threats against religious liberty are spreading like a stain. Thus, I was
attracted immediately to Bruce Abramson's Mosaiccolumn, How Jews Can Help Christians Live as a Creative Minority.
Abramson warns Christians
that the space to practice their faithin the way they liveis shrinking. Tell me something I
don’t know, I thought. But my attention focused when Abramson (citing political
scientist Peter Berkowitz) cast the trending secularist oppression we are
witnessing as a clash between classical “liberalism” and contemporary
Liberalism stands for
“freedom and the rule of law,” he writes, “a system of ‘negative rights’ that
no government may legitimately infringe (as in the U.S. Bill of Rights).” In
contrast, progressives seek to ensure “equality and justice,” by guaranteeing
these outcomes through the enactment of a series of “‘positive’ rights like
housing, food, and health care” that someonemust provide—be it government
or the private sector.
Abramson’s description of the
conflict between liberalism and progressivism explains the drive to promote
“patients' rights” over the consciences of doctors and other medical
professionals in the abortion, assisted suicide, prescription, and other
contexts. In this regard, mere legalization of these procedures does not
guarantee the free and open access to them deemed by progressives as a positive
right. Achievingthatgoal will requirecoercion;
that is, forcing doctors (and other medical professionals, such as pharmacists)
to participate—even when it violates their religious beliefs and deeply held
kind of progressive authoritarianism is aborning in Canada. Earlier this year,
that country’s Supreme Court conjured a Charter right to euthanasia. The debate
has now shifted to whether doctors with deeply-held religious objections to
killing patients should be able to opt out.
The trends are bad news for
physicians who believe it would be a grievous sin to administer lethal
injections or assist suicides. The Ontario and Saskatchewan Colleges of
Physicians and Surgeons have issued ethics opinions that would require doctors
to perform every legal medical procedure paid for by the government’s
socialized system upon demand—which will include active
euthanasia when the Supreme Court’s ruling goes into effect next year. If
the requested physician has religious or moral objections, the Colleges have
determined, the MD's have a positive duty to find another doctor willing to do
the deed to ensure that the patient receives the death she wants.
If a willing doctor cannot be
found, the Saskatchewan College requires the dissenting physician to do the
deed personally, “even in circumstances where the provision of health services
conflicts with physicians’ deeply held and considered moral or religious
beliefs.” To guarantee the positive right to die, doctors will be forced to
kill. Ontario’s College even requires doctors to euthanize or refer if the
person asking to die is not the doctor’s patient!
how thoroughly progressive thought—as defined by Abramson—has shattered
classical liberalism in Canada’s medical ranks,79
Canadian Medical Association doctors recentlyvoted
physicians opposed to participation in euthanasia. In other words, in Canada,
becoming dead when one is ill or disabled and wants to die counts as a positive
right that trumps the negative right to “freedom of conscience and religion” enumerated in
Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
What about the USA? Our
physicians currently receive conscience protections against required
participation where assisted suicide is legal, provisions promoters understood
as necessary to gain enactment. But that approach is in danger of erosion. Some
assisted suicide boosters are already grumbling about the difficulty of getting
doctors to participate in ending patients' lives where it is legal.
Moreover, the same
progressive tide sweeping religious freedom aside in Canada is also flowing
here. The Supreme Court has ruled that the “negative right” to the free
exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment does not prevent
individuals from being coerced into obeying laws of general applicability when
doing so violates their religious beliefs. The Religious Freedom Restoration
Act, passed in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling—the law that protected
Hobby Lobby from forced coverage of abortifacient contraceptives—is now opposed
energetically by previously strong progressive supporters like the ACLU. If
Washington is ever controlled again by political progressives as it was in
2009, expect efforts to repeal.
only that, the federal RFRA does not protect against state laws that infringe
upon religious liberty, and state religious protections are now vociferously
opposed by progressive political adherents and large corporations—as Indiana
discovered recently when it was threatened with economic ruin for attempting to
pass an RFRA that extended to the operation of businesses. Thus, the stage is
already set for the creation of a positive right to die here that could, one
dark day, subsume the religious liberty of doctors not to participate—as is
occurring now in Canada, and afflicts pro-life doctors in Victoria, Australia
regarding access to abortion.
The only guaranteed way to
prevent medical martyrdom is to maintain laws against assisted suicide and
euthanasia. If that wall ever crumbles, orthodox Christians (and others) here
may, as their Canadian brethren will next year, be forced to choose between
being a doctor and violating the Sixth Commandment.