The first brave act of Obama’s administration.

Obama to health care workers with objections of “conscience” (by which mean, in Comrade Physioprof’s wonderful words, wackaloon religious sky-fairy fantasy shit) to providing medical treatment that their jobs obligate them to provide to their fellow human beings: “Suck it up and act like a decent person.” Or, more to the point, “we won’t take away federal funding from your employers if they don’t accommodate your fucked-up beliefs.”

Crispin objects, asks how you would feel if you were told to torture someone as part of your job. My answer: I’d act like a principled person and resign. So should the Christians who don’t want to provide the morning-after pill.

It strikes me as unprincipled and cowardly to claim to have a deep moral objection to something that’s a central duty of one’s job, refuse to do it, but stick around and accept the benefits of the job. Consider the Saturday Night Massacre. Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus didn’t just tell Nixon “no” and then whiningly expect to stick around. They had the cojones to tell Nixon to take their jobs and shove them up his corrupt ass. And that resignation gave them their moral authority.

ALSO: time to violate the anti-image rule again.

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11 Responses to “The first brave act of Obama’s administration.”

  1. Aaron Says:

    I’d like to take your point further and say that refusing to provide treatment in this way is perhaps morally objectionable. From an old post of mine (this is pretty much the whole thing):

    When reading the following paragraph, remember that doctors are the only people who are in a position to help – to preserve life – a lot of the time:

    Imagine Jim is walking along and sees a kid struggling in a lake. Without Jim’s assistance, it is obvious that the kid will drown. There is a dinghy nearby which Jim could easily use to paddle to the kid and save her. Jim, however, is a Christian. He notices the kid has a red dot on her forehead, denoting her subscription to Hinduism. Jim remembers his preacher’s advice that “rival faiths [are] not merely false, but…deliberate traps set by the forces of evil.”* For this reason he feels that assisting the child would violate his faith, and decides to continue strolling until her cries fade out on their own.

    Has Jim acted wrongly? Seems pretty obvious to me!

    *That quote linked to something which I cbf hyperlinking.

  2. Paul Gowder Says:

    Sounds about right to me. And listen to the libertarians whine that the government has stopped telling employers who they can fire! That cracks me up.

  3. Pär Says:

    From the Marginal Revolution thread:

    “[...] Organized medicine is infested with radicals and feminists who are already trying to make it mandatory for every OB/GYN resident to perform abortions while in training. Barack Obama– who supported a law permitting infanticide when he was a state senator– will put the force of the government behind this injustice, mark my words.

    I will quit my job before I will take part in such an atrocity. A public that demands that I participate in murder to keep my license to practice medicine does not deserve the benefit of my skill and knowledge and exhausting work. I’ll dig ditches before I let the government scum order me to become a murderer. I hope enough of my colleagues feel the same way to cause the health care system to collapse if they try this.”

    Hilarious!

  4. Mike Says:

    I suppose it depends upon how much breathing room you want to give the religious.

    If there are other doctors available, why make a doctor do something he’s not comfortable with?

    Lawyers do something similar to what doctors do.

    I would prefer not to represent child molesters. This is not based on any religious view. Just a general “I’m not comfortable doing that” thing. No law says I must.

    Now, if there were no one else to do it, it would be my duty to do so. As the saying goes: “Everyone is entitled a lawyer. No one is entitled to this lawyer.” When there is no one else around, then “this lawyer” become the “a lawyer.”

    If there are other doctors around, why make it an issue?

    Why not, IOW, be more tolerant?

  5. Mike Says:

    I’d like to take your point further and say that refusing to provide treatment in this way is perhaps morally objectionable.

    A a doctor is obligated to do whatever a patient wants? What version of medical ethics supports that?

    If I tell a doctor to amputate my (healthy) leg, he’s not obligated to “treat” me. Even if I say that I really need it amputated.

    Some doctors would say that aborting an otherwise healthy child is not “treatment.” I don’t view it as treatment. It’s a voluntary procedure. Now, if the life of the mother is at issue, then it would become treatment.

    I think it’s a stretch to say that all abortions are medical treatment. A “procedure” is not the same thing as “treatment.”

    BTW, the “red dot” example is an embarrassing straw man, and I’m quite surprised that Wolfson hasn’t pounced.

    Many Christians have a sincere and deeply held belief that abortion is immoral. Why not accommodate that belief?

    It does amaze me how little tolerance those on the Left have for the religious.

    I’m not religious. However, I do believe in tolerating diverse lifestyles. Religion is just one of many ways for a person to define his life. Why not give that person some space when it’s possible to do so?

    Again, if a woman was about to die if she didn’t get an emergency abortion, and there were only one doctor who could do it: Then he’d be obligated to do it.

    But if a woman can get the procedure done elsewhere, why is it wrong to ask her to go elsewhere?

  6. Paul Gowder Says:

    “Intolerance” is question-begging. There are those of us who think, as do I, that toleration of a belief system does not ordinarily require giving exemptions to general rules. I happen to believe that the war on drugs is stupid. That doesn’t mean I ought to get an exemption from the laws against smoking pot.

    (“Strawman!” you may cry. But I am serious with this example: unless there is something special about religious belief, there is no reason to think that religiously-generated exemptions to either laws or employment policies or anything else are required by toleration while “I just don’t wanna” exemptions are not. And while many have tried to argue for the something-special, I’ve not as yet seen anything even a little bit convincing.)

    Let’s recall that the issue isn’t whether the government can require people to give abortions. It’s whether employers of medical providers have to give out a “conscience exemption” to employment duties.

  7. Paul Gowder Says:

    Also, Mike, if you worked for someone else and your boss told you to represent a child molester, would you demand the government make him let you refuse? That’s the position we’re in with the health care providers.

  8. Aaron Says:

    A a doctor is obligated to do whatever a patient wants? What version of medical ethics supports that?

    Never said that. I’m talking about cases where the patient (or the child) will be significantly worse off. This isn’t uncommon.

    But we could move away from abortion and discuss stem-cell treatment for stroke victims, or xenotransplantation for victims of heart disease.

    Many Christians have a sincere and deeply held belief that abortion is immoral. Why not accommodate that belief?

    Because it’s based on a flawed ethical theory — divine command theory — and this shouldn’t be imposed on the general population.

    And I don’t think the red-dot thing is a straw man. It’s a way of showing that it’s immoral to not help someone just because of your religious beliefs. That is the general principle I’m trying to communicate.

  9. Mike Says:

    Toleration of a belief system does not ordinarily require giving exemptions to general rules.

    That’s surprising. What is “tolerance” if it doesn’t involve reasonable exemptions? Seriously. Isn’t the point of tolerance to let something slide you otherwise wouldn’t? Why else would we need to tolerate it?

    Because it’s based on a flawed ethical theory — divine command theory — and this shouldn’t be imposed on the general population.

    How is allowing doctors to pass on giving abortions imposing anything on anyone? “Hey, go find another doctor” might be a imposition in the colloquial sense. It’s hardly imposing one’s will on another – at least as that’s generally understood.

    Again, if there are no doctors who can do it, there shouldn’t be any exemptions. If there are other doctors, find another.

    Also, Mike, if you worked for someone else and your boss told you to represent a child molester, would you demand the government make him let you refuse? That’s the position we’re in with the health care providers.

    If it were a sincere and deeply held moral belief (secular or religious) that was part of the foundation of my moral belief, then an exemption might be appropriate.

    I think the issues are harder than you’re giving them credit for.

    As a hard-line libertarian, my answer, of course is simple: Do whatever the fuck you are told, or quit. This would mean no OSHA regulations, etc. Just simply do your job as your employer defines it, and end the discussion.

    I’m trying to get into your frame, though. I’m trying to see this as a more liberal or left-wing issue. In light of that, I think some breathing room would be appropriate.

    You don’t?

    I suspect we would NOT agree on worker regulations, etc. So I’m having a really hard time believing that you truly belief what you seem to be saying that you believe.

  10. Mike Says:

    And I don’t think the red-dot thing is a straw man. It’s a way of showing that it’s immoral to not help someone just because of your religious beliefs. That is the general principle I’m trying to communicate.

    It’s a weaker argument than what we are discussing. That’s why it’s a straw man.

    Look. You might disagree. I might disagree. Paul might disagree. But the fact is that abortion is literally murder to these people. It’s not some fleeting idea held by some Muslim terrorists. It’s an idea held by tens of millions of sincere and well-meaning people.

    Do we really analogize that with extreme examples involve “red dot people”?

    I think, for purposes of the discussion, we assume that these people are misguided but well-meaning. If you’ve talked to enough of them, you’d realize that.

    Again, I DO NOT agree with their position. I do not simple dismiss the ideas of my adversaries as stupid, or make their positions out to be more extreme than they really are.

    As someone who seeks some sort of intellectual integrity, I try using proper analogies.

    The dismissiveness might get you high-fives from some crowds. I do not seek high-fives. Rather, I’m trying to make sense of what is a pretty complicated issue.

    Again, these people really do believe that abortion is murder. Do you make someone choose between a job and doing something they truly and deeply believe is immoral?

    As a libertarian, again, the answer is simple: OF COURSE you do.

    Yet we do not work in a libertarian work place. We work in a workplace already full of regulations and exemptions.

  11. Paul Gowder Says:

    Right back at you on worker regulations and “your frame.”

    That aside, I think that there are narrower and broader senses of toleration.

    The narrowest sense of toleration is something like “don’t make any rules with proper names in them” (e.g. “no catholics”).

    A less narrow sense of toleration, and the one that I tend to favor, is something like “don’t make any rules that impinge on people’s preferences and values (be they religious or otherwise) without some neutral justification.” Sort of a rational basis review conception of toleration.

    Then there’s a still stronger conception of toleration under which one ought not make any rules that impinge on people’s preferences and values, period. I tend to think that stronger conception collapses, once we realize that there’s nothing special about religions — that there’s nothing that makes my desire not to stop at red lights any less important than a catholic’s desire not to give out the morning-after pill, with the possible exception of the brute intensity of that desire.

    And it’s not as if my conception of toleration is some bizarre thing I made up. It’s pretty much identical to John Locke’s, in A Letter Concerning Toleration. Here’s Locke:

    But some may ask: “What if the magistrate should enjoin anything by his authority that appears unlawful to the conscience of a private person?” I answer that, if government be faithfully administered and the counsels of the magistrates be indeed directed to the public good, this will seldom happen. But if, perhaps, it do so fall out, I say, that such a private person is to abstain from the action that he judges unlawful, and he is to undergo the punishment which it is not unlawful for him to bear. For the private judgement of any person concerning a law enacted in political matters, for the public good, does not take away the obligation of that law, nor deserve a dispensation.

    * * *

    That we may draw towards a conclusion. The sum of all we drive at is that every man may enjoy the same rights that are granted to others. Is it permitted to worship God in the Roman manner? Let it be permitted to do it in the Geneva form also. Is it permitted to speak Latin in the market-place? Let those that have a mind to it be permitted to do it also in the Church. Is it lawful for any man in his own house to kneel, stand, sit, or use any other posture; and to clothe himself in white or black, in short or in long garments? Let it not be made unlawful to eat bread, drink wine, or wash with water in the church. In a word, whatsoever things are left free by law in the common occasions of life, let them remain free unto every Church in divine worship. Let no man’s life, or body, or house, or estate, suffer any manner of prejudice upon these accounts. Can you allow of the Presbyterian discipline? Why should not the Episcopal also have what they like?

    That is toleration as nondiscrimination, not toleration as making special exemptions from the rules that apply to everyone else.

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