Had An Abortion? No Doctor’s Visits For You!

Note: This story originally appeared on my blog on January 11, 2017.

Last week, a US District judge ruled that doctors could invoke freedom of religion to refuse to treat women who have had abortions. Note that I wrote the words “have had”. As in, patient obtaining an abortion from another doctor. At some indeterminate point in the past. To make matters worse, the ruling also gives transphobic doctors the right to refuse treatment to transgender people.

This ruling makes little sense when followed to its logical conclusion. Would a prison doctor be allowed to withhold lifesaving treatment from an inmate convicted of murder, rape, or theft — all crimes explicitly forbidden by the Bible — due to religious conviction? After all, a prison inmate really doesn’t have the choice of traveling to see another doctor. Whose rights would take precedence in that situation?

For that matter, exactly how would a doctor enforce this religious freedom edict? For example, a doctor could, theoretically, be allowed to withhold a prescription for Viagra or other erectile dysfunction drugs to a man he knew to be unmarried, cheating on his spouse, or married to another man. (The Bible prohibits gay sex as well as premarital and extramarital sex.) If the doctor is indeed allowed to do that, how would the doctor go about enforcing this edict? Would that doctor be allowed to ask to see marriage licenses?

And this so-called religious freedom doesn’t just belong to Christians. Would a devout Hindu doctor be allowed to turn away a patient suffering from gastrointestinal distress due to meat-eating? Could an Orthodox Jewish doctor refuse to see female patients during their menstral periods or someone who ate bacon for breakfast? Could a pacifist Quaker refuse to treat military personnel? Could a Buddhist turn away someone who intentionally stepped on a cockroach? Could a Muslim doctor, complying with Sharia law, refuse to treat a female patient not covered by a hijab? Can any of these doctors refuse to treat an outspoken atheist?

And exactly where does it end? Wouldn’t the doctrine of original sin make everyone ineligible for healthcare? According to the New Testament of the Bible, all are guilty of sin and consequently all in need of forgiveness. Why are supposedly Christian doctors allowed to ignore certain “sins” and not others? Isn’t that discriminatory?

Not only is “religious freedom” a naked ploy to punish people for committing the “sin” of exercising the right to choose or the “sin” of changing an assigned gender, it flies in the face of many Christian teachings about forgiveness. (And let’s be real here. So-called Christians are the doctors who pushed for this “religious freedom.”)

Here’s hoping that the ruling is struck down by a higher court. Not only does it endanger the lives of many innocent people, it also puts the lives of these religious objectors at risk, too. After all, Jesus himself denounced religious hypocrites.