Protection of Conscience Project
Protection of Conscience Project
Service, not Servitude

Service, not Servitude

Forced Speech: Pushing Against Conscientious Objection by Medical Practioners to Abortion in California

Second Hand Smoke
1 January, 2009
Reproduced with permission
Wesley J. Smith *

The following post will be about abortion and conscientious objection thereto by medical professionals. But it could just as easily be about assisted suicide, or using embryonic stem cell therapies, or pulling feeding tubes, because the principles are the same--as are the reasons for the attempted coercion of medical professionals to cooperate with life terminating medical procedures.

I have been reporting that doctors and other medical professionals who wish to hold to an orthodox Hippocratic view of medical professionalism are going to increasingly be forced by law to either be complicit in these actions or become podiatrists. The most blunt method of destroying Hippocratic medicine in this manner is the new Victoria, Australia law requiring doctors to either perform an abortion upon request, or find another doctor for the patient who will. That requires a doctor to have blood on his or her hands (from the conscientious objector's POV) regardless of their moral beliefs regarding abortion.

A more common form of coercion is to require doctors to provide information to patients about the availability of procedures that intentionally kill a human being. The latest example of such legislation is SB 374 in California, that would make it a crime not to provide patients with information about the legality or availability of abortion, and which could also be grounds for stripping the doctor or nurse practitioner of their license to practice. Worse, if the professional has a conscience objection, he or she must still participate in ensuring that the patient receives detailed information about deciding whether or not to have an abortion. From the legislation:

SEC. 4. Section 123462 of the Health and Safety Code is amended to read:...(e) Each physician and surgeon, nurse practitioner, and physician assistant described in subdivision (d) has an affirmative duty of reasonable disclosure to his or her patient of all available medical choices with respect to the patient's personal reproductive decisions. Failure of a physician and surgeon, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant to fulfill this duty shall constitute unprofessional conduct and grounds for suspension of the licensee's license, unless all of the following circumstances exists: (1) The licensee refuses on moral or religious grounds to provide disclosure pertaining to an available medical choice. (2) The licensee immediately informs the patient, either orally or in writing, that other medical choices may be available.(3) The licensee promptly assists the patient in finding a licensee who will fully fulfill the duty of reasonable disclosure to the patient.

Let's skip the preliminaries and get right to the real point: The purpose of such legislation is not to make sure women know they have the right to an abortion. How can anyone not know? Besides, a woman need only look in the Yellow Pages, go to a Planned Parenthood or high school health clinic, or do a Google search to find more information about abortion than can be absorbed. And don't be surprised if we follow the lead of the UK, where abortion clinics may soon be allowed to advertise on television.

No, this bill isn't about informing patients. Rather, its coercive purposes are (at least) threefold: First, to control thinking. Second, to drive Hippocratic professionals out medicine and sweep aside the penetrating message their non cooperation in killing in the medical context sends. Third, to win an important battle primarily about the symbolism that a victory achieved over dissenters would send to medical professionals and the society alike. And don't be surprised when laws are passed preventing the medical professional from giving an opinion about the moral propriety of such decisions. I mean, if you are going to control speech, control speech.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: The culture of death brooks no dissent.