Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

03/11/2009 (11:21 am)

Abortion and the Death of Liberty of Conscience

“…The Law of nations, by which this question is to be determined, is composed of three branches,

1. The Moral law of our nature.
2. The Usages of nations.
3. Their special Conventions.

The first of these only, concerns this question, that is to say the Moral law to which Man has been subjected by his creator, & of which his feelings, or Conscience as it is sometimes called, are the evidence with which his creator has furnished him. The Moral duties which exist between individual and individual in a state of nature, accompany them into a state of society & the aggregate of the duties of all the individuals composing the society constitutes the duties of that society towards any other; so that between society & society the same moral duties exist as did between the individuals composing them while in an unassociated state, their maker not having released them from those duties on their forming themselves into a nation. Compacts then between nation & nation are obligatory on them by the same moral law which obliges individuals to observe their compacts. There are circumstances however which sometimes excuse the non-performance of contracts between man & man: so are there also between nation & nation. When performance, for instance, becomes impossible, non-performance is not immoral. So if performance becomes self-destructive to the party, the law of self-preservation overrules the laws of obligation to others. For the reality of these principles I appeal to the true fountains of evidence, the head & heart of every rational & honest man. It is there Nature has written her moral laws, & where every man may read them for himself. He will never read there the permission to annul his obligations for a time, or for ever, whenever they become “dangerous, useless, or disagreeable.” Certainly not when merely useless or disagreeable, as seems to be said in an authority which has been quoted, Vattel, 2. 197, and tho he may under certain degrees of danger, yet the danger must be imminent, & the degree great. Of these, it is true, that nations are to be judges for themselves, since no one nation has a right to sit in judgment over another. But the tribunal of our consciences remains, & that also of the opinion of the world. These will revise the sentence we pass in our own case, & as we respect these, we must see that in judging ourselves we have honestly done the part of impartial & vigorous judges….”

- Thomas Jefferson, April 28, 1793 letter to George Washington. [The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes. Federal Edition. Collected and Edited by Paul Leicester Ford.] [emphases mine.]

American children have not been taught the central importance of liberty of conscience in the founding of our nation at any time during my lifetime, so the concept is being forgotten. Products of American public schools who have never read the philosophy of our nation’s founders think the central issue of the American revolution was taxation without representation, and in their hedonistic hearts, the sober liberty to do as the conscience requires has transmogrified into the carefree license to do as the flesh desires. This is tragic.

Nowhere is this omission more apparent than in the furor over President Obama’s abortion policy.

President Obama’s critics warned during the campaign that his moderate rhetoric was deliberately masking an aggressively pro-abortion stance — and I mean the words “pro-abortion” precisely as I framed them. I dismiss the risible excuse that “nobody likes abortions” even when offered by ordinary abortion advocates, but Obama is no ordinary abortion advocate. His historic stance on abortion policy, in practice, has always out-lefted the leftmost advocates, even while he’s jockeyed to grant himself plausible moderation to fool voters. This is why, in the Illinois legislature, he carefully articulated in public his opposition to Illinois’ version of the Born-Alive Protection Act as being due to the absence of wording protecting abortion rights like that which appeared in the federal bill, when in fact he had quietly opposed an act worded like the federal bill in committee, where he chaired.

Since then, President Obama has fulfilled the worst expectations of his critics in his fervor for promoting and encouraging legal abortions. He solicited a wish list of pro-abortion policies from abortion advocacy groups before the inauguration. His appointments related to health issues have uniformly gone to hard-core abortion advocates. He has already rescinded federal limits on funding abortions overseas. He released funding for research using human embryos, but rescinded funding for promising research to produce embryonic stem cells without destroying an embryo. He has made public statements affirming his support for the abortion policy initiated by Roe v Wade (ignorantly. Roe actually articulates a more restrictive policy than that which Obama supports.) He rescinded federal guidelines protecting the consciences of medical professionals who might be expected to perform abortions against their will. He did all this during a period in which he claims that the demands of the economy made it impossible for him to devote proper time to visiting dignitaries from our allies; this illustrates how high abortion ranks on the President’s personal priority list (and how low foreign dignitaries rank.) And, he announced most of these measures on Friday nights, so the news cycle would not focus on them.

It’s in the matter of medical professionals performing abortions against their wills that liberty of conscience arises as a central topic.

pepys_liberty270The key feature of the individual liberty that grew into political liberty was called liberty of conscience. Championed by leaders of the Protestant Reformation, liberty of conscience articulated the notion that each man owes his conscience, not to the Crown, nor to the Church, but to God alone. This was the Great Leveling of Humankind: neither kings nor popes were above the laws of God, but were subject to them, the same as ordinary people. Kings or popes violating the law of God were seen as having abdicated their authority by virtue of that violation. Our modern notion of individual liberty would not have come about without liberty of conscience; it lies at the very heart of the American system of government, in the notions that people should be free, that the government serves the people, and that nobody is above the law.

It is this liberty, the liberty granted by God for every person to do as their conscience requires them, that stands in the path of Obama’s next, slated pro-abortion move. The obfiscationally-named Freedom of Choice Act purports to require all medical facilities to offer abortion services regardless of the consciences of medical staff. The threat of this legislation has prompted Catholic hospitals to warn that they may not remain open if the government insists on forcing them to perform services that they regard as murder.

Mind you, there is no public policy reason for the provision requiring hospitals to provide abortion services against their consciences; there’s no shortage of abortion providers. The sole purpose of such a measure is to criminalize the conscientious stands of abortion’s opponents. It’s one of a handful of measures favored by Democrats to criminalize their political opponents, as Stalinism slowly settles over the Land of the Free.

The anti-libertarian fervor of abortion advocates found a champion yesterday on The Moderate Voice, arguably the worst-named blog on the Internet because there is nothing moderate about this site. “Moderate” commentator Jazz Shaw produced what I regard as the most openly totalitarian piece I’ve seen this year, arguing, with that incredible knack liberals have of inventing moral imperatives out of the most atrocious mental twisting, that it’s the Catholics that are threatening and bullying the government, not the other way ’round. Shaw posits that the fact that Catholics chose to offer medical services in the first place confers on Catholic hospitals an affirmative responsibility to remain open, regardless of whether the government demands that they commit what they regard as murder. This is the entitlement culture amplified by 30,000 watts: because an actor has produced a good thing, the nation has an inalienable right to enjoy that good thing forever; the purveyor has no right to stop producing it, even if the production of it ceases to benefit the one who produced it (let alone that it becomes a matter of sin to continue it!) In ShawWorld, the Nazi death camp operators would have committed immorality if they refused to operate the camps, because the camps, you see, were constructed on the assumption that the operators would be there to run them. How dare those bullying Catholics threaten to close their doors, just because the government wants them to damn themselves to hell! Don’t Catholics realize that they are mindless imbeciles and that their beliefs are meaningless relics of an ancient superstition?

Meanwhile, in MYWorld, Jazz Shaw has demonstrated that he is not a member of the human race. There are no words for my rage. (Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, who is a friend of Shaw’s, dismisses his vile pap in a friendlier, but no less contemptuous, manner.)

consciencequote1Not surprisingly, Shaw couched his vile opinion in terms recalling the left’s unsupportable rendering of American religious liberty, the one that turns “separation of church and state” into an affirmative duty for the government to impose secular, Scientific Materialism on the populace as the official, national religion. If any of these historical illiterates were to offer their interpretation of “the separation of church and state” to any of the nation’s founders, they’d be lucky if they escaped without having to fight a duel; any of the founders, even the handful of atheists among them, would immediately recognize tyranny in the notion that Americans ought not bring the ethics taught by their religions through the door when they serve on the legislature, and would brand the people arguing thus as the devious servants of the worst tyrants imaginable — which, in fact, they are.

FOCA has not been introduced in Congress yet, probably because of the attention being paid by Catholics. The left would like to introduce it, but they know they’re sitting on a powder keg. Catholics still hold a lot of sway in plenty of Democratic districts. The powder keg is larger and more volatile than they imagine, though; if they try to force Catholic medical professionals to violate their consciences, they’re going to end up jailing thousands of them as they refuse to comply, and perhaps could even spark a revolution.

Governments have no right — ever, under any circumstance — to force people to violate their consciences. This is the very right America’s founders fought to protect. If the government attempts to force this conduct, they will have violated natural law, the law that all nations and religious leaders must obey, the same law that adheres to all people. If this government violates natural law, it is every man’s right to overthrow this government and establish one that will recognize the human right to liberty of conscience.

The framed quote regarding conscience was obtained from a web site called “America In Prophecy.” I have no association with the site, and do not endorse it, nor do I know anything about the authors. I clipped the quotation exactly as it appeared. While I regard the statement as an accurate description of the philosophy of the authors of our nation’s founding documents, I could not verify the quotations source or accuracy, and present it here simply as an illustration.

« « Obama Education, a Feint and a Punch | Main | Incompetent » »


March 11, 2009 @ 1:52 pm #

“Governments have no right — ever, under any circumstance — to force people to violate their consciences.”

So, in the case of Warren Jeff’s polygamous FLDS cult, where the men believe that in order to achieve heaven, they must have at least 3 (simultaneous) wives, the government should have no say, period?

Recommended reading: Escape, by Carolyn Jessop


March 11, 2009 @ 2:34 pm #


Your post is a bit over the top.

First, you say that Obama “solicited a wish list of pro-abortion policies from abortion advocacy groups before the inauguration.” I tracked down the memo you linked to and that memo clearly indicated that it was created by an outside group and submitted to the Obama administration. Do you have independent evidence that the Administration “solicited” this so called wish list?

Second, your rage regarding the commentary of Jazz Shaw is hard to understand. His point is fairly obvious. He’s arguing that our democratically elected congress is entitled to regulate the medical services industry, including regulations requiring medical service providers to provide specific medical services. You don’t disagree with that, do you?

He’s further arguing that communities that receive medical services largely or entirely from an organization that would cease providing medical services altogether rather than comply with duly enacted legislation (or who receive siad services from an organization that is threatening to do so) are in an untenable position. Those communities need to find an alternative source of medical services. What’s objectionable about that?

Your belief that government should not be allowed to force people (or organizations) to act contrary to their consciences is fine, but beside the point. No one is arguing that an organization should be forced to perform abortions – that’s because no one is forcing any organization to provide medical services. Moreover, your claim that the Obama Administration “rescinded federal guidelines protecting the consciences of medical professionals who might be expected to perform abortions against their will” is wrong headed. The Obama administration rescinded the guidelines because it thought the guidelines were too broadly worded. It worried that the guidelines would allow individual employees and pharmacies to refuse to dispense legally available prescription medications (which some people think are abortafacients). You might approve of a broadly worded conscience clause, but I’m sure you can see the pragmatic difficulties in maintaining such a broad exception.

I’ll bet you that within a year, the Obama administration will replace the old guidelines with a narrower conscience clause that protects employees from being forced to participate in live abortions, In fact, I’m so confident that Obama does not support a policy of forcing individuals to participate in abortions(except, perhaps, in dispensing legal medications) that I’ll commit, here and now, to give you $1000.00 cash if Obama ever publicly endorses such a policy (or signs a bill containing such a policy.

Finally, I see no evidence whatsoever that Obama is “pro-abortion,” if that means Obama wants to increase the number of abortions, or thinks abortion is an intrinsically good thing. His policies seem perfectly in line with the view that early term abortions should be legal. I think there are sound reasons for taking that view, and I’ll be happy to debate that question with you, on your blog, for the benefit of your readers. Just say the word.

Best wishes,

Joe H.

March 11, 2009 @ 2:38 pm #


I’m not sure I agree that the situation you’re describing is an attempt by government to force men to violate their consciences. I think there’s a difference between restricting people from acting in a manner that disturbs the peace and safety of the community, and forcing people to do things that offend their consciences.

The area where government enforcement of generally-applicable rules for public safety and civic order overlaps with religious imperatives is a tricky one. I think it was the Smith decision where the Supremes decided that Oregon could enforce their no-drug policy against an employee for whom peyote was a religious observance (or so he said.) I agree cautiously.

I also agree that government should be permitted to force “black-bumper” Amish to display fluorescent warning signs on their carriages (I think that was Yoder v Michigan or something like that). So, I guess I can accept a small correction and admit that “never under any circumstance” goes a tad over the top. Still, I’ll sacrifice that smidge of accuracy for the impact of a clear statement; conscience is as close to an absolute right as we get.

March 11, 2009 @ 3:02 pm #

One could also make the same case with Honor killings in Islamic societies, where even if a woman was raped, SHE must be killed in order for the family’s “Honor” to be restored. (Funny how this works there. Many western societies, even male dominated ones would say that it is the duty of Men to protect and care for women and children, so in this case they would say that the true “shame” here, if shame can actually be applied by society to the victim of a brutal crime, it should lie with the Men unable to acquit their duties.)

However, I think that is using a straw man argument in this case. Can you equate bigamy with forcing a doctor or other health care provider to perform a procedure they believe to be murder?

March 11, 2009 @ 3:07 pm #

“I think there’s a difference between restricting people from acting in a manner that disturbs the peace and safety of the community, and forcing people to do things that offend their consciences.”

Ok, you witness an accident in which a child is badly injured, so you take that child to the nearest hospital. The physician that attends the child is a recent convert to the Jehovah Witness cult, and decides that he can’t allow this child to get a blood transfusion. So the child dies due to this malpractice.

The government cannot force “people to do things that offend their consciences.” Right? Or is this another “smidge” exception?


March 11, 2009 @ 3:11 pm #


Regarding whether the Obama team solicited the memo or not, I note two data: first, the president of Planned Parenthood told the Washington Post that she was in “nearly daily contact” with Obama’s transition team shortly after the election, and second, that the transition team posted the 55-page memo on their web site. This is clearly more than just a wish list from a pressure group; whether the memo was accepted in its entirety or modified, it was clearly a collaboration between the Obama administration and its supporters. I’ll modify my claim to “seems to have solicited” if you’ll admit that my interpretation is the most likely case.

Regarding Jazz Shaw’s article, your whitewashing of his clear intent is simply shameless. I’ll just ask my readers here to read his article, and decide for themselves whether my take or yours is more accurate. I don’t think any further response is required. Honestly, Joe, I’m disgusted by your attempt to whitewash the thing.

And, my response to your question whether I disagree that the Congress has a right to regulate the medical services industry, including regulations requiring medical service providers to provide specific medical services, my answer is not “yes,” not “hell, yes,” but “You would never catch me even thinking otherwise.” The government has no right to require medical practitioners to provide services they regard as immoral, and anyone who says otherwise is a tyrant. This is as clear a case of a violation of personal liberty that goes to the very heart of what the Constitution’s authors were attempting to prevent as anything that could be conceived.

And for that matter, calling abortion a medical service is a deliberate obfuscation. Abortion is as much a medical service as is elective plastic surgery, except when required for reasons of the health of the mother.

Finally, regarding debates, you seem to want this one, and I’m not strictly opposed to that, but I’m pretty sure I won’t have the time to give it the attention it would need. So, this time I’m afraid I’ll have to pass. I’ve not responded to your discussion on your own blog for the same reason.

March 11, 2009 @ 3:25 pm #


Pretty squirrelly hypothetical, dude. In the first place, I don’t know that there exist JW doctors who refuse to perform transfusions. In the second place, I know there exist no JW hospitals that refuse to perform such transfusions, and if there are JW doctors that work in non-JW hospitals, the staffs of those hospitals are surely aware of their limitations and keep them away from situations where their particular stand could cause a problem like this.

In the situation you describe, the hospital would be criminally liable for the child’s death for the mere fact that they had a doctor working in an emergency ward that would refuse to perform transfusions. The doctor would be fired on the spot, would have his license revoked due to malpractice, and might just face manslaughter charges due to criminal negligence for failing to alert his employer that he’d developed this new tick of conscience that prevented him from doing his job. I have no problem with any of these legal remedies — and none of them require the government to force the man to do what his conscience says he must not do.

March 11, 2009 @ 3:26 pm #


The Jehovah’s witness thing is also kind of a faulty analogy. Is this a Jehovah’s witness hospital? Are there no other doctors in the hospital except recent converts to this specific religion?

Catholic hospitals are run by the Church specifically. They are not run by a secular organization that simply has RC doctors. So IF (and note I say IF) FOCA could in some way be used to coerce hospitals to perform abortions regardless of their belief, since they are a private organization, they could in fact close their doors.

I would also refer to Phil’s post on the difference between abortion being an elective procedure and a life saving blood transfusion.

March 11, 2009 @ 4:20 pm #


You get disgusted (frequently) because you assume (frequently) that people who disagree with you have bad motives. You assumed that about Shaw, and now you assume that about me. That’s a bad trait for someone in your business.

Surely you understand the policy problem of a community relying on a health care provider who refuses to provide reproductive health care services, and who is threatening to quit providing all medical services if they are forced to provide reproductive services by federal legislation. You may not agree with the proposed federal requirement, or with Shaw’s proposed solution (replacing Catholic providers with other providers), but Shaw’s argument is nothing to get outraged about. Neither is mine.

I think one of the problems with the Abortion debate is the inability of people on each side to attribute good faith to those on the other side. Perhaps you think that abortion is so obviously reprehensible that its impossibble to disagree about the practice in good faith. If that’s the case, there’s really no point in going on. For my part, I accept that people who believe that abortion is immoral (I’m one of them) and should be illegal with few (if any) exceptions (I’m not one of them) hold their beliefs in good faith.

Joe H.

March 11, 2009 @ 4:34 pm #

Sorry Phil, I forgot a few things.

You’re dead wrong about the (legal) right of Congress to force people to violate their consciences. I feel its immoral to pay taxes to support a government who uses its revenues to do what I consider to be immoral acts. However, congress surely has the right to force me to pay my taxes.

Your argument that Congress has no right to order anyone to provide medical services that they find morally offensive is correct, but completely misguided. Congress is not forcing anyone to provide medical services at all. Never has, never will.

However, Congress is authorized by our constitution to regulate the practice of medicine (see Commerce Clause), including passing a requirement that medical providers provide specific medical services. You may disagree with the laws it passes, but there is nothing tyrannical about Congress’ regulation of medicine.

The problematic enthymeme (unstated premise) in your argument is that individuals and/or institutions have a right to provide medical services free of government regulation when such regulation violates their consciences. That is simply false.

Joe H.

March 11, 2009 @ 4:37 pm #

Joe, I don’t think good faith covers this one. I can accept that you believe abortion is not morally wrong, though I disagree. What I cannot accept is that you would condone forcing a man to do something he holds to be so deeply wrong. And, Joe, what possible policy reason exists for forcing them thus? Is there a shortage of abortion providers? For the government to attempt to force a man to perform an act he regards as murder, is an act of tyranny, and it does not matter a whit how well-intentioned the tyrant is. As I’ve said, and you continue to fail to acknowledge, liberty of conscience is FUNDAMENTAL. The denial of it is a denial of everything I believe as an American. Why do you disagree? Please explain.

Regarding Shaw’s article, I understand the point about the dislocation caused by the community having to do without a service that they were relying on (though Shaw is dead wrong about every business aspect he mentions). What has me so outraged is that Shaw regards the Catholics as the villains here, not the government that is forcing this dilemma on them. This is a moral inversion; he’s calling good “evil,” and evil “good.” The Catholics are not trying to bully anybody; they didn’t pick this fight, and they’re doing their best to avoid it. They’re simply trying to do good without violating their consciences. If the government creates a dilemma — note those words, the government creates the dilemma, not the Catholics — in which they cannot do their good works without also sinning against their consciences, how is that their fault? Shaw’s reasoning for blaming the Catholics here is so twisted that it defies imagination; and my description of it is entirely correct, as far as I can see.

March 11, 2009 @ 4:46 pm #


Catholics are certainly not villians. They’re providing medical services. I didn’t read Shaw’s piece as blaming them. I’ll go back and read it again.

Later, I’ve got work to do. :)


March 11, 2009 @ 4:50 pm #

Oh yeah,

I do agree that Congress would be tyrannical if it forced individual physicians to provide abortion services. But there is nothing tryannical about requiring institutional providers to provide these services (if it is possible). (which is what creates the problem).

Joe H.

March 11, 2009 @ 4:55 pm #


You’re trying to make something complicated that’s actually simple. We can get into the complications caused by the confusion between Congress’ POLITICAL POWER to perform certain acts, their LEGAL RIGHT UNDER CURRENT CONSTITUTIONAL LAW to perform those acts, and their NATURAL RIGHT to perform those acts. Your latest comment explaining Congress’ right to enforce regulations against the conscience of citizens confuses those kinda blithely.

But it’s ok. What I’m talking about, what I’ve been talking about all along and what I’ve clearly indicated that I’m talking about, is natural rights. No government has the natural right to force men to commit a murder. To do so is immoral, and tyrannical. A benign government cognizant of citizens’ rights would never make the attempt.

We’re posting at the same time, and missing each other’s comments. The distinction between individuals and institutions is interesting; the problem is caused by the insistence that the institution offer specific services. And yes, I can see how that distinction might make someone miss the impact on individual doctors or nurses, so I’ll put away my Che’ beret for the moment.

Still, I regard the Congress’ power to force a business institution to offer specific services as a violation of liberty (albeit not quite so central a violation as forcing a doctor to commit what he considers murder.) It would be like demanding that all restaurants offer steak, even vegetarian ones. A hospital is a place of business, and ought properly to be free to offer whatever services the administrators feel competent to offer. If that list does not include heart surgery, they don’t perform heart surgery. If it doesn’t include dialysis, they don’t do dialysis. What’s the policy purpose of forcing them to provide abortion services, given 1) emergency abortions are exceedingly rare, 2) there are plenty of abortion providers, and 3) we all know why they’re not offering those services, and their reasons are the sort of thing we Americans are supposed to protect?

March 11, 2009 @ 10:25 pm #


Its not the I don’t see the irony of the historical fact that the Catholic Church performed myriad acts of selfless charity when it built its network of hospitals, schools, and other institutions. And I agree that where reproductive health services are available, there’s no point in requiring Catholic health care providers to make them available.

Half of the problem is that the Church’s convictions on reproductive issues have not changed with the Public’s (nearly 2 out of three Americans believe that early term elective abortions should remain legal and available). That may speak ill of the public, but the public doesn’t agree.

The other half of the problem is that in many small cities, Catholic hospitals are the main (or sole) suppliers of medical care and medications.

Its a difficult problem. However, medicine is not like a particular type of food. Medical care is a vital public good – albeit one that is supplied by private individuals acting in the private sector. Whether the Catholic Church intends to put the squeeze on the public, that is the effect of its threat to stop supplying medical care if it is forced by federal regulation to make reproductive medical services available. It might be a principled stand, but it surely is a problematic stand from the point of view of those elected to “promote the general welfare.”

You and I can argue about whether abortion is a legitimate medical procedure until we’re blue in the face, but the public (and the regulators appointed by our elected representatives, and the U.S. Supreme court)have all decided that it is. As a vital public good, and as a form of commerce, Congress has the authority to regulate medical care to make such services available. And if the consciences of Catholics render it impossible for them to supply this type of medical care, and they’re the only local suppliers, something has got to give.

Oh yeah, institutions don’t have natural rights.

Joe H.

March 11, 2009 @ 11:30 pm #

Phil -

Just to point out, Joe says right out he believes abortion is immoral…just that it shouldn’t always be illegal.

March 12, 2009 @ 8:22 am #

Ah the age old thing: the Church should “get with the times.” You have to understand, the Church’s job is not to bend to the whims and mores of the times, it is to try to help man navigate the narrow path to redemption. In other words to do what is right. Now they may be wrong in some cases. But I truly doubt that our stance on abortion will ever change.

The church believes that life begins at conception. I would argue that even scientifically, they are right on this score. Abortion, even in the earliest of stages, brings about the death of this life. Now this is not killing in a Just Cause (the church does make certain exceptions for this), most of the time, abortions are done for convenience. The Church does not hold with that and believes anyone who does is either participating in or advocating murder, the commission of a mortal sin.

This is where this whole argument gets even more sticky than has been gone over so far in this thread. Some have suggested as I believe Joe mentioned, that if the Church does not want to stay in the health care business in order not to violate their conscience, then they should simply sell the hospitals to a third party that does not share their values. This brings up a sticky wicket for Catholics- the question of aiding in the sin of others. If the Church sells these buildings to a third party, with the knowledge that the facilities will then be used sometimes to carry out abortions, some have argued that they are then giving consent to the commission of a mortal sin- murder.

I have heard some Archbishops say that if FOCA is used to try to coerce these facilities to carry out abortions, rather than merely selling off the hospitals, they will simply close the doors and hold onto the properties, rather than enter the moral conflicts listed above. I am not trying to add fuel to the fire, just describing how deep the water is.

March 12, 2009 @ 1:12 pm #


I would never suggest that the church should “get with the times” if that meant “endorse immorality because its currently popular.” I merely pointed out that the Catholic church and the public have come to disagree about what is morally acceptable on reproductive issues like abortion. That’s simply a fact, and a big part of the problem from a public policy perspective.

I personally believe that convenience abortions are immoral because they are profane (they fail to respect the sanctity of human life). However, I don’t believe that aborting a first trimester fetus is a murder because, at that stage of its development, there is no “someone” to be the victim of a murder. There is a life, but no “someone.”

I’m pretty sure the vast majority of Americans would adopt my view, if they gave the matter careful thought. Almost two thirds of Americans think that early term abortions should remain legal and that late term abortions should be banned. And most people remain uncomfortable with abortion at any stage of fetal development. My view makes sense of these facts. The Catholic Church’s view does not.

That doesn’t mean I’m right and the Church is wrong. But its worth considering.

Joe H.

March 12, 2009 @ 1:15 pm #


My last post should have been addressed to Horatio.

My bad.


March 12, 2009 @ 2:01 pm #

I take your point, Joe. However, I would still say the Church is not even in the business of making it’s members happy, let alone non-members. I would simply restate what I said in my last comment as to why.

I remember after the death of John Paul II, a girl where I worked at the time saying that the Church really should “pick a young guy, or a woman!” I asked her if she was Catholic and she said no and she did not even really believe in God. I pointed out that that is like worrying over who is going to be elected the High Druid this year (for her at least.)

March 12, 2009 @ 8:34 pm #


You wrote:

Its a difficult problem.

Actually, it’s not a difficult problem so long as people are willing to tolerate differences in others. What’s so hard about acknowledging that so long as it’s Catholics providing the services, they’re only to provide those services that Catholics are comfortable providing?

That’s why I made the point about “emergency abortions”; what the hell is so hard about driving to the next town to get an abortion if that’s what you need to do? Even if it’s 100 miles? People who live in remote places like that are USED to traveling for big-city services. And why can’t folks live and let live, even if — and I don’t believe this is correct — even if a majority thinks Catholics are behind the times?

I simply do not believe that you can produce a single instance, anywhere in the country, where medical necessity justifies forcing a Catholic hospital to offer abortion services. That’s a contrived issue, and it’s BS.

You and I can argue about whether abortion is a legitimate medical procedure until we’re blue in the face, but the public (and the regulators appointed by our elected representatives, and the U.S. Supreme court)have all decided that it is.

More BS. I’ve never seen a poll asking whether the public thinks “abortion” is actually “medical care” as opposed to elective surgery, nor have I seen that issue addressed in a Court case, so I’m pretty doubtful that you’re saying anything meaningful. What the court has decided is that states cannot forbid abortions; nothing says the state can force a facility to provide them. The right to regulate does not include the right to compel a business to offer a service against its will. Can you think of another instance where the state has the right to force a business of ANY sort to provide a service that they choose not to provide?

Furthermore, I’m fairly disgusted at the attempt to stifle debate by invoking a majority view. Again, I’m talking about what’s right, not what’s legal, and again, you’re trying to change the subject. If 100% of the population says Jews are sub-human, that does not make them sub-human, and that does not justify silencing the one guy left who says they’re just like the rest of us. And even when talking about legality rather than morality, the system is designed to protect the minority from the whim of the majority; why is this different?

So, no, I’m not going to fold up and go away just because you assert (incorrectly) that something is the majority view. Would you? I didn’t think so. So don’t ask me to.

Oh yeah, institutions don’t have natural rights.

Reread the quotation at the top of this article. Thomas Jefferson disagrees with you. Vis: “Compacts then between nation & nation are obligatory on them by the same moral law which obliges individuals to observe their compacts.” If countries have moral obligations, then countries also have rights. Countries are institutions, ergo institutions have both moral obligations and rights.

March 13, 2009 @ 12:08 pm #

“Governments have no right — ever, under any circumstance — to force people to violate their consciences.”

Ok, my JW analogy was contrived. Here are a couple of analogies that are not. They have nothing to do with abortion, but I’m questioning the absolute statement you made above.

1) A blind man with a guide dog is refused taxi service at an airport because all of the taxi drivers in the official queue are muslim, and islam considers dogs to be “unclean”.

2) A woman with a bag containing a bottle of wine is also refused taxi service at the same airport, because alcohol is forbidden by islam.

In both cases, no action was taken against the taxi drivers because of fear they might be offended.

So, Phil, what would your recommendation be for handling these non-hypothetical situations?


March 13, 2009 @ 1:11 pm #


I would argue that the government does not have the right to force taxi drivers to violate their consciences — not because they might be offended, but because liberty demands it.

I would also argue, relevant to this topic, that in the case that the government acts improperly and demands the taxi drivers to carry objects that violate their consciences, the taxi drivers are very much within their rights to simply refuse to drive taxicabs; they are not “deliberately harming the public interest” by finding another profession. Same with Catholic hospitals: they are not harming the public interest in any way by refusing to offer abortion services, but if the government demands (improperly) that all hospitals must offer abortion services, then the hospitals are entirely within their rights to close their doors, and the damage done the community thereby is on the government, not on the hospitals.

March 13, 2009 @ 6:34 pm #

so….. those 30,000 guys that went to canada to avoid the draft in vietnam….. you were for pardoning them or????

March 13, 2009 @ 9:21 pm #

This is a joke, right?

There is a perfectly acceptable means for people of conscience to obtain Conscientious Objector status and spend their service time performing public service rather than military service. It’s deliberately limited to people who have a history of commitment to the group which claims this status. Quakers were not required to perform combat duty. The 30,000 draft avoiders were those who did not qualify, and they were lawbreakers. Very different kettle of fish.

What is it with this CRAP people are throwing at me? Don’t any of you ever read any of the documents written by the guys who founded the United States of America? I’m not saying anything different from what they said when they broke from England. If you all don’t believe this stuff, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING LIVING IN THE UNITED STATES?????????

March 15, 2012 @ 9:19 pm #

Many good comments, and you have already covered some of my points. As background, abortion is NOT MEDICAL CARE. Not even remotely. It is medically UNETHICAL and it would be considered very bad medicine if it were considered ethical, because it HURTS WOMEN, the very people it is supposed to help. Surgical abortion is AXE-MURDER by a back alley butcher who is RAPING the MOTHER with his medical instruments. If Catholic hospitals will close rather than provide abortions, more power to them! I’ve never been a Catholic, but by gum, I’m with them on this one! If anybody thinks women WANT abortions, they have another think coming. As Frederica Mathewes-Green said, a woman doesn’t want an abortion like she wants a Porsche or an ice cream cone. She wants an abortion like an animal caught in a trap wants to chew off its own leg. For a woman to submit to abortion is for her to allow the most INTRUSIVE INVASION OF THE VERY DEPTH OF HER BEING that can possibly exist. No, 2/3 of the population does NOT think first trimester abortion should be legal, and the people are rapidly turning against it, as they see what it does to US. We deserve better than abortion. So let’s not rationalize abortion as anything but murder, any more than we should say, well, slavery is OK because the majority wants it legal, or treating women like chattel is OK because the majority of Muslim MEN like it that way, or that it is OK to cut off a man’s hand for stealing a loaf of bread for his hungry family because that’s what Shari’a law says is right. Abortion is the most DESPICABLE attack on women that has ever been undertaken. Since institutions are made up of individuals, they have rights of conscience because their members do, and if you impose something on an institution, you are also imposing it on the members. Thank you, Phil, for speaking out clearly.

March 15, 2012 @ 9:24 pm #

One other thought: forcing everyone to do or provide abortions means that MY RIGHT to get ETHICAL medical care has been destroyed as the entire profession has been hopelessly corrupted, along with their medical judgment. Think this isn’t real? I have LIVED it. I was once referred to an abortionist (whom I didn’t know) who LIED to me and tried to INTIMIDATE me into an abortion. Supposedly if he wasn’t allowed to operate, I would die. I refused, and I’m here to tell you about it 30 years later. And afterward, I had horrible, horrible nightmares, the kind you wake up from in a cold sweat. This is similar to what some women experience after abortion, and I wouldn’t wish those off on my worst enemy. My family doctor KNEW I would not accept care from anyone who thinks abortion is OK, because I TOLD him so. So when I asked him why he sent an abortionist to attend me, he said, He was the only one available who could do the procedure you needed. And I responded, As far as I am concerned, he doesn’t exist. I never went back to that family doctor. If EVERYONE would take this position, abortion would cease to exist much more quickly than it is ceasing to exist now. Yes, there is a “shortage” of abortionists. They’re retiring and not being replaced. Yippee!

August 1, 2012 @ 2:03 pm #

[...] people whine about the loss if it’s forced out of business. Remember how they declared that Catholic hospitals had no right to go out of business, because they provide a public [...]

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