their directives to Catholic health providers that prescribe medical care according to religious principles. Once the strategic bridgehead is established that Catholic moral teaching is harming good medical care and the government may restrict it, ever more restrictions will be introduced on this and all the other issues of the “culture war” over sex and religion. Religious principles will then be increasingly understood to cause harm in medical care, advancing the claim that they cause harm in the public world of business and the professions, and must be excluded from the actions of anyone serving the public. Beyond this, to advocate or counsel religious actions deemed harmful to the state’s understanding of the good life also become suspect. Currently, the mayor-elect of New York, Bill de Blasio, proposes to shut down the city’s crisis pregnancy centers, which offer alternatives to abortion, while in Germany, books advocating spanking are banned (which is a crime there, and in much of Europe).
On the other hand, deviation from accepted secular standards is allowed, even mandatory, according to the ACLU, where the purpose is to advance the secularist vision of the good life. The current effort to hold abortion clinics to common health standards is met with the claim the attempt is illegitimate because those promoting prolife laws are opposed to abortion. It might be expected that laws clearly protecting women’s health would be unassailable, but evidently not if they are motivated by opposition to the ACLU’s social vision of morally autonomous individuals, from which vision there apparently can be no dissent.
Religious freedom means nothing if the state imposes its own values about what is best for people, as the ACLU would have it do with respect to what is the best medical care during pregnancy. Who is to say how a troubled pregnancy will develop? Catholics and other Christians provide care under the very reasonable assumption that the mother has a natural duty to her child not to harm it, and it cannot really be known that only the child’s death will make continued life for the mother possible. As noted in linked stories, essentially the opinion of an abortion advocate, Dr. Douglas W. Laube, that the hospital’s action under the USCCB Guidelines was “basic neglect … [with perhaps] both baby and mother dying” (to be avoided by killing the baby instead) was taken as sure medical advice, with any dissent just irrational dogmatism.
Any holding by the courts that religious doctrine is harmful is extremely dangerous, and contrary to the First Amendment’s clear intent to protect religious belief and practice. As this writer noted in earlier articles, a religious institution primarily serves God, not the state or its clients. For Christians in particular, the “good work” of providing medical care is part of the exercise of their religion. So for certain purposes, such as abortion, a Catholic or other religious pro-life hospital is really not in the picture. This is another attempt to prevent religious social service as part of a general attack on the independence of the intermediate institutions (such as families, churches, and charities) in society. Without these intermediate institutions, society will be left with the individual standing alone before the state, and the morality its elites imposed on society in the name of health and well-being.