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    Friday, April 23, 2004

    Nobody Expects the Inquisition: A reader sent me this link about a new law in Michigan:

    Doctors or other health care providers could not be disciplined or sued if they refuse to treat gay patients under legislation passed Wednesday by the Michigan House.

    The bill allows health care workers to refuse service to anyone on moral, ethical or religious grounds.

    The Republican dominated House passed the measure as dozens of Catholics looked on from the gallery. The Michigan Catholic Conference, which pushed for the bills, hosted a legislative day for Catholics on Wednesday at the state Capitol.

    Sounds sinister. It's been over forty years since Kennedy was elected and the country's worst fears have have finally come to pass - the Catholics are taking over! But the above linked article is, ahem, more than a bit biased. Here, according to the AP is what the bill is really about:

    The state House has voted to protect health-care workers and insurers from being fired or sued for refusing to perform a procedure, fill a prescription or cover treatment for something they object to for moral, ethical or religious reasons.

    The measures would apply to doctors or nurses who decline to perform or assist with abortions and to pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for morning-after pills.

    The Republican-controlled House overwhelmingly approved the four-bill package as dozens of Catholics looked on from the balcony.

    OK, so the part about the Catholics looking on from the balcony is apparently true, but it's pretty clear that the law is aimed at protecting healthcare professionals from being coerced into performing a procedure, such as an abortion or euthanasia, which is in conflict with their conscience:

    "Health care service" means the provision or withdrawal of, or research or experimentation involving, a medical treatment, procedure, device, medication, drug, or other substance intended to affect the physical or mental condition of an individual.

    A gay person isn't a procedure or a service, he's a patient. That doesn't mean the doctor can refuse to treat a homosexual for heart disease, or an infection. It does mean that the doctor could refuse to, say, sign off on an adoption physical for a homosexual patient, or refuse to perform artifical insemination for a lesbian or a single mother. Is that discrimination? Maybe. But it's not nearly the blanket rejection of homosexuals that the first story made it seem.

    And why were the Catholics looking on from the balcony? Do they hate gays that much? No, Catholic dioceses have a vested interest in this sort of legislation, which also covers insurance providers, as employers. It's an acutely uncomfortable position for a Catholic diocese to have to pay for abortions for their employees, even if those employees aren't Catholic.

    UPDATE: The religion/law blog, Logos has some things to say about the issue. I share his disappointment in Andrew Sullivan's myopia.

    posted by Sydney on 4/23/2004 07:56:00 PM 0 comments


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