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David Ripley: Notes from the Battlefield

April 14th, 2009 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

Last week Sen. Patti Anne Lodge held an “informational” meeting with various lobbyists concerned about HB216, legislation which would secure a pharmacist’s right of conscience. As Chairman of the Senate Health & Welfare Committee, she is apparently trying to determine whether to give the bill a hearing. (HB216 passed the House of Representatives on a 48-21 vote on March 31st).

The room was filled with representatives of the Medical Establishment – including lobbyists for St. Luke’s, St. Al’s, insurance carriers – and even a pharmacist/lawyer, purporting to represent the interests of pharmacists, who argued that the bill is “bad legislation” because it does not sufficiently protect employers. (He even went on to express his concern for how this legislation could impact Planned Parenthood’s ability to dispense killer drugs like Emergency Contraception and RU-486).

It was a curious meeting, disturbing in the array of allies recruited by Planned Parenthood to carry its water on further compromising the integrity of health care professionals and institutions.

Nearly everyone in the room paid lip service to the fact that “pharmacists already have the right to refuse to participate in morally-compromising services” – right before they launched into long speeches about their imagined dangers to public health should HB216 become law.

It takes some real work to make sense of their position. If pharmacists already have such rights, then how could there be any dramatic consequence should those rights be codified? Either the profession is currently protected by conscience rights, and guided by professional ethics which drive pharmacists to care for their patients – or it is full of rogues restrained only by the power of employers to compel pharmacists to follow orders.

After some reflection, it seems that large employers – like Walmart and St. Alphonsus – are concerned that HB216 would force them to actually respect the conscience rights of pharmacists, even when it is inconvenient. Several lobbyists in the room spoke of their hospital’s need for “flexibility” in dealing with conscience objections. That translates into raw power. These big institutions want to be able to pay lip service to the “rights” of their employees – while retaining the power to intimidate, manipulate or otherwise coerce these pharmacists into hewing the party line.

That makes “conscience” not a “right” – but a polite courtesy.

And that is the reason the Bush Administration spent years developing rules to enforce Congressional platitudes which had failed to protect real people working in huge institutions driven by profits and a post-Christian medical ethic. A mountain of evidence was developed by HHS which showed health care providers facing persecution and harassment because of their religious beliefs.

(It is not an accident, after all, that many of the people we faced in that room last week were the architects of SB1114 – the Idaho Euthanasia Bill.)

The American people seem to grasp what is stake over the battle to protect health care providers – doctors, pharmacists, nurses – from a political and economic agenda first advanced by Planned Parenthood. A national poll was conducted at the end of last month to test the public’s reaction to President Obama’s attack on conscience protections for health care providers. An astonishing 87% of those surveyed believe it is important to “make sure that healthcare professionals are not forced to participate in procedures and practices to which they have moral objections”. (Fully 65% of respondents felt it was “very essential”).

Once again, the wisdom of The People is confirmed. Our basic trust in medical advice and treatment is based upon a belief (hope?) that those professionals are acting with integrity to ensure our health and welfare. Conscience protections help secure public confidence in the medical professions.

Some Idaho lawmakers readily understood that this legislation is rooted in the 1st Amendment’s protection of our religious freedom, and eagerly stepped-up to protect pro-Life pharmacists at a time when they are under assault in every corner of America. Others seem quite intimidated by the power and prestige of institutions like St. Alphonsus and St. Luke’s, and seem unsure about how they should proceed. At stake is not simply the caliber of health care in Idaho, but the general state of religious liberty:

Dr. John Bruchalski is quoted in today’s SF Examiner as saying, “If conscience is compromised, then freedom becomes a farce”.

Let us pray that the leaders of the Idaho Senate, including Sen. Lodge, can yet see their way through the fog of war to find the great principle at stake with HB216.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Idaho Pro-Life Issues | No Comments »

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