In an opinion piece published in The Hill ("Abortion refusal laws are not about religion, but about control," June 6, 2018), an abortion clinic representative laid out a Newspeak rationale that attempts to paint abortion not as brutal killing but as healthcare.
A bizarre twist
Julie A. Burkhart, founder and CEO of Trust Women Foundation, expressed her bizarre view that the ancient Hippocratic oath, which bans abortions, and the related medical ethics injunction to "do no harm" mean precisely the opposite of what the medical community has understood them to mean for several millennia.
Ms. Burkhart contends that rather than prohibiting a physician from doing an abortion, medical ethics require a physician to perform an abortion. No room for Hippocratic oath-following, life-affirming Ob-Gyns: "If you have a problem with abortion, become a pediatrist."
This is harm.
Ms. Burkart suggests that "do no harm" actually indicates a requirement to perform an abortion, which ends a developing baby's life through a burning chemical solution, or by tearing her apart limb from limb, or by inserting a scissors into the back of her neck to cut the spinal cord, or by some other means which inflicts considerable harm on the baby. Scientific evidence shows that a developing baby at around 20 weeks has the architecture to feel pain a levels many times that which adults feel pain, without the later-developing biological mechanisms that help moderate pain.
The abortion clinic representative similarly attempts to turn on its head the medical community's traditional understanding of conscience freedom in healthcare. She asserts that the "weaponization of religious exceptions and 'conscience objections' in medicine do harm people. Medical professionals take an oath promising to do the exact opposite."
Notably, she offers no evidence of conscience laws inflicting harm on anyone, which is not surprising.
Conscience freedom protects from government coercion
Conscience freedom, like First Amendment freedom of religious exercise, simply means that the government may not force an individual to violate ethical standards and convictions. Patients remain free to obtain elsewhere whatever legal procedure they seek.
Why would any patient want a doctor to perform on them a procedure to which he or she has grave reservations or objections? Do we really want the government to tell us what we must believe or to force us to perform actions that violate the very core of our moral convictions?
Conscience and religious freedom is not, by the way, a conservative or liberal concoction. Such freedom naturally follows the understanding that we are each endowed with unalienable rights, including the right to life and the right to think and believe as we choose and to act in accordance with our deepest held beliefs.