It’s Mother’s Day–an appropriate time to think about human reproduction.
So…let me suggest a science fiction scenario.
We’re 25 years into the future. In reaction to massive population growth, NoNo, a religion encouraging ritual sterilization, has become the majority religion in the U.S. Practitioners believe (sincerely and devoutly) that God wants humans to avoid reproduction. (This religion’s conception of Diety is noncommittal on sex–it’s just making babies She is discouraging.)
As this religious community has grown, it has come to control the majority of the nation’s hospitals; well over 60% of them have become part of a national network of medical facilities run by and faithful to NoNo principles.
Our protagonist is not a NoNo, but she lives in a small town with only one hospital, and it is part of the NoNo network. She suddenly becomes ill. She is taken to the hospital in her area, where she is diagnosed with a treatable condition that will require minor surgery–and she’s told that, according to the tenets of NoNo, she will also be sterilized during the procedure. She objects–she’s only twenty, has never had children and desperately wants to be a mother–but her objections are deemed irrelevant. She is deprived of her control over her own body and any chance of having biological children.
Far fetched? Not if you switch the text.
The California Medical Association is seeking to join the ACLU of Northern California in its lawsuit against a Catholic hospital system over one of its facilities’ refusal on religious grounds to allow a doctor to perform a tubal ligation after a planned Cesarean section….
The suit stems from a case at Mercy Medical Center in Redding, one of Dignity Health’s 29 hospitals across the state. Mercy Medical says its refusal to perform the procedure was based on the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, written by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Directives – followed by all of California’s 35 Catholic hospitals – prohibit birth control, abortion and, in most cases, sterilization.
The California Medical Association says hospitals should make decisions that are medically appropriate–and should not make medical decisions that are contrary to best practices for reasons of religious dogma, especially when the patient does not accept that dogma.
Civil libertarians–in this case, the ACLU–say individuals should not have to cede control over their bodies and beliefs in order to receive medical care.
Over the past quarter-century or so, Catholic hospitals have assumed control of a significant percentage of the nation’s hospitals. What the courts need to decide is whether the merger of these hospitals entitles the Church to dictate medical decisions that would at best be considered “non-standard” or at worse would constitute malpractice.
Suddenly, my “science fiction” scenario doesn’t look so far-fetched. As I’ve said before–a government with the power to prohibit abortion (or birth control) is a government with the power to require it. As a friend used to put it, poison gas is a great weapon until the wind shifts.
Unless the courts rule otherwise, hospitals with a monopoly on medical care can impose their own rules. Based upon their religious beliefs. No matter which way medical science’s winds blow.