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Tasmania puts a new spin on attacking conscience

Via the indefatigable Wesley J. Smith comes a disturbing report of a new pro-abortion, anti-conscience law moving forward in Tasmania. I do not know how likely it is to pass. The first part is similar to a law concerning abortion that passed in Victoria, which I discussed here, and to a law concerning euthanasia that has recently been recommended by a government-appointed commission in Quebec.

This first part directly attacks the conscience of doctors opposed to abortion by requiring them, on penalty of a fine, to refer the patient to a doctor who will do the deed. See my further discussion of referrals, here.

But there's more: The Tasmania law also says that counselors who are opposed to abortion and from whom a pregnant woman has sought advice must refer the woman to a different counselor who is known to be not thus opposed!

Here is how the law defines "counselor":

counsellor means a person who provides a service that involves counselling whether or not for fee or reward;

Smith is, plausibly enough, of the opinion that this would apply to those who work even as volunteers for Crisis Pregnancy Centers and hence would "obliterate pro-life crisis pregnancy counseling."

Even insofar as the law applies to professional counselors, those with counseling licenses who are working with a pregnant woman officially in their professional capacity, this is disturbing enough. It is yet another attempt to undermine the helping professions by forcing those in them to offer material cooperation with lifestyle decisions (including, in this case, murderous ones) preferred by the leftists.

But as the law applies to volunteers as well, we've entered wholly new territory. Volunteer pregnancy counselors are essentially just private people devoting themselves to trying to help pregnant women in their spare time. It is difficult to see any principled distinction between regulating what such an entirely non-professional person says to a woman in a private conversation and regulating what the woman's aunt, mother, or friend says to her in a private conversation. The law is explicit that such a referral must take place "if a woman seeks pregnancy options advice from a counsellor and the counsellor has conscientious objections to terminations." So if a woman deliberately seeks out and goes to a center calling itself "Alternatives Crisis Pregnancy Center" and offering explicitly in its advertising to help a woman to find alternatives to abortion, the counselors there would be obligated by this law, on pain of a fine, to round off their personal conversation with her by offering her a referral to a pro-abortion counselor! This despite the fact that the whole raison d'etre of the center is to try to save babies from abortion.

The depersonalization of the helping professions themselves is already disturbing. We used to be able to sit down and talk with a doctor and get an honest opinion in a personal fashion. Doctors did not ask us questions irrelevant to what we are seeing them for and then say, "We have to ask you this, because it's part of federal regulations." They do now. In other words, the personal nature of the professional-patient relationship has been undermined a good deal. This law, by tackling all those who "offer the service" of counseling a pregnant woman, even volunteers, takes us yet further into the realm of direct, purely ideological, government regulation of ordinary interpersonal conversation. That the reason for this is to make sure that all women, whether abortion-minded or desperately seeking alternatives to abortion, are definitely put in touch with an abortion-minded counselor gives us yet another window into the minds of the pro-abortion left. I would note that there is no similar requirement that a counselor or doctor who personally favors abortion must put a woman in touch with a counselor or doctor who opposes it. That puts paid to any pretense of "giving her all her options." There is one option, and one option only, that the lawmakers want to guarantee is not slighted--the option to abort.

It goes without saying that if this abominable law passes, all doctors and affected people of good will should engage in civil disobedience and defy it. However, I fear that it will provide a pretext for shutting down Crisis Pregnancy Centers simply as such unless they can prove that they offer the horrible referrals required by the law. In other words, even purely persuasive attempts to prevent abortion could easily be forcibly terminated by the enforcement of this law. Crisis Pregnancy Centers do save many babies and prevent many abortions, and the devotees of Moloch just can't allow that.

May the consciences of the lawmakers in Tasmania awaken and put a stop to this legislation.

Comments (17)

I do think this example does support my contention that the progressives would restrict the freedom of speech for Christians. If this is not reducing Christians to dhimmitude, then more examples would be forthcoming, even closer.

And if they do not let you use persuasion , then what do you propose? Civil disobedience, justified how? The State isn't asking you to commit some immoral act. It is merely forbidding you do commit a moral act.

And it is pretty likely that the wider public is going to be indifferent and even libertarians would find wiggle room to avoid supporting the cause they hate.

Maybe I'm missing something, but isn't referring somebody to an abortion doctor an immoral act?

No, I'm definitely not missing anything. Dumb question.

Christianity today reports that a U.S. district judge has overturned Idaho's so-called "fetal pain" law, a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Citing Roe v. Wade, Judge B. Lynn Winmill wrote that "the state may not rely on its interest in the potential life of the fetus to place a substantial obstacle to abortion before viability in women's paths."

Mbut isn't referring somebody to an abortion doctor an immoral act?

Indeed it is. We've used the example here before of someone knocking on your door and asking you to whack your deadbeat brother mafia style and you reply, "No I can't because I personally find it immoral. But you are in luck because I know someone a few blocks away who will do it. Here, let's take my car."

Referring a woman who is still making up her mind or even is positively looking *not* to abort to a pro-abortion counselor just to discuss her pregnancy and her "options" with her, when she originally came to a pro-life counselor, gives a whole new meaning to the word "diabolical." This could be a woman who is undecided, not even going to a doctor seeking an abortion, and the law is requiring any "counselor" to be sure she gets the pro-abort spiel. Incredible.

My initial reaction upon reading this article was that the abortion industry will stop at nothing in order to make profits. By the time I came to the end of the article and the subsequent comments, I could only conclude that the left-liberal establishment, in the most proud, spiteful and defiant manner imaginable, actually glories in and enjoys killing the most innocent, and can't get enough of it, such is their blood-lust. As Lydia says, it is "diabolical."

Interesting to see the very first comment on the NRO article. When I was in medical school, I was told point-blank by a classmate that I shouldn't be a doctor if I wouldn't refer for abortion. (He was, by the bye, the creepiest individual I have ever met in my entire life - I do actually believe he may have been haunted by demons, a claim I wouldn't make lightly.)

If you want to know how that made me feel, well, it was distressing, of course, especially since I used to be more shy and less assertive than I am now, but at the same time... there is something about seeing naked evil, face-to-face...

Stiffens the spine, doesn't it, Samson? (Not that I'm saying your spine was weak, I hasten to add. I'm just saying that it gives one an entirely new view of life, which is what you're saying, too.)

I feel sorry for your classmate's future patients...

You know, it used to be (and still is, mostly) possible to use as a reductio "that would be equivalent to saying sacrificing children to Moloch is OK with the state." With proposed laws like these, I predict that in the foreseeable future, it will no longer be possible to use that as a reductio because open Moloch worship will have an accepted following. There are already such open demonic pastimes as NAMBLA and Wicca, which should be both outlawed and ostracized into hiding at the least.

I feel sorry for your classmate's future patients...

He was a very interesting guy, about whom I could say a lot, though I won't just here. No, "interesting" isn't the right word. Let me say, rather, that from him I learned a lot about the ways in which humans can be broken, and the ways in which people can deceive themselves. He was a militant homosexual as well. Undoubtedly you have pro-life readers more knowledgeable than I, but in my experience it has struck me that very often militant homosexuality and militant pro-abortionism seem to be intertwined. We could speculate on the reasons for that.

At any rate, you say you feel sorry for the guy's patients, but I developed feelings of sorriness for *him*. Underneath his aggressive left-liberalism, he was very obviously (to me, but not to everyone, I guess) deeply spiritually troubled, and I wonder whether he had a hard upbringing. He is the only person (lest I be thought the type to exaggerate these kinds of things) I have ever met that I actually suspect may have been under some kind of demonic influence.

I'm just saying that it gives one an entirely new view of life, which is what you're saying, too.

It think it's somehow not dissimilar to the way soldiers must have felt in the days when they faced their enemies at point-blank range on the battlefield: here is a person actually trying to destroy me. It forced me to grow up a lot.

What you're bringing up, Samson, can be related to the subject of the main post. I've just been re-reading the novel The Promise by Chaim Potok, set in approx. 1950. I don't recall when it was written. At one point a man is trying to decide whether to allow a rather radical isolation experiment on his mentally ill son. He asks the protagonist for advice, and they both agree, solemnly, that the most important factor in such a case is whether or not "you trust the doctor." The father nods and says, "Yes, I can't imagine anything more important than that."

I've read that book more times than I can count, over a period of approximately twenty-five years. That scene never struck me as it did tonight. What a period piece!! I cannot imagine myself saying such a thing now about personal trust in a doctor. That's all gone. To some extent there's good in the fact that patients aren't quite as docile and willing to do anything on the word of a doctor who is regarded as godlike. All the more so now that ideological considerations are so important and pervasive. But there was something almost quaint about the scene in the book (and all the more so when one considers that the father in the story is supposed to be this hyper-enlightened, independently thinking Reform Jew, and that the author considered himself quite a free thinker, yet he wrote that scene utterly sincerely and without the slightest irony), and it struck me as quite sad that it's so hard to find a doctor nowadays toward whom one can feel that kind of trust.

The insane regulations of the kind discussed in the main post, which try to make all doctors conform to a single ideological mold, undermine such a personal trust still more. The doctor becomes a mere automaton, saying what the Almighty State dictates he must say and conveying their ideology.

But how much worse even than that would it be for a patient to be treated by a man like your fellow student. Even if he was not truly under any dark, supernatural influence, he absolutely sounds like the sort of person to whom delicate, life-or-death decisions should _never_ be entrusted and the sort of man that I, as a patient, pray I'm never at the mercy of. While one can of course feel sorry for anyone, the more power the person is given (and doctors still occupy positions with important powers in our world) the more frightening a thought it is when he is evil for the other people over whom he has sway and whose lives and vital decisions he may hold in his hands.

I've just been re-reading the novel The Promise by Chaim Potok,

I may have to try another Potok novel. I liked the writing in My Name is Asher Lev, but finished it disappointed.

Well, I know I'm aiding and abetting a threadjack started by myself, but...

Nothing else of his even touches _The Chosen_. Nothing. He should have written it, said, "Nunc dimittis," and stopped. I guess he would have had to make his living some other way. It was what he was meant to write. Several of his later novels are disappointing from start to finish. Don't even try _Davita's Harp_, for example. _The Promise_ is enjoyable reading, but one can eventually get tired of the "rebellion against closed-minded tradition fueled by enlightened scholarship" theme even there, though it's only the second novel! In _The Chosen_ and to some extent in _My Name is Asher Lev_ it rises to something more, in the case of _The Chosen_ much more, than a mere theme. In other works of his it falls to the level of a hobbyhorse. _The Promise_ is somewhere in between, and there the portrayal of the world of the yeshiva and the Talmud classroom remains truly fascinating.

it struck me as quite sad that it's so hard to find a doctor nowadays toward whom one can feel that kind of trust.

I think it is quite hopeful that the unfounded trust people once had is ebbing away and that they see that medical treatment in most cases is now a commodity, and doctors are simply technicians since the days when we common folk couldn't understand it well enough are over. I see doctors as technicians, and I have a great amount of trust in a few of them because they don't ask me to trust them any more than my mechanic does. They give me my options and really think hard when I am them what would they do. "Here's the pros and cons, here is why you might want to do this, and why you might want to do that. Think about it and let me know what you'd like me to do". I trust those folks entirely. Not enough can do that, but if they do I trust them entirely. But the judgement is mine.

So God in a White Coat is dead. It sounds like progress to me. Medical ethicists were supposed to be patient advocates and solve the problem of medical paternalism. Along the way they became our new masters. I suppose they'll be the new gods until their day of reckoning comes. I won't cry for them either.

Well, Mark, I did address that, and I expressed some of the same, if I may so call it, "Protestant" sentiments you did about the excessive authority of doctors in times past.

However, I think it's also right to feel that it's sad not to be able to have more confidence in both the morals and the judgment of someone in such an important position. As to the first, it would be nice to have a doctor who shared one's worldview to the point that he would do things like going to bat for me or a relative against being dehydrated to death and that he would tell the truth rather than canned baloney about whether a dying relative "needed" morphine for (usually non-existent) pain. It would be nice to have a doctor who, one knew, would advise patients strongly against abortion on frankly moral grounds as well as on medical grounds and who wouldn't be afraid to do so. It would be nice to have a doctor who had his morals and his medicine integrated to the point that he refused to regard himself as a mere technician on matters having moral import but was willing to take a stand on such matters in his medical practice. (Just the opposite of what the law discussed in the main post requires.) As to the second (judgement), it would be nice not to have to feel the disrespect almost to the point of contempt that is now hard to resist for people who merely say whatever is the latest faddish thing to say about how one _must_ have this test or that and so forth. Such a person would have done a lot of investigation already of various medications, for example, and even though, as a good independent thinker, the patient would want to do research for himself as well, one could know that the doctor would _know_ what the bad side effects would be (say, of statins) and would advice one intelligently rather than simply glossing that over because "giving x medicine is now the gold standard" and because some lawyer or "the committee" at his joint practice is telling him what he will and won't be more likely to get sued for.

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