Last night during the open discussion at the GOP Cafe in Second Life, someone mentioned that the Obama administration was crafting a regulation that would require Catholic hospitals to perform abortions. This lead to a lengthy exchange about whether or not surgeons could choose what patients they would operate on and what procedures they would perform.
During the exchange, one abortion supporter argued that doctors should be “forced”–at the risk of legal penalties if they refused–to perform abortions when a woman’s life is in danger (or any other similar emergency surgery). One of the most-heard arguments in favor of abortion is that a woman should have control of her own body and the government shouldn’t dictate what she can or cannot do with it. Well, that same argument applies to a doctor. If you accept that argument, then you must also accept that a doctor has the right to control his or her own body (and not perform an abortion), and the government shouldn’t dictate what he or she can or cannot do with it.
In addition, unlike the imaginary right to an abortion–or to privacy, which appears nowhere in the Constitution, the right to free exercise of religion is guaranteed in the First Amendment.
Another person said that if a doctor didn’t want to perform abortions, he or she shouldn’t go into OB/GYN. If that’s the case, then can’t we say that if a woman doesn’t want to have a baby, she shouldn’t engage in sex. The reasoning is the same: if you don’t want the consequences, don’t engage in the activity that produces them. Of course, women have sex for other reasons than to get pregnant, and doctors (or future doctors) go into OB/GYN for other reasons than to perform abortions.
The first person, if I remember correctly, also argued that by allowing doctors to decide whom they would treat and how, we were starting down a slippery slope to allowing any provider of “vital services,” like a police officer, to decide whom they would and would not serve. That is a false analogy. First, providing police protection to secure people’s rights is a legitimate function of government; providing health care is not. Second, police officers are employed by or under contract to some level of government; unless a doctor is a member of the military or employed by a government medical facility, he or she works for him- or herself or for a larger practice. Thus, like any privately employed individual, the doctor has the right to decide what customers (i.e., patients) he or she will accept.
A doctor has a right to choose, too.