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"Right of Conscience" Protections; Be Patient

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copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

She said, "If one is to pass, it will have to be my sister."  Jennifer would not allow a baby to die.  Although the newborn had yet to take a single breath, and was still safely tucked away in her mother's belly, Jenn decided the infant must live.  Had she been an employee of one of more than 584,000 health-care organizations her word would have been considered a "right of conscience." Jenn would not be held responsible if she refused to treat the soon-to-be Mom who was also her sibling.

A Bush Administration rule would protect physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other employees who decline to participate in care they think ethically, morally or religiously objectionable, from any repercussions.

Medication, information, or any other assistance need not be given to someone a medical staffer considers immoral.  If the Bush Bill is allowed to stand, those who take the Hippocratic Oath and those who work with Doctors need not do a deed they believe violates personal beliefs.  On December 18, 2008, the White House decreed it would protect all Health Care Workers.  This provision is thought to be a gift from G-d for those who are as Jennifer was, pious believers.

As a devoutly religious soul, when confronted with the choice of who might live or who would die, Jennifer decided the relative she knew and loved for all her life could go.  Jenn announced, "Babs had been a beautiful child, terrific as a teen.  As an adult, Barbara was the best.  Her existence on Earth had been short."  "Yet," Jennifer cried with tears in her eyes, "Now, it is time for the baby to realize the joy of an Earthly existence."  Jennifer had faith.  'G-d knows' were the words she oft uttered.  It is not ours to question why.  "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.  Blessed me the name of the Lord," was the sentiment secure in the heart of one who saw herself as mere mortal.

However, hurt by the thought that their beloved Barbara might pass, and Jenn would embrace such an event, relatives attempted to reason with the woman who would refuse her own sister's life.  Jennifer, certain of her "Right to Conscience," made it clear she knew.  The baby-to-be must have the same chance to evolve that Barbara had.  She or he, since at that moment the sex of the fetus was unknown, must survive and thrive just as G-d planned."  Jennifer reminded her relatives, "Barbara was in her twenties," at the time of this crisis.  Jenn was near thirty, old enough to have experienced life, and established enough to be considered for her wisdom.  The religious woman recognized, she too had rights. Now, under the new Bush Administration imposed rule. Jennifer, or hospital staffs of today, will have more power to exercise their conscience then they had in the past. 

Leavitt [Mike Leavitt, Secretary of the Department Health and Human Services, which issued the novel rule] initially said the regulation was intended primarily to protect workers who object to abortion. The final rule, however, affects a far broader array of services, protecting workers who do not wish to dispense birth control pills, Plan B emergency contraceptives and other forms of contraception they consider equivalent to abortion, or to inform patients where they might obtain such care. The rule could also protect workers who object to certain types of end-of-life care or to withdrawing care, or even perhaps providing care to unmarried people or gay men and lesbians.

While primarily aimed at doctors and nurses, it offers protection to anyone with a "reasonable" connection to objectionable care -- including ultrasound technicians, nurses aides, secretaries and even janitors who might have to clean equipment used in procedures they deem objectionable.


However, in that moment, , the family was aghast.  They could not come to terms with what Jenn believed best.  Thankfully, Jennifer did not have the authority to choose what would be done, as medical workers might if the "Right to Conscience" is made law.  Family, and the patient herself, had the power to select what for them seemed the best treatment.

Apprehensive, as she contemplated assessments that seemed purely emotional, Jennifer, worked to put her personal feelings aside.  She trusted human sensibilities could not be her priority.    G-d would show her the way.

Her faith in the Almighty, and Jenn's belief that a new life cannot be aborted, were her only considerations.  She had no animosity towards Barbara, not then, or ever.  Indeed, she loved her sister's sensational soul.  Even in the moment she declared, it is better that Barbara's life be sacrificed, Jenn thought of her young sibling as a close friend.  Yet, no matter how she felt about the person who was so real to her, Jennifer was sure G-d would want the newborn to survive.  "He" had given Babs a good life.  Now it was time for her to go home, to be with her savior once more.

It hurt Jenn's heart to think of her sister's departure.  When Babs was but a tot, Jennifer, the older sister, served as a second Mom to the sweet little bambina.  She was as fond of Barbara throughout their younger years, just as she was on that day. However, her affection for the woman who now held an infant in her womb could not negate what Jennifer thought G-d had decreed. A new life must not be killed.  

During that turbulent time, Jennifer might have said as Deirdre A. McQuade of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops declared when news of the "Right of Conscience" proposal was released. "Individuals and institutions committed to healing should not be required to take the very human life that they are dedicated to protecting."

This moral, ethical, Christian woman trusted as many do today; people enter this world and then, when they have completed their mission, the Lord invites them to return home to the heavens.  We all must depart when it is our time, Jennifer intellectualized, or justified what she thought to be true.  Had this conversation taken place in late December 2008 any hospital employee, even a hospital custodian could refuse Barbara care.  All those years ago, Jenn was certain she would have let her sister die.  

David Stevens of the Christian Medical Association would concur.  As the "Right of Conscience" becomes reality, a leader of the faithful reminds opponents, "We will do all in our power to ensure that health-care professionals have the same civil rights enjoyed by all Americans. These regulations are needed, do not change the law, but simply stop religious discrimination."

Jenn did not think she needed to be a victim of circumstance.  She too would wish to invoke her "Right of Conscience."   She did not share her family's sense of fairness.  Favoritism for the born seemed principled to one so dutiful.  Jenn thought it essential to honor the divine, and not discriminate against her for the values she held dear.

An allowance for a mother did not make sense to Jenn when she was but a young lovely.  Nor does the unexpected exodus of a baby seem reasonable to the more mature Jennifer.  Nonetheless, the daughter of Eve, who today maintains her faith in Jesus wonders whether a medical professional should have the power to chose what is right for another human being.  At this time in her life, Jennifer fears what would have been had the "protection" for someone such as her been in place.  Today, she inquires; what of the patient.

As she aged, Jennifer experienced what she could not have imagined all those years earlier.  Barbara, who lived, gave birth to one, then another bouncing beautiful baby.  As an Aunt, Jenn learned to love these children as if they were her own.  Upon reflection, she felt sorrow when she thought of what she might have missed had her sister passed.  Time with her treasured sibling Babs had truly been a treasure.

Jennifer also realized she was the Aunt to a lesbian woman.  No, the niece was not Barbara's daughter.  Jenn's sister Kathy had two children.  Susan, born before Babs was ever pregnant, developed into an intelligent, insightful, inspirational female whose gender preference was also female.

Years ago the religious person she is would have perhaps rejected and other relative.  However, she could not.  It was never a thought in her mind.  Jennifer helped raise the younger lady, now classified as gay.  Oh, how she was.  Susan was and is a bundle of joy.  Yet, a hospital worker may think her gender preference alone is despicable.  Jenn wondered of the care her loved one might not receive in a time of need.  She knew that a "Right of Conscience" provision might protect a physician, a nurse, a pharmacist or a janitor, but what would become of Susan if she were to be hospitalized or even enter a clinic for emergency care,

Then there was Susan' significant other to consider.  The two became Mom's, twice.  Susan carried each child to term.  Their children, conceived through artificial insemination, were the apples of Jenn's eye.   What might have been were a medical worker to invoke her or his "right of Conscience" when Susan was a patient.  Great Aunt Jennifer shudders to think.  Instead, she takes pleasure in the time she spends with the littlest ones.  She frequently volunteers to baby-sit for children who, had a health care worker snubbed Susan, might not exist.  

Jenn has come to realize she feels no obligation to be there for her family, gay or straight.  She no longer ponders protections from what the Almighty did not prevent.  Her conscience is not troubled by the circumstances.  Jennifer had grown to see G-d, and all life in a different light.  Perchance Jenn thinks, she had become more enlightened.  However, no one could have told her then, when Babs first baby was born, that one day her beliefs might change.

Often, over the years Jenn had to grapple with her truth.  She remained forever faithful to the Lord and his teachings.  Tradition, for her was paramount.  She did not think herself omnipotent; yet, earlier in her life she was certain of what was right.  Her scruples dictated her decisions, and Jenn, of then, was decisive.

Today, as she is confronted with novel truths, she wonders of what might have been the error of her ways.  More than one physician has advised Jenn to seek relief for feminine problems.  Although, she is considered a middle age woman, Jennifer has only engaged in intimate sexual contact with one man, and even then, for only one year of her life.  Near celibate, it has been a score since Jennifer might have thought to use a contraceptive to avoid pregnancy.  Today, however, she is urged to ingest the birth control pill.  Were it not for the pain she experiences without the medication, Jenn would simply say "No!"

After much personal conflict, trials, and tribulations, Jennifer decided she would succumb. Yet, as she attempts to fill her prescription she is confronted with what was once her truth.  Might this believer in G-d repeat, "We reap what we sow."  Jenn who teaches in a Catholic institution cannot obtain medicine that might prevent fertilization of an egg.  That she has no eggs to fertilize is for her Insurer and employer a moot point.  The Bush Administration thinks the regulations that restrict Jenn are just. 

The rule comes at a time of increasingly frequent reports of conflicts between health-care workers and patients. Pharmacists have turned away women seeking birth control and morning-after emergency contraception pills. Fertility doctors have refused to help unmarried women and lesbians conceive by artificial insemination. Catholic hospitals refuse to provide the morning-after pill and to perform abortions and sterilizations.

Experts predict the issue could escalate sharply if a broad array of therapies becomes available using embryonic stem cells, which are controversial because they are obtained by destroying very early embryos. Obama is poised to lift the Bush administration's restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

"Doctors and other health-care providers should not be forced to choose between good professional standing and violating their conscience," said Mike Leavitt, Secretary of the Department Health and Human Services.


As Jennifer reflects, she knows not whether to laugh or cry.  She has rights; she has a conscience.  Yet, she has discovered one may not preclude the other.  She wonders how many will realize as she has before it is too late.  How many might die at the hands of professionals who think themselves principled.

References for Rights and Conscience . . . 

 

I am an Educator, a student of life; I am an Author. On each path I learn from you and with you. Indeed. we all teach and study. Together we advance awareness and acumen. We learn, grow, and glow greater. Please peruse my prose at BeThink.org and (more...)
 

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My God told me that we all must pass through fire ... by ken on Tuesday, Dec 23, 2008 at 5:51:16 PM
Upon my death my living wife will be required to b... by ken on Tuesday, Dec 23, 2008 at 5:57:49 PM
Right to life is a make them the same con job. A f... by John Hanks on Wednesday, Dec 24, 2008 at 11:03:33 AM
The rule protects the right of conscience to medic... by Bill Samuel on Friday, Dec 26, 2008 at 5:21:40 PM
Dearest Bill Samuel . . .Perchance you would be ... by Betsy L. Angert on Saturday, Dec 27, 2008 at 10:19:07 PM
Bill Samuel, I understand your sincerity in standi... by ken on Monday, Dec 29, 2008 at 2:37:15 AM